A Woman’s Body the Few Days After a Vaginal Birth…

So many women expect their bodies to bounce right back to normal after having a baby. I remember catching a glimpse of my belly in he mirror after my son was born, horrified that I still looked six months pregnant. It’s important for new moms to realize that their bodies changed over the period of almost ten months and it will not go back right away.

The first few days after delivery

Just as all pregnancies are different, the healing from pregnancies will be different too. From the moment of conception, a woman’s blood volume drastically increases and her hormones change significantly. The postpartum period will bring a period of adjustment that will last easily that long. Most women expect hormonal changes, but are caught off guard by the bodily changes that accompany the postpartum period.

After Pains

Often coming as a surprise, women generally experience after birth pains for a few days. Most self-educated women expect these while delivering the placenta, but as the uterus starts to contract back down and often while nursing, she will experience cramping in her uterus. The uterus is rapidly shrinking back down to a normal size and this is done through contractions. They will be more like Braxton Hicks contractions than labor contractions, so there’s no need to be fearful. WishGarden Herbs’ After Ease Tincture contains uterine relaxants that dramatically ease afterbirth pains for most women.

Swelling

Because her body is decreasing in blood volume so dramatically, swelling is often noticed during the first few days. Women who give birth while on an IV will notice they are even more swollen than they were before delivery, as the water leaves her body, that swelling will go down too. Drinking a lot of water and adding dandelion tea to the mix is very helpful with this. Women should not be surprised if they have to pee more often and sweat more initially as the body gets rid of extra fluid.

Lochia

All women should expect a release of “lochia” or bloody discharge from the uterus. The length of this discharge will vary, but will certainly be present during the first few days. Sometimes when a woman over does things, she will bleed more. Many midwives will mention that this is your cue that you should still be resting. Severe bleeding should always be discussed with a midwife or doctor. The very best pad to use during this time is an over night cloth pad (preferably organic and dye free) because they are soft, cushioned and will keep chemicals away from the healing area.

Vaginal Swelling

Women who deliver vaginally often experience a swelling in their vaginal area during those first few days as well. I’d tell you not to even bother looking at it because it can be upsetting, but in reality, it’s pretty interesting to witness how dramatically your body can change in such a short time. Herbal Sitz Baths (available here) can dramatically decrease your healing time. Likewise a sitz bath will drastically help ease the pain of urination if the woman has even the most minor tears. Homeopathic arnica and belladonna will also help heal injured an labia and perineum. Be warned that as the swelling goes down, pain can increase as nerves start working again.

Hormone Changes Readying Milk Supply

Postpartum mothers can expect a sharp decrease in the amount of estrogen which will begin the feedback system telling the woman’s body to begin making milk. During the first few days, she will see that what comes from her breasts is not milk, but a rather clear fluid called colostrum. Milk usually comes in around the third or forth day and women will notice a feeling of engorgement as this happens. Frequent nursing will help eliminate this problem. Women who are not nursing because of choice, medical reasons or pregnancy loss can ask their lactation consultants about cabbage leaves instead of medication to dry up the milk supply.

Hemorrhoids

These don’t linger around for too long, but are regularly a part of the postpartum phase. They are often caused by the pushing during delivery. Eating lots of vegetables and drinking lots of water will help these resolve themselves.

 

Already been there?

What caught you off guard? What remedies, tricks or tools did you use that you found tremendously helpful during those first few days?

 

 

17 Comments

  1. I actually have a question.

    I had a c/s both times and were both followed with a pit drip to help the uterus shrink back. And the nurses were checking on the status of my uterus shrinking. I think I had just one bag of pit for both births. The cramps were so bad that I needed pain killers more for the cramps than for the surgery.

    My question is, did the pit cause the cramps to be so severe? Or are they that bad even when no drip is administered? What benefit does the Pit have on the uterus? Just how long it takes to shrink back? I was really caught off guard with my first delivery that I was given pit after the fact.

    And … is that standard for vaginal deliveries too?

    • Dawn

      Pit should be much more painful since laboring with pit is FAR more painful than laboring without it.

      I haven’t experienced pit after delivery, and know very few women in my area personally who have but I’m sure others have and would be able to answer that first hand. Anyone?

      • Miranda

        My hospital (I think) messed up my recovery after my c/s. I believe I was accidentally given pit before pain meds for the surgery were given as the spinal was wearing off. I guess they thought they had more time? I guess there is a possibility that it was just that painful, but I had had been on pit before the surgery, too and didn’t react as strongly. I’m hoping not to have it this time around. Hopefully it will be a VBAC.

    • Ariel

      Pitocin causes the uterus to contract. When muscle fibers contract, they shorten (aka shrink). It is back to its pre-pregnancy size/weight by about 4 weeks post-partum. It is very common in vaginal deliveries in hospitals, but is unnecessary post-delivery unless the mother is hemorrhaging!

  2. Court

    I had two vaginal deliveries with no pit or pain meds during birth, but I bleed fairly bad after my first birth and so they gave me pit to contract my uterus quicker. Those contractions were worse then any contractions DURING my labor so yes pit after birth is way more painful then normal afterbirth contractions. My second I did not bleed nearly as bad so no pit and those contractions were hardly noticeable.

    What I noticed was the hair loss that of course everyone told me about, but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.

  3. Sarah

    My biggest surprise was the after-pains for my second delivery were MUCH worse than my first. My midwife recommended an alternating cycle of Motrin and Tylenol, which really did work. It only lasted a few days, but WOW…much worse than #1 baby!

  4. Maria D.

    Let’s not forget the CRAZY engorgement that happens when your milk finally comes in! Maybe it was just me, but I seriously felt like I was walking around with bowling balls on my chest for a couple days!

  5. Rachel O

    Great article! So many of these things caught me off guard with my first pregnancy…I really thought I would feel “normal” after birth, HA! Every first time mother should read this. I’m now expecting baby#2 and it was helpful to read this, and I like that you included some links to some products that may help…the herbal sitz bath sounds fantastic!

    • Dawn

      It’s heavenly. I wasn’t with Everything Birth with my daughter, but this was the same blend I used from when I had my own brick and mortar store. It’s really cool to see Everything Birth using so many similar things that I used to love.

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