Prepare for Postdelivery
You’ll get a “massage.”
After you deliver your baby and the placenta, the doctor or midwife will press gently on your belly to help your uterus contract and reduce bleeding. It’s called a “fundal massage,” but it can be uncomfortable for some.
Shaking is normal.
Childbirth is a huge event—which may be why it’s common for your whole body to shake toward the end of delivery or right afterward. It’s caused by a combination of the adrenaline from pushing and from hormonal shifts. Shaking generally lasts for at least a few minutes and subsides within an hour. If you experience shivers or shakes in the days following your delivery, this could be a sign of infection and you should notify your doctor.
You may need stitches.
Your doctor might decide you need an episiotomy (a surgical incision in the perineum, the area between the vagina and the anus, to assist in the delivery of the baby’s head), or you may have a natural tear that requires stitches. If you received an epidural, no other medications will be needed for the repair. If you didn’t, you’ll be given local anesthesia. Any stitches in that area will dissolve on their own over time. For the soreness that follows, witch-hazel pads, cold packs, or a sitz bath (sitting in a shallow basin of warm water) can be soothing. You can also ask your doctor about a topical numbing cream or ibuprofen to ease pain. If you have a C-section, your doctor will use either stitches or staples to close up the incision in your abdomen. Stitches will dissolve on their own over time, but staples will need to be removed by a doctor in five to seven days.
You’ll bleed for a while.
This discharge, or lochia, is the uterine lining that built up during pregnancy. It’s bright red in the first few days (and blood clots that are golf-ball size or smaller are normal) but should decrease and become lighter in color in the weeks after delivery. Alert your provider if you have larger-size blood clots or soak through two or more maxi pads in an hour; this may be a sign of a hemorrhage that requires a prompt evaluation.
You could feel swollen.
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by as much as 50 percent. And while you do lose blood during childbirth, this extra blood, as well as the IV fluids you receive during labor or a C-section, need to go somewhere. As a result, you may notice swelling in your lower legs or in the vaginal and labial areas. However, this should resolve within ten days to two weeks after you have your baby.
You’ll still pee a lot.
As your body tries to get rid of the extra fluid, you’ll need to urinate as frequently as when you were pregnant. Alas, birth can take a toll on your urinary tract: You may have trouble going or sensing when you need to, or you may leak when you cough or sneeze for the first few days. But tell your doctor if it persists for more than a few weeks. Sources: Samuel Bender, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City; Shannon Clark, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.