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Postpartum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery
Your newborn may be your top priority — but postpartum care counts, too. From vaginal soreness to urinary problems, here’s what to expect as you recover from a vaginal delivery.
Pregnancy changes your body in more ways than you might have guessed, and it doesn’t stop when the baby is born. Here’s what to expect after a vaginal delivery.
If you had an episiotomy or vaginal tear during delivery, the wound might hurt for a few weeks. Extensive tears might take longer to heal. In the meantime, you can help promote healing:
- If sitting is uncomfortable, sit on a pillow or padded ring.
- Use a squeeze bottle to pour warm water over your vulva as you’re urinating. Press a clean pad or washcloth firmly against the wound when you bear down for a bowel movement.
- Cool the wound with an ice pack, or place a chilled witch hazel pad between a sanitary napkin and the wound.
- Take pain relievers or stool softeners as recommended by your health care provider.
While you’re healing, expect the discomfort to slowly improve.
Contact your health care provider if the pain intensifies; the wound becomes hot, swollen and painful; or you notice a pus-like discharge.
You’ll have a vaginal discharge (lochia) for a number of weeks after delivery. Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days. The discharge will gradually taper off, becoming watery and changing from pink or brown to yellow or white.
Contact your health care provider if:
- You have heavy vaginal bleeding
- The discharge has a foul odor
You have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher
You might feel contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after delivery. These contractions — which often resemble menstrual cramps — help prevents excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. These contractions tend to be stronger with successive deliveries. Your health care provider might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Contact your health care provider if you have a fever or if your abdomen is tender to the touch. These signs and symptoms could indicate a uterine infection.
Hemorrhoids and bowel movements
If you notice pain during bowel movements and feel swelling near your anus, you might have hemorrhoids — stretched and swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum. To ease any discomfort while the hemorrhoids heal, soak in a warm tub and apply chilled witch hazel pads to the affected area. Your health care provider might recommend a topical hemorrhoid medication as well.
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