Changes to your body after the birth
By: Dr.Denise O’Brien
Many changes occur to your body after the birth of your baby
If you are going to breastfeed your baby the sooner you put the baby to the breast after the birth the better. During the first few days the breast milk produces a straw colored liquid called “colostrum”. This is packed full of valuable antibodies to protect the baby from disease. It also helps the new baby to pass the first bowel motion easier. After about 3 days the breast milk “comes in” and your breasts may feel full and heavy. Feeding your baby often and on demand builds up and maintains your milk supply.
If you are not breastfeeding the milk will still come in and your breasts will feel full, so you will need a well supportive bra and breast pads for comfort. As the breast milk is not being used, your breasts will eventually stop producing milk over a week or two after the birth.
You will be bleeding from the vagina for a few weeks after the birth. It may be quite heavy for the first few days and you may pass some clots of blood. You will need plenty of large sanitary towels. The midwife in the hospital will ask you questions about how heavy the bleeding is to ensure that all is well. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions if you are at all concerned. If the blood flow gets very heavy again after you go home do get in touch with the hospital or your doctor. Try to avoid tampons after the birth until after your first full period. Your first period will be delayed if you are breastfeeding. Your first period may also be very heavy.
You will feel crampy pains after the birth. This is due to the uterus (womb) contracting down and reducing in size after the birth. A mild pain killer should help you cope with them. Pains may be stronger for a few days if you are breastfeeding which is actually good as it means that you are getting back to normal quickly.
If you needed stitches in your vaginal area following a tear after the birth, or episiotomy you may feel uncomfortable for a while. Arnica gel and tablets are useful for muscular pain. It is important to keep the area of your tear as clean as possible. Change sanitary pads very regularly. Drink plenty of fluids and fresh fruit and vegetables to avoid getting constipated which will put pressure on the wound or cause pain when you go to the loo. The midwives will check this wound before you go home. The stiches used will normally dissolve away over time after the birth.
Lisa advises the following:
The other thing I didn’t expect was I swelled up like balloon and also my back was sore and nowhere near the wound and my husband told it was between the shoulder blades and they said it was referral pain and they said it would go down in a few days but 7 days later I was still all swollen it took about 2 weeks for all the fluid to go, and I was constantly going to the toilet that I do remember? Practical things to know after the birth.
“I remember thinking the 5 days I spent in hospital after the section were good for information, I would suggest that you stay so you would have the midwives to talk to and get the information, I know most people just want to get home and get some sleep but I think it’s worth the sacrifice of the sleep and to talk to the midwives. The midwives were brilliant, I would never have managed to breastfeed at all only I was there for 5 days, as I wouldn’t have had someone to call on, as most of my friends had sisters to call on, my mother didn’t breastfeed. It’s really important for first time mothers to get this information, to get the real practical thing”
Dr.Denise O’Brien is a lecturer in Midwifery
Programme Director MSc Midwifery Practice/ Head of Subject Midwifery