What to expect in the first 6 weeks after birth
Posted on October 26, 2018 - 10:14am
Here is some helpful information regarding Postnatal Recovery for Vaginal Birth and Caesarean Section in the early weeks.
Time in hospital
You will generally remain in hospital 3 days following a vaginal birth.
If you have a perineal tear requiring stitches, some basic care should be taken. The stitches will dissolve naturally, and can take around 6 weeks.
- Shower daily, gently patting the area dry with a soft clean towel.
- Change your pads regularly, keeping area clean and dry.
- Expect stinging or burning when passing urine, particularly in the first few days, due to increased sensitivity of the genital area. This will heal naturally with time.
- You can expect to experience bleeding anywhere up to six weeks after birth, and is similar to menstrual bleeding. Vaginal bleeding after birth (called Lochia) contains blood, mucous, pieces of the uterine lining and white blood cells. This is normal and occurs as the lining of the uterus heals where the placenta was attached. Lochia is usually heavier and red in the first week and changes to pinkish brown in the following weeks. Bouts of bright red bleeding after a few weeks can occur as the uterus shrinks and the area where placenta was attached heals.
- Bright red bleeding may occur with increased activity such as exercise.
- Breastfeeding reduces the amount of bleeding, as it stimulates contractions of the uterus. Often when feeding you may get a small gush of blood loss due to the oxytocin release.
- Sanitary pads advised, no tampons.
You may be keen to lose any extra weight gained during your pregnancy; however, strenuous exercise aimed at weight loss should be avoided for the initial 6-week postnatal period. Breastfeeding will decrease your fat stores causing natural weight loss.
- In general, exercise should be kept light and low impact, such as walking and pelvic floor exercises.
- After your 6-week postnatal check you will be able to slowly reintroduce more vigorous forms of exercise, steadily returning to pre-pregnancy levels.
Time in hospital
You can expect to spend 5 days in hospital after a caesarean section. The day after the procedure, you will be up for a shower and encouraged to mobilise gently around the room. You will be given knee high anti-embolic stockings to wear for your hospital stay, which further decreases the incidence of DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
- The Caesarean wound will be covered with an antibacterial clear dressing while you are in hospital. You will shower with the clear dressing in place.
- The dressing will be removed before you leave hospital, usually on Day 5- and the midwives will clean the wound and remove the staples or stitches.
- When the dressing has been removed keep your wound clean and dry – patting dry with a soft clean towel after showering.
- Avoid wearing tight, clingy clothing, as it may cause irritation to the wound.
- Redness and itchiness is normal as the wound heals, however, if you suspect infection, which would be redness with swelling, pain and temperatures, please phone the rooms to come in for an appointment.
- Foods rich in vitamin C and Zinc boost the immune system and healing process.
Dr Morris is happy for you to drive after 2 weeks, given that you are able to twist and turn, move suddenly if needed, and comfortably reach the pedals. It is also advised that you check your insurance policy, as some insurers will not cover you for up to six weeks’ post- surgery.
- Following Caesarean, the vaginal bleeding (Lochia) may be similar to bleeding after a normal delivery, however it may slow down more quickly in the first few weeks. Break through bleeding may occur as you increase your movements and exercise after the first few weeks also.
Pain relief will be prescribed upon discharge from hospital. If you are prescribed strong pain relief that can cause drowsiness, ensure you are out of bed, such as on a comfortable chair, to breastfeed your baby.
Return to Exercise & Lifting
- Allow your body to heal, having as much rest as needed throughout the day.
- You should generally avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks.
- Employ help from others if doing things like grocery shopping or anything that requires lifting.
- Walking should be your only form of exercise (avoid over exerting yourself, such as steep hills) for the first 6 weeks. Over doing exercise to the point of sore muscles can lead to the baby rejecting the breast due to lactic acid build up in the breastmilk. After your 6-week postnatal check, you can gradually return to regular exercise. Postnatal exercise classes focus on toning and strengthening key areas such as lower back and abdomen.
Common to Both Vaginal Birth and Caesarean Section Recovery:
Education in hospital and Breastfeeding Drop in Clinic at Sydney Mother and Baby.
Your time in hospital following birth is a great opportunity to utilise educational resources provided by the hospital. Educational classes on breastfeeding, settling and early infant care are a great way to orientate yourself before leaving the hospital. These classes can also be very valuable for networking with other new mothers.
Angela our lactation consultant also runs a valuable drop in breastfeeding clinic in our rooms twice a week after your hospital stay, to give advice, support and ongoing care to our breastfeeding mothers. This is a free service and available to all of our mothers in the first few months after birth. Mondays and Fridays 9am -1pm.
- Pelvic floor exercises can be commenced as soon as 48 hours after a vaginal birth, and 4-5 days after a caesarean.
- Pelvic floor exercises are important in helping to strengthen your pelvic muscles, which is important for continence. They will also increase blood supply to the genital area, which helps in the healing process.
- Whilst experiencing bleeding – baths and pool swimming should be avoided, due to an increased risk of infection from bacteria which may be found in the water. Ocean swimming is fine.
- Tampons should be avoided for the same reason – use pads instead.
Sexual intercourse can be resumed from 4-6 weeks following birth and usually advisable when discomfort has decreased and bleeding minimal.
If breastfeeding, your period may not return for some time, due to hormonal effects associated with breastfeeding. However, you may still ovulate any time after six weeks post birth, so contraception is advised.
6 Week Postnatal Check
After birth at the six weeks, we encourage all of our mums to make an appointment with Dr Morris. This is a good chance to discuss and debrief birth, talk about resuming exercise, sex and contraception. We will also make sure that your Cervical Screening Test is up to date.
Please contact our rooms if you have further questions or require more information.
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