What to Expect

For six to eight weeks, your body will go through many changes:

Vaginal discharge

Some bleeding from the vagina is normal after you’ve had a baby.

Things to know:

  • Bright red bleeding usually lasts three to four days but may last up to two weeks
  • The bright red blood slowly changes to dark red, then yellow and then white
  • You may have a whitish discharge for two to six weeks
  • Wear a sanitary pad, not a tampon
  • Do not douche

If you have any discharge with a bad odor or which itches or has a burning feeling, contact your healthcare provider.

Mood Changes

Many women have sudden mood changes after the birth of their baby. You may feel very happy one minute and be in tears the next. Feelings of deep love may quickly change to anger.

Many of these emotional ups and downs may be caused by hormone changes in your body. Some mood changes may be a result of the demands of caring for a new baby in the early weeks. Mood changes are normal.

As your hormones return to normal levels and you get used to being a mother to this baby, your moods are likely to change less. If you are concerned about how you are feeling or acting, call your healthcare provider, a counselor, minister or close friend.

If you are feeling sad, depressed or think you might hurt yourself or your baby, call your doctor or nurse right away. Many women have post-partum depression (or post-partum “blues”) and benefit from getting some help.

Post-partum Blues

Almost half of new mothers feel sad, “blue” or “down in the dumps” during the first several weeks after giving birth. Hormone changes may play a role.

Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling sad, depressed or crying a lot
  • Having no energy
  • Having headaches, chest pains or heart palpitations
  • Not being able to sleep, being very tired or both
  • Not being able to eat and losing weight
  • Overeating and weight gain
  • Trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions
  • Being overly worried about the baby
  • Not having any interest in the baby
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Being afraid of hurting the baby or yourself
  • No interest or pleasure in activities, including sex

If this happens to you:

  • Rest more
  • Get more support from family and friends
  • Find someone you trust to care for your baby while you take some time for yourself
  • Talk about your feelings with someone who is important to you and will listen
  • Tell your healthcare provider if the blues continue after a few weeks, or if they get worse

If you ever feel like you might hurt yourself or your baby, call for help right away. If you have no one to call, dial 911.

Repair of Episiotomy (stitches)

If you have stitches, keep that area very clean. Full healing takes about four weeks. The stitches do not have to be removed. Sitting in a tub of warm water for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day, helps reduce soreness.

Every time you use the toilet:

  • Clean your bottom and rinse with the squirt bottle you got at the hospital. This helps your stitches heal faster. Do this as long as you are sore.
  • After a bowel movement, be sure to wipe yourself from front to back and rinse with the squirt bottle.

Bowel Movements

You may be constipated for the first few weeks after the birth of your baby. Doing this may help you feel better:

  • Get some exercise every day – walking is great
  • Drink 8 to 12 glasses of fluid each day – try water, juice and warm liquids
  • Eat foods with fiber every day – whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables, salads and raw fruit
  • Do not hold back when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. Listen to your body’s cues and respond. You don’t have to worry about your stitches. They will not break when you have a bowel movement.

If you still need help, your healthcare provider may suggest a mild laxative or a stool softener.

After Pains

Some women have cramping, called “after birth pains”, in the lower abdomen. This is most common with your second or later baby, or when you are breastfeeding. These “pains” are a sign that your uterus is returning to normal. Usually the pains stop a few days after your baby is born.

Talk to your doctor or nurse if “after pains” bother you a lot.

Rest and Activity

As a new mother, it may be very hard for you to get the rest you need – especially if you have other children. The baby will also wake you up, needing to be fed several times a night.

Don’t try to do too much or expect to get much done. Your priority is to take care of the baby and yourself.

Tips:

  • Take short naps during the day – when the baby is sleeping
  • Wait at least a week before driving – longer if you feel light-headed, weak or tired
  • Go outside (even on cold days) for fresh air and exercise
  • Walking is a great way to help you feel better. Start slow. Try to work up to 20 to 30 minutes a day
  • Avoid heavy work that makes you tired
  • Check with your healthcare provider about going back to work

Exercise

Your abdomen (stomach muscles) was stretched during pregnancy. Exercise will help it return to a normal shape in about six to eight weeks. Your stretch marks will fade, but may not go away completely.

If exercise causes pain, do it only up to that point and talk to your healthcare provider.

To tighten your abdomen:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Try to hold your tummy in.
  • Lift your head and let your chin touch your chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then put your head down and relax your muscles
  • Start with one a day and add one more each day until you build up to 10 a day
  • During the day, try to hold your stomach muscles tight while sitting or walking

Kegel exercises help tighten the birth canal muscles:

  • Sit on the toilet with legs spread apart
  • Pass some urine (pee), and then try to stop the flow of urine. Notice the muscles you squeeze to make the urine stop
  • Once you know which muscles to squeeze, do the exercise when not passing urine. You can do it while standing, walking, sitting or lying down
  • Do this 10 to 15 times, at least three to four times a day

Sexual Intercourse

Give yourself time. Your body needs time to get back to normal before you have sex. The amount of time is different for everyone. It is recommended that you have your post-partum checkup before having sexual intercourse.

Your vagina may feel dry at first, especially if you are breastfeeding. Try a lubricant, extreme gentleness in lovemaking and a position (such as the woman on top) to be more comfortable.

Remember: You can get pregnant soon after the birth of your baby. You may ovulate (pass an egg) and become fertile before you notice any signs that your menstrual cycle has begun again.

If you are breastfeeding:

  • You may not get your period until up to 18 months after delivery
  • You cannot count on breastfeeding as a reliable method of birth control
  • Use a birth control method to space pregnancies at least a year and a half apart

If you are not breastfeeding:

  • Your period usually returns within four to eight weeks after your baby is born
  • Use a birth control method to space pregnancies at least a year and a half apart

Resources

My Health Journal

This publication will help you keep all of your health information updated and in one place. You can download My Health Journal in word format to your computer for personal use.
Word format (for download)
PDF version (3.98 MB)*
Plain text version

Taking Care of Me

A new baby may mean little time for mom to care for herself. This self-help guide gives postpartum women practical health tips on emotional health, stress, nutrition, exercise, family planning and reproductive health, and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
PDF version (427 KB)*
Plain text version