Your baby has arrived. Now what?
Once baby arrives you will transition into the fourth trimester, also known as postpartum.
You can expect to undergo physical as well as emotional changes over the next few weeks as you return to your normal, pre-pregnancy state. During this time, it is important to keep a watchful eye on vaginal bleeding, blood pressure and signs of infection.
Vaginal bleeding after delivery is called lochia. Lochia is the shedding of the uterine lining after delivery and can last up to six weeks. The good news is that your bleeding should decrease over time, and it will also change color – from red to pink to brown and then to a whitish discharge.
If you deliver at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children or Madison Hospital, your specially-trained postpartum nurse will teach you how to perform pericare and hemorrhoid care. This involves using a peri-bottle for cleaning your perineum, perineal ice packs, topical medications for stitches and hemorrhoids, and the use of a sitz bath. You may notice an increase in bleeding during the first days at home due to an increase in activity. If your bleeding increases, your body may be telling you that you need more rest. Contact your doctor if you are bleeding through one pad an hour or have blood clots the size of an egg or larger.
It’s important to monitor your blood pressure postpartum – even if your blood pressures were normal during pregnancy. If you do not have a blood pressure monitor at home, get it checked if you have a headache that does not get better after taking medicine, or a bad headache with vision changes. Call your provider about any blood pressures higher than your usual readings. Also, be sure to report any signs of infection including a fever above 100.4 degrees or swelling/redness of your Cesarean incision.
You can expect to have a follow-up visit with your provider within 4 to 6 weeks after delivery (or sooner if you have known blood pressure issues). Until then, don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Also, avoid intercourse and tub baths and be sure to carefully follow all postpartum discharge instructions.
Pregnancy and delivery can be hard on your pelvic floor, so avoiding constipation is ideal. Be sure to drink lots of water; eat fiber-rich foods like whole-grain cereals, whole-grain bread, brown rice, beans and fresh fruits and veggies to keep the digestive system moving; and use stool softeners or laxatives as prescribed by your doctor. If you find that you’re having any issues with incontinence, tell your doctor.
Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If friends or family offer to help with household chores and meals, say yes. This is a great way for you to get rest and recover after giving birth. It’s also OK to defer visits if you’re too tired.
The hormone changes after delivery, combined with broken sleep and so many other changes, may make you feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster. It is important for you and your partner to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression. You can read more about postpartum depression here (link back to previous oHH baby blog on postpartum depression).
Jeanette Atkinson, RN, MSN
Mother Baby Clinical Education Specialist at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children
Samantha Wall, BSN, RNC-OB
OB Simulation Coordinator at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children