The uterus will begin to heal and shrink immediately after birth. Afterpains, pain caused by the contraction of your uterus postpartum, can sometimes be painful, especially after your first child. They will be strongest after birth and will taper off as the uterus returns to size.
This complete process will take 4-6 weeks. The more you rest, the faster it will heal. Immediately after birth, you will appear to still be pregnant. Do not be surprised or dismayed. Your stomach will flatten as the uterus shrinks. Breastfeeding accelerates this process.
You may find yourself breathless the first few days postpartum. Your diaphragm, the muscle which helps you breath, is a little out of shape. During the end of pregnancy the diaphragm atrophies some because it doesn't get to move much due to the space taken by the baby. After birth, suddenly there is a lot more space to breath. Give yourself a few days and everything will return to normal.
Most often at night you may experience night sweats. These are caused by hormonal shifts and will subside without treatment. You may wake up in a pool of sweat. Do not be alarmed.
You will continue to have vaginal bleeding or discharge called lochia for 4-6 weeks postpartum. The more you rest, the shorter this period will be. In the beginning, it will feel like a VERY heavy period. It is helpful to have disposable underwear, heavy duty pads, and waterproof pads to protect your bedding during the first 3-5 days postpartum. Do not use tampons. This has to leave the body, stopping up the process can cause infection.
The amount of discharge will gradually decrease just as your period flow changes. You will notice increased bleeding with an increase in activity. Take this time to rest, move slowly, keep yourself well nourished, and warm.
You will have more urine post delivery, for the first five days, as the body releases excess water and returns to normal hydration levels. This is normal and the body is releasing what it needs to; however, continue to drink adequate water especially if breast feeding.
Oftentimes, having your first bowel movement is a bit of a concern as the whole perineum is sore and swollen. Aphrodite Project recommends taking stool softener after birth. In addition, mineral oil laxative helps to lubricate so you do not have to strain or have pain from hemorrhoids. Mixing the mineral oil laxative with chocolate milk makes it more palatable. Once the perineal tissues have healed, slower taper down the laxatives.
Use your peri bottle to wash after going to the bathroom or changing your pads. Gently pat yourself dry - avoid rubbing. Putting your sitz bath herbal tea in the peri bottle will soothe as well as clean. See article on Pee & Poop Postpartum
Your milk will come in 3-5 days postpartum. The best breastfeeding advice is to feed the baby when he wants. Do not follow a schedule. There is no fear of spoiling or overfeeding. The demands of the baby are building your milk supply. Feed as often as possible to build a good milk supply and relieve engorgement.
Also, use nipple cream immediately, Lansinoh is our recommended brand. If you find yourself engorged to the point baby cannot latch on, take a warm shower massaging your breast to expel some of the milk. Take strokes with your open palm from the chest to the nipple all around the breast.
Many women experience sadness and weepiness postpartum. There are many reasons for this: hormonal changes, feeling overwhelmed, being thrown into a completely new experience, being responsible for another human, your own body changes, and so on. Rest, feed yourself well, be gentle to yourself, allow others to help you so you can rest and bond with baby. If the emotions become more pronounced seek help. Postpartum depression is real and should not be ignored.
Julia Erickson, the founder of Aphrodite Project, is a wellness authority who uses food, meditation, and movement to create extraordinary health and wellness. Julia's practice is focused on helping women thrive and heal from chronic disease. She is also mother of seven.