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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A vaginal delivery occurs when your baby is born through your vagina (birth canal). There are three stages of labor that occur during a vaginal delivery. The first stage begins when you start having contractions, the tightening of your uterine (womb) muscles. The second stage begins when your baby enters your birth canal and ends when your baby is born. The third stage begins after your baby is born and ends when your placenta is delivered. The placenta provides oxygen and food to your baby during pregnancy. Once your baby is born, you may be able to go home within 24 to 48 hours if there are no medical problems. If you have had a Cesarean section (C-section) in the past, ask your caregiver about vaginal birth after C-section.
- Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.
- NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.
Ask your caregiver when to return for a follow-up visit. Often, caregivers will want to see you six weeks after having your baby. Your caregiver may do a vaginal exam at your visit. Tell your caregiver if you are having any pain or other symptoms. Keep all appointments. Write down any questions you may have. This way you will remember to ask these questions during your next visit.
After having a baby, you may be very tired. It is very important to get enough rest after having a baby. For a while after delivery, try to keep all activities short. You may be able to do some exercise soon after having your baby, such as walking. Kegel exercises may help your vaginal and rectal muscles heal faster. You can do Kegel exercises by tightening and relaxing the muscles around your vagina. Kegel exercises help make the muscles stronger, and may prevent gas and urine from leaking out. Talk with your caregiver before you start exercising. If you work outside the home, ask your caregiver when you can return to your job.
When your milk comes in, your breasts may feel full and hard. If you plan to breastfeed, ask caregivers to show you how to hold and breastfeed your baby. Ask caregivers for more information about how to care for your breasts even if you are not breastfeeding. Also ask your caregiver about breastfeeding while taking medicines.
Do not try to push the bowel movement out if it is too hard. High-fiber foods, extra liquids, and regular exercise can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. Regular exercise helps your digestive system work. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in or around your rectum. Pregnancy can cause hemorrhoids to stick out or swell. You may have rectal pain because of the hemorrhoids. Ask your caregiver about preventing and caring for hemorrhoids.
- Your perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. To help heal your perineum, keep the area as clean and dry as possible. This will also help prevent infection. You can wash the area gently with soap and water when you bathe or shower. Ask your caregiver about any special wound care needed if you had an episiotomy. An episiotomy is an incision (cut) in your perineum.
- Your caregiver may suggest using sitz baths to help decrease your pain. During a sitz bath, you will sit in a bathtub filled with warm or cold water. A cold sitz bath may decrease your pain right away. To make a cold-water sitz bath, sit in slightly warm water and add ice cubes to the water. Stay in the sitz bath for 20-30 minutes, or as long as your caregiver suggests. Ask your caregiver for more information about sitz baths and other ways to decrease your pain.
You will have a vaginal discharge, called lochia, after your delivery. The lochia is bright red the first day or two after delivery. By the third or fourth day, the amount decreases, and it turns a red-brown color. About 7 to 14 days after having your baby, you may have a heavier flow of blood. Sometimes the color of the lochia changes to a yellow-white color and may have an odor (smell). You may need to wear a pad and change it many times each day. You may be able to use tampons if you can insert them without any problems. Caregivers may advise you not to use tampons at night time to lessen the risk of infection. It is normal to have lochia up to eight weeks after your baby is born.
Your period may start again within 7 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. If you are breastfeeding, it may take longer for your period to start again. You can still get pregnant again even though you do not have your monthly period. Talk with your caregiver about a birth control method that will be good for you if you do not want to get pregnant.
Many new mothers have some kind of mood changes after delivering their baby. Some of these changes occur because of lack of sleep, hormone changes, and caring for a new baby. Some mood changes can be more serious, such as severe (very bad) postpartum depression (deep sadness). Talk with your caregiver if you feel unable to care for yourself or your baby after delivery.
You may need to avoid having sex for 6 to 7 weeks after having your baby. You may notice you have a decreased desire for sex or sex may be painful. Caregivers may suggest you use a vaginal lubricant (gel) to help make sex more comfortable for you.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- You have a fever.
- Your perineal pain does not go away, or gets worse.
- Your skin between your vagina and rectum is swollen, warm, or red.
- You have swollen, hard, or painful breasts.
- You feel very sad or depressed.
- You are leaking urine or bowel movements (BMs) or you are unable to have a BM.
- You feel more tired than usual.
- You have questions or concerns about your vaginal delivery, or having a new baby.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You have sudden, large amounts of vaginal bleeding.
- You have pus or yellow drainage coming from your vagina or wound.
- You are urinating very little, or not at all.
- You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
- You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.