Physical recovery after delivery

By  , Expert Content
Feb 07, 2013
Quick Bites

  • Uterus & abdomen takes several weeks to get back in its original form.
  • Perineum's pain and swelling subsides in 4-6 weeks.
  • The urinary incontinence may or may not take time to recover.
  • You have to be patient and aware to help body recover completely.

The body undergoes physical changes while you are pregnant and post delivery your physical form needs to recover to get back to its original shape. You would need time, patience, care and awareness for your body to recover completely.


recovery after childbirth


Recovery of the uterus and “after pains”

During pregnancy the uterus grows in size and weight to accommodate the growing baby. After delivery it may take several weeks or longer for the uterus and your abdomen to get back in its original form. The ‘after pains’ are experienced after delivery of the baby as the uterus continues to contract causing the placenta to detach from the uterine wall. After pains may become intense during breastfeeding. The everyday shrinking of the uterus towards its original shape is called involution. You would need to be patient for gaining back your pre-pregnancy belly as it will take time for your body to recover and also regular exercise will be important.


Perineum pain or episiotomy

Perineum is the area between the vagina and anus which experiences stretching, cutting and tearing during labor or a vaginal delivery. An episiotomy is a procedure where a cut is made in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening for easy delivery or to prevent vaginal tears. After delivery, your vagina and perineum will be swollen and painful and would need time to heal. The pain and swelling will slowly start subsiding everyday but will take three to six weeks to completely heal. The stitches to sew up the tears in your perineum may make walking, sitting, sneezing, urinating and doing other activities quite painful.


Bowel movements and constipation

Due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy, the digestion process slows down added to which medication and inactivity further adds up to change of bowel movements after delivery. After delivery, the first bowel movement (which may be a few days after delivery) can be painful as the muscles are sore from labor, there may be hemorrhoids (swollen and inflamed anal veins) and healing of stitches and cuts in the perineum. Many women fight the urge to pass their bowels in fear of pain but it only aggravates the matter as constipation is inevitable then. Ask your doctor to recommend you a stool softener which will be safe if you are breastfeeding.

Engorged breasts

After delivery, your breasts will feel full and sore as the body starts producing milk for the newborn. The breasts may become swollen, tender and quite uncomfortably full of milk. Even if you are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, you will experience tender breasts though frequent breastfeeding will help reduce further engorgement of breasts.


Urinary incontinence

The constant pushing and stretching of muscles during labor can weaken your pelvic muscles making it harder to control urine. You may involuntarily pass urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh. Not feeling the urge to pee or an affected bladder sensation can be due to a long labor, pain experienced after delivery, injury in the birth canal or anesthesia, like an epidural. The urinary incontinence may or may not take time to recover depending on various factors such as number of deliveries, your age, birthing method (caesarean or vaginal) etc.

Postpartum bleeding (lochia)

Post natal vaginal discharge which is also called as lochia is the natural flushing out process of the body where blood, mucus, placenta tissues, lining of the womb is discharged. The initial flow will be heavier than your normal menstrual flow and will contain blood clots but subsequently the flow will slow down fading to a pink and later white colour discharge. It may last for few weeks or may continue for two months. Refrain from having sex or even using tampons until the bleeding stops.

Weight issues

Regaining your pre-pregnancy weight will need time and effort from your side. You would need to lose weight slowly as otherwise it may affect your health adversely and your newborn may be affected too. A significant amount of weight will be gone immediately after delivery of the baby along with placenta, blood and amniotic fluid. Any swelling and water retention will also subside gradually.




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