Postnatal Care and Concerns

After nine months of carrying the baby and then going through labor you’re finally ready to get back to normal right? Unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Most woman usually have one or a combination of these postnatal symptoms.

Infant Feeding

One of the most common problems women have is being unable to breast-feed their baby right away. Remember to wear a well-fitted bra and avoid breast stimulation. Breast engorgement will generally improve 2-4 days following delivery. If you have problems breastfeeding, call your gynecologist.

Bloody Discharge

The first three days after delivery, you may experience a bloody discharge of leftover blood, mucous and tissue from your uterus. The discharge will turn pink, then brown, and finally yellowish-white as it decreases in quantity. Normally, this will stop completely within four to six weeks. You may use sanitary napkins to absorb your flow. If you saturate more than one pad an hour for more than a few hours, or if the discharge has a bad odor, call a doctor immediately.

Abdominal Cramps

Abdominal cramps, or “afterbirth pains,” are caused by contractions of the uterus as it returns to normal. They may be more obvious while you are nursing and will gradually subside within a week. Changing positions, emptying your bladder and taking an Ibuprofen will usually relieve your symptoms. If the cramping gets worse or you have nasea or vomiting be sure to call your gynecologist.

Perineal Discomfort

The stretching and bruising of the perineum during delivery can cause discomfort, pain and numbness. With time and patience, your perineum will soon return to normal. Following delivery your perineum should be rinsed with warm water after using the toilet. Let your gynecologist know if the pain, swelling or discharge increases.

Cesarean Incisional

If you delivered by cesarean birth, your wound will be painful and you may experience numbness or a tingling sensation when the anesthesia wears off. If you develop a fever or experience increasing pain or drainage from your incision site, call a doctor immediately. Avoid lifting anything other than your baby, and try to keep stair climbing to a minimum.


Your first bowel movement after child birth may be difficult. Eat a diet high in fiber, such as whole grains, fresh and dried fruit, and drink plenty of water and fruit juices.

Emotional Changes

After the birth of your child, you may find that your emotions range from elation to depression to a feeling of being overwhelmed. This is due in part to your fluctuating hormones and should diminish with time. If you are experiencing depression that affects your ability to cope, or if you are feeling angry or violent towards your baby, get in touch with your gynecologist so they can help you.

It’s important to remember that returning to normal activities may take some time. Here are a few things you may need to think about:

Return to Menstruation

If you are breastfeeding, you may not have a period until you begin weaning and/or introduce solid foods to your baby. If you do not breastfeed, menstruation will usually begin in four to eight weeks after delivery. Your first several periods may be shorter and/or heavier than what was normal for you before your pregnancy. Keep in mind that even if you have not had your period, you can still become pregnant.

Return to Exercise

If you wish to begin exercising again, please refer to your book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This book contains information that will help you know the types of exercise that are best during the postpartum period.

Family Planning

It is important to select a form of birth control before you have intercourse for the first time after your delivery. If you are breastfeeding, you can use barrier (condoms and sponges) and spermicide (foam) methods, or a specific type of birth control pill. If you are not breastfeeding, you can use birth control pills after delivery. Talk to your spouse and your gynecologist about what methods may be right for you.

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