What to expect
What to expect
- Your breasts
- Vaginal discharge
- Your uterus
- Using your bowel
- Skin and hair
- Vaginal or perineal grazes and tears
- Varicose veins and haemorrhoids
- After pains
- After a caesarean
- The baby blues
The first yellow-coloured milk your breasts make is called colostrum. Your mature milk can ‘come in’ at any time between 24 to 102 hours after birth, but it most commonly comes in around 60 hours after the birth. When this happens your breasts can feel very full and very large. As you and your baby are learning how to breastfeed, it is quite common for your nipples to feel a little tender.
The blood loss after the birth is called lochia. For the first few days after birth it is bright red, like a heavy period. The amount of blood will reduce and change to a reddish-brown colour. Eventually it will turn pink, then watery and will gradually stop. It can last for up to six weeks.
Your uterus will take a little time to go back to a normal size. After the birth, the midwife will feel your tummy to see how high your uterus is (they will refer to it as the 'fundal height'). Immediately you give birth, the uterus is usually around the level of your belly button after ten days it will be below the public bone.
You might be a little constipated or a bit scared of using your bowels after having a baby. It can feel very bruised and sore down there and if you’ve had stitches it can be even harder. It is quite safe to use your bowels. Drink lots of water and high fibre food. It will get easier.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding stretch marks can appear on your tummy, hips, breasts or thighs. They are purplish-red marks, which usually fade and gradually become fine silvery lines. Some women get pigmentation on their face, which also disappears after the birth.
Your hair may also change during pregnancy. The pregnancy hormone can thicken your hair, but at about three to four months after the birth you might notice your hair is falling out. You won’t go bald! Your hair is likely to be back to normal by about six to twelve months.
Sometimes during birth there may be a graze or small cut or tear in your vagina. After your baby is born, your midwife or doctor will stitch any cuts or tears if they need to. This area heals well and you will most likely not be aware of any stitches. The stitches are self-dissolving and so they won’t need to be removed.
Your vagina and vulva may feel tender for a couple of days. An icepack and over-the-counter pain medications are usually enough to manage any discomfort.
These are swollen veins that have filled with collected blood. You will usually have them in your legs but they might also be in your vulva or bottom (haemorrhoids). They are more common in some families but can also be due to the effect of pregnancy hormones on the smooth muscle of the veins, as well as the increased weight of your pregnancy. Haemorrhoids can also be made worse by pushing during labour.
Varicose veins can usually be managed by not standing for long periods, wearing support stockings and putting your legs up.They need to be checked by your GP if they are painful and if there are reddened areas on your calf.
With haemorrhoids, wash the area and thoroughly pat it dry after using the toilet. There are several haemorrhoid creams available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. If these are not giving you relief, you may need to see your GP for a stronger prescription cream.
'After pains' are linked with the first few days of breastfeeding. They are more common if this is not your first baby. The pain is due to the hormone oxytocin, which helped your uterus to contract during labour. Normal painkillers should ease the pain.
Almost all caesarean births involve a cut in the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area. Most surgeons use stitches, which will slowly dissolve over the following two weeks. The area may feel numb for a number months but this will fade and is not a problem.
Your wound can be tender to touch for a few weeks. Before you are discharged from hospital the doctor will prescribe pain relief for you. The pain usually gets better with each day but can increase if you do too much too soon.
Many women have an episode of teariness or anxiety in the few days after their baby is born. It’s called ‘baby blues’ and is very common, affecting up to 80 per cent of new mothers. Baby blues is thought to be due to hormonal changes after a baby is born and the emotional and physical stress of the birth itself. The symptoms usually settle within a couple of days.
Related Health Topics
Improving your recovery after birth – Physiotherapy advice
After you have given birth we recommend that you follow some simple steps which will improve your postnatal recovery.
- Improving your recovery after birth – Physiotherapy advice
Normal bowel function
The pelvic floor is made up of a network of muscles and nerves which control both bladder and bowel function. Good bowel habits help to protect these muscles and minimise the risk of both bladder and bowel incontinence. This fact sheet is now called Preventing constipation.
- Normal bowel function
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