Physical Facts and Comfort Measures, Birth to 6 Weeks

The first 6 weeks following your delivery is still part of the childbearing cycle. Called the postpartum period, it brings many changes as your body adjusts to a non-pregnant state.

Facts and Comfort Measures

Lochia is the bloody vaginal flow during the first few weeks after delivery. Lochia usually disappears or is just a slight, brownish discharge at about three weeks after delivery. It should not have an offensive odor. Notify your provider if:

  • There is any increase in the amount of vaginal discharge
  • The discharge changes from brown back to red
  • You have vaginal odor or discomfort

Following the birth of your baby, your uterus returns to a size close to its pre-pregnancy size through the process of involution. This process takes about six weeks to complete. In the beginning you may experience cramping, or "after birth pains". These are usually more severe if you had twins or triplets, if it is your second or third baby, or if you are breast feeding. For relief:

  • Keep your bladder empty
  • Take a mild pain reliever as prescribed by our doctors and nurses
  • Perform breathing and relaxation exercises

If you experience excess perspiration, which is common in the postpartum period:

  • Shower often to keep clean and dry
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids

To relieve perineal discomfort and vulvar / vaginal hematoma (blood filled tissue):

  • Take a sitz bath and regular warm baths as prescribed by our doctors and nurses
  • Sit on a foam mattress, cushion, or pillow or lie on your side whenever possible
  • Apply an ice pack
  • Use medication as prescribed by our doctors and nurses

For relief of itching and soreness of hemorrhoids:

  • Use a pain relief ointment as prescribed by our doctors and nurses
  • Eat high fiber foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to prevent constipation
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least six 8-ounce glasses daily)

For vaginal discharge:

  • Change pads every one to three hours and/or each time you empty your bladder
  • Practice good personal hygiene (wipe from font to back after urinating)
  • Shower daily

For relief and prevention of edema (swelling):

  • Wear support hose
  • Avoid crossing your legs when sitting
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least six 8-ounce glasses daily)
  • Elevate your legs when possible

To prevent or relieve constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (at lest six 8-ounce glasses daily)
  • Eat recommended daily amounts of fresh fruits, raw vegetables, and whole brain or whole grain cereal
  • Use a stool softener or laxative only if prescribed
  • Exercise regularly, after checking with your provider
  • It is common for newly delivered mothers not to have a bowel movement in the first few days postpartum. If this becomes a problem, notify your midwife/doctor.

Stretch marks (striae) may never go away completely, but they usually change to fine silvery white lines.

Women lose an average of 12 pounds at the time of delivery, representing the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. You may return to your pre-pregnancy weight by the end of your postpartum period or soon thereafter. Appropriate exercise and a healthy diet will play a large part in your weight loss. Do not become overly concerned if it takes you longer to lose the weight gained during your pregnancy.

To avoid fatigue:

  • Take naps while your baby is sleeping
  • Establish an early bedtime hour to make up for sleep missed during nighttime feeding
  • Limit visitors, especially during the first few weeks after delivery
  • Do only light household chores
  • Accept offers for help with cooking, cleaning, and errands
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Take time for yourself

Exercise and other activity

Daily activities and household chores can be resumed gradually. For a vaginal delivery perform only very light household chores during the first two weeks, and avoid lifting heavy objects for about six weeks. Talk with your provider about activity levels after a Cesarean birth. If you attempt to do too much too early, you may experience an increase in vaginal discharge.