Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth - Recovery At Home
During the days and weeks after the delivery of your baby (postpartum period), your body will change as it returns to its nonpregnant condition. As with pregnancy changes, postpartum changes are different for every woman.
Physical changes after childbirth
The changes in your body may include sore muscles and bleeding.
- Contractions called
afterpains shrink the uterus for several days after
childbirth. Shrinking of the uterus to its prepregnancy size may take 6 to 8 weeks.
- Sore muscles (especially in the arms, neck,
or jaw) are common after childbirth. This is because of the hard work of labor. The soreness should go away in a few days.
- Bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia) may last
for 2 to 4 weeks and can come and go for about 2 months.
- Vaginal soreness, including pain, discomfort, and numbness, is common after vaginal birth. Soreness may be worse if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy.
- If you had a cesarean (C-section), you may have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2
- Breast engorgementBreast engorgement
is common between the third and fourth days after delivery, when the breasts
begin to fill with milk. This can cause discomfort and swelling. Placing
ice packs on your breasts, taking a hot shower, or using warm compresses may
relieve the discomfort. For more information, see the topic
Call your doctor if you are concerned about
any of your symptoms. For more information, see When to Call a
Care after vaginal birth
Most women need some time after delivery to return to their normal activities. It's important to focus on your healing and on taking care of your body after delivery.
- Use pads instead of tampons for the bloody flow
that may last as long as 2 weeks.
- Ease cramps or afterpains with ibuprofen (such as Advil). If the doctor gave you a prescription
medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you have swelling or pain around the opening of your vagina, try using ice. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- Cleanse yourself
with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet
- Try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath) 3 times a day and after bowel movements.
- Ease the soreness of hemorrhoids and the area between your
vagina and rectum with ice compresses or witch hazel pads.
constipation by drinking lots of fluid and eating high-fiber foods. Ask your
doctor about over-the-counter stool softeners.
What to avoid
Give your body a chance to heal. Wait to start certain activities.
- Wait until you are healed (about 4 to 6 weeks) before you have sexual intercourse. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to have sex.
- Try not to travel with your baby for 5 or 6 weeks. If you take a long car trip, make frequent stops to walk around and stretch.
- Do not rinse inside your vagina with fluids (douche).