What Happens After Labor?

After you've had your baby, you'll still have some aches and pains. Here's what you can expect.

Forceful contractions

  • As your uterus shrinks back to its normal size, you may feel painful cramps
    • These most often go away in a few days
    • In about six weeks, your womb will be back to its normal size and the cramping should end
  • To help
    • Put a heating pad on your belly
    • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine can also help


The strain of giving birth can cause painful swollen blood vessels in and near your bottom.

  • To help
    • There are many treatments, like witch-hazel pads, sitz baths and medicated sprays and ointments from the drugstore
    • Don't strain when you go to the bathroom, it will make the pain worse
    • Eat a lot of fiber and drink plenty of water


You may have trouble moving your bowels. This will get better, but talk to your doctor if it doesn't.

  • To help
    • Eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water
    • Get out of bed and walk as soon as you can

Trouble peeing

Swelling in and around your vagina can make it hard to pee.

  • To help
    • Taking warm sitz baths can ease some swelling and pain
    • Spraying warm water on your bottom while you try to go may also help start the flow

Incontinence/leaking urine

Have to go again? Leaking when you laugh, sneeze or cough? If you feel like it's hard to control your need to go to the bathroom, you might have postpartum incontinence.

  • Pelvic strengthening exercises will help make those muscles stronger.


  • After childbirth your body's chemical levels change and your body must adjust
  • This can mean sweating even when you're not working hard
  • To help
    • There isn't much you can do, but drinking plenty of water seems to help


During pregnancy your uterus was lined with lochia. Your body no longer needs this blood and tissue.

  • It will leave through your vagina
  • It may be bright red and thick with blood clots
  • With each day, the flow should lighten until its light brown or yellowish
  • It should go away about one month after childbirth
  • It can last as long as eight weeks
  • To help
    • Use sanitary napkins/pads to soak up the lochia
    • Don't use tampons

Sore bottom

  • You stretched a lot of muscles when you pushed your baby out
  • To help
    • Cold packs or chilled witch-hazel pads can soothe the pain
    • You can ask your doctor for a spray or cream that will numb the pain
    • Sitz baths may help
    • Be sure to wipe from front to back to help avoid getting bacteria near your vagina

Sore and swollen breasts

  • A couple of days after childbirth your breasts will fill with milk
  • This can make your breasts feel very hard and tender
  • To help
    • If you are breastfeeding, the soreness will lower once your baby starts nursing regularly
    • Ease the pain with ice packs and wear a support bra during the day and even at night
    • Avoid underwire bras, as they can lead to painful blocked milk ducts
    • Pumping the milk that your baby doesn't drink helps
    • Some doctors suggest that women buy a plug-in breast pump
    • If you do not plan to breastfeed, the swelling may last for a few days, but will go away when you are not making more milk
    • It is safe to use pain medicines such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen as recommended while breastfeeding

Baby blues

  • Many women feel sad and worried after having a baby
    • Postpartum blues happen to most new mothers in some way
  • To help
    • In most cases, the blues fade within a couple of weeks
    • You might find that it helps to talk about your feelings with those close to you
    • Make sure you're getting rest, eating healthy foods and taking time for yourself
    • Even a 10-minute walk or sitting quietly and breathing deeply can help you feel more relaxed and in control


  • About 10 percent of the time women have true postpartum depression
  • Call a doctor right away if at two weeks after your baby's birth you:
    • Still have feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt or helplessness
    • Can't sleep even when you are very tired
    • Are sleeping all the time
    • Don't care about your baby or your family
    • Feel nervous about being alone with your baby

Postpartum depression is very serious, and your doctor will help you find the care you need right away.

Signs that you should call your doctor

  • A fever higher than 100.4 (Fahrenheit)
  • Upset stomach and throwing up
  • Pain when peeing
  • Bleeding that all of a sudden raises in volume, which may mean that parts of the placenta are still attached to your womb
  • Very bad pain - not just cramps - in your belly
  • Pain, swelling or soreness in your legs
  • Pain from a cut or episiotomy that doesn't get better
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge/flow
  • Discharge or redness in or near your vagina
  • Red streaks or painful lumps in your breasts
  • Feelings of sadness and having no hope that last for more than two weeks after your delivery

If your pain is very bad, call your doctor right away. Don't be shy. It's serious.

[references] Copyright © 2010 LimeHealth

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