The postpartum period- life after delivery

With all the excitement and anticipation of your little one, you may have given very little thought about what to expect after delivery. Here is some information to help you take care of yourself during this important stage. Although your newborn is your top priority, if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for the baby.

Vaginal soreness

After delivery, the vagina will feel sore and swollen. Especially if you have had an episiotomy or a tear, you will have pain for the first few weeks. Here are a few ways to soothe the pain:

  • Watch where you sit- Sit in a comfortable chair or use a pillow or ring to sit on. It is also best to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Cool the wound- Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas. You can also place a chilled witch hazel pad (available in most pharmacies) between a sanitary napkin and the wound.
  • Take the sting out of urination- Pour warm water over the vulva during urinating, using the squirt bottle provided to you at the hospital.
  • Press a clean pad firmly against the wound when you bear down for a bowel movement.
  • Keep the wound clean- Use the squirt bottle filled with water to rinse the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus (perineum) after using the restroom.
  • Pat dry with a towel and avoid using toilet paper in the area for the first 2 weeks.

Vaginal Bleeding and Discharge

There will be a vaginal discharge (lochia) for a number of weeks after delivery. Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days. If you have been sitting or lying down, you might notice a small gush when you stand up. The discharge will gradually taper off, changing from pink or brown to yellow or white. To reduce the risk of infection, do not use tampons. The following signs are cause for concern; please call your physician if:

  • You soak a sanitary pad within an hour while lying down
  • The discharge has a foul odor
  • You pass clots larger than a golf ball
  • 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 prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. You may notice them during or after breast feeding. This pain is usually alleviated by ibuprofen.

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