Physical Challenges After Delivery

Amalie's 2nd day
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

We spend so much time thinking about the labor and delivery process that it can be easy to forget that it’s going to all be over rather quickly. We create elaborate birth plans specifying everything from pain medications right down to which songs should be included on the delivery playlist on our iPods. Yet, we barely consider what’s going to happen after delivery, other than a few quick discussions with the spouse about what kinds of parents we want to be.

There’s plenty to think about, however. Labor and delivery are physically and emotionally taxing, and you need to know what to expect. Here are some of the physical changes and challenges you’re likely to face in those first few weeks postpartum:

  • Breast soreness. Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, you can expect some breast soreness as your milk starts to come in. You may even become engorged, which can be especially painful.
  • Constipation and hemorrhoids. The two very often go together. Even if you didn’t experience much of them during pregnancy, you can plan on some during the postpartum stage.
  • Pain in the perineum. If you had an episiotomy or if your perineum tore during delivery, you’re going to need to take a little bit of extra care for the first few weeks. Coughing and sneezing can be painful. Even if you didn’t rip or have an episiotomy, you will probably be very sore.
  • Temperature troubles. There’s a good chance your body is going to have some trouble regulating your temperature for a little while. Your blood flow is changing dramatically, and so are your hormone levels.
  • Incontinence. The stretching that goes on during delivery can weaken your bladder or bowels, making it difficult to control. This is especially true if you had a long labor.
  • Contractions. You may experience some contractions for several days after your baby is born, as your uterus is contracting and everything is starting to snap back into place.
  • Discharge. You’re probably going to have some vaginal discharge (known as lochia) for several weeks after your baby is born. It will start out heavy, and it will tend to have clots. It should fade gradually, and then stop by about two months after delivery.
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