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What you need to know about vaginal delivery:
A vaginal delivery occurs when your baby is born through your vagina (birth canal).
How to prepare for vaginal delivery:
You will not be able to eat while you are in active labor. Your healthcare provider can give you medicines for pain relief if you chose to have them. You may need medicine to induce (start) your labor if your labor is not moving forward. You may need to move in bed, stand, or walk to help your baby move into position for birth.
What will happen during vaginal delivery:
- You can move into several positions during delivery. You can lie on your back, have your feet up in stirrups, or squat. You may feel pressure on your rectum. This pressure is caused by the movement of your baby's head down the birth canal. You may feel the urge to push. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to push, and guide your baby out of the birth canal. Healthcare providers may use forceps or suction to help deliver your baby. You may also need an episiotomy (incision) to make the vaginal opening larger. This will make more room for your baby.
- After your baby is born, your healthcare provider will put clamps on the cord that connects your baby to the placenta. The cord is then cut. Your uterus continues to contract after delivery to push out the placenta. Your healthcare provider may close your episiotomy incision or any tears with stitches.
What will happen after vaginal delivery:
- Healthcare providers will examine your baby. You may be able to hold your baby soon after he or she is born. After healthcare providers have checked that you and your baby are okay, you may be taken to another room.
- A healthcare provider may massage your abdomen several times to make your uterus firm. This can be uncomfortable. You may have abdominal pains for up to 3 days after you give birth because your uterus is still contracting. The contractions help release blood from inside your uterus so it shrinks back to its normal size. These contractions may hurt more while you breastfeed your baby.
- Your healthcare provider may suggest you get out of bed to sit in a chair or walk. Activity can help prevent blood clots.
- You may be able to go home within 24 to 48 hours after delivery. If you need support at home, ask your healthcare provider about home visits by another healthcare provider. This healthcare provider can help you learn about breastfeeding, bottle feeding, baby care, and perineum care.
Follow up with your healthcare provider:
Most women need to return 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery. Ask your healthcare provider how to care for your wounds or stitches, if you have them. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Seek care immediately if:
- Your leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You have a fever.
- You are urinating very little, or not at all.
- You have heavy vaginal bleeding that fills 1 or more sanitary pads in 1 hour.
- You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your abdominal or perineal pain does not go away, or gets worse.
- You feel depressed.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Stool softeners make it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to treat or prevent constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Rest as much as possible. Try to keep all activities short. You may be able to do some exercise soon after you have your baby. Talk with your healthcare provider before you start exercising. If you work outside the home, ask when you can return to your job.
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.
When your milk comes in, your breasts may feel full and hard. Ask how to care for your breasts, even if you are not breastfeeding.
You may have constipation for a period of time after you have your baby. Do not try to push the bowel movement out if it is too hard. High-fiber foods and extra liquids can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed. Ask how to prevent or treat hemorrhoids.
Your perineum is the area between your vagina and anus. Keep the area clean and dry. This will help it heal and prevent infection. Wash the area gently with soap and water when you bathe or shower. Rinse your perineum with warm water after you urinate or have a bowel movement. Your healthcare provider may suggest you use a warm sitz bath to help decrease pain. To take a sitz bath, fill a bathtub with 4 to 6 inches of warm water. You may also use a sitz bath pan that fits inside the toilet. Sit in the sitz bath for 20 minutes. Do this 2 to 3 times a day, or as directed. The warm water can help decrease pain and swelling.
You will have vaginal discharge, called lochia, after your delivery. The lochia is red or dark brown with clots for 1 to 3 days after the birth. The amount will decrease and turn pale pink or brown for 3 to 10 days. It will turn white or yellow on the 10th or 14th day. Lochia is usually gone within 3 weeks. Use a sanitary pad rather than a tampon to prevent a vaginal infection. You will have lochia for up to 3 weeks after your baby is born.
Your period may start again within 7 to 9 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 healthcare provider about a birth control method if you do not want to get pregnant.
Many new mothers have some kind of mood changes after delivery. 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 postpartum depression. Talk with your healthcare provider if you feel unable to care for yourself or your baby.
Do not have sex until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may notice you have a decreased desire for sex, or sex may be painful. You may need to use a vaginal lubricant (gel) to help make sex more comfortable.
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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.