Your body has changed after pregnancy and the birth of your baby and not all the changes are reversible. For about six weeks after delivery, your body is in the process of adjusting, physically and psychologically, to birth and the gradual return to a pre-pregnant state.
Huge hormonal changes are taking place at this time give yourself time for the adjustment. It's normal to feel afterpains (soreness low in your tummy) when you're breastfeeding, as the hormone that lets down your milk will also cause the uterus to contract, although it will never completely return to its former size.
Over the first four to six weeks after birth, you will have a vaginal discharge (called lochia) as your uterus sheds any remaining blood clots and other material after delivery. The discharge changes colour (red to dark brown to yellowish white) and increases with movement or breastfeeding. It can be heaviest in the morning because the lochia collects in your uterus and vagina while you are lying down and comes out when you stand up.
Don't panic if you notice your hair falling out about three months after childbirth: this is normal and will eventually stop. Breastfeeding does not cause hair loss.
After a caesarean delivery
A caesarean section is a surgical procedure in which a baby is delivered through an incision made in the wall of the mother's abdomen, then through the wall of the uterus. It is performed only when it is considered safer for the mother or baby than a vaginal delivery. Each year, nearly 30 percent of the quarter of a million Australian women who give birth deliver their babies by caesarean. In fact, Australia has one of the highest rates of caesarean section in the world.
Medical reasons for a caesarean (not all women in these situations will require a caesarean. Some caesareans are done as an emergency procedure if the mother or child is at risk):
- your baby's head is too large for the pelvic opening
- your baby presents bottom or feet first (breech) or is lying sideways (transverse)
- your cervix is blocked by the placenta (placenta previa)
- you have twins or multiples
- you have dangerously high blood pressure
- the umbilical cord has prolapsed (fallen) through the cervix and into the vagina
- the baby becomes distressed during labour.
If you have delivered your baby by caesarean (or C-section), you will most likely have stayed twice as long in hospital an average of five days compared with two to three days than if you had a natural birth, so that your wound can be checked for healing. You'll have quite a bit of pain in the first few days and need daily help with your baby.
While you are in hospital, you are helped with breastfeeding, which can begin immediately after birth just as with a vaginal delivery. It is important that you follow the instructions given to you for your own care when you leave hospital. This advice may include:
- getting as much rest as you can for the first few days
- letting family and friends help where possible
- not walking up and down stairs
- eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water every day to avoid constipation
- putting warmth on the wound with a heating pad to ease discomfort
- not spending the whole time in bed: walk every day to reduce the risk of blood clots
- see your doctor if you develop fever or redness or discharge from the wound.