The phase following your body’s amazing feat that is childbirth…
With so much information available about pregnancy and how to take care of your body, how do we know what to do after birth? Does our body just spring back into place once we bring our little one out into the world? Unfortunately not always… But regardless of how quickly you may feel you recover from childbirth or what type of delivery you had, everyone’s body needs special care for up to 6months after child birth. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss recover post birth step-by-step in our Happy Physio Women’s Health blogs.
The initial days..
Day 0 is the first 24hours after your birth, where you probably feel sore, tired and overwhelmed by the introduction of you newest member of the family. On this day, several medical staff will also be attending to you, offering assistance and asking all sorts of questions. Uterine pains are common for the first few days – regardless of your delivery type, which may feel like birthing contractions. This is because the uterus is continuing to slowly move back to it’s position pre-pregnancy, as well as some muscle contractions still occurring as your hormones settle in your body. Bleeding is natural after all deliveries, and can last for up to 6weeks. No object can be inserted into the vagina post birth, and so bleeding can only be managed with the use of pads.
Your milk supply is likely to “come in” within the first 24hours (if not before hand). This is where there is a “let down” of your milk ducts, and allows the breasts to fill with milk for the baby. You may feel a full sensation in the breast, increased thirst or tingling surrounding the breast, giving you a heads up that your milk is coming in. The initial flow of breast milk is called colostrum, and is filled with an abundance of nutrition for the baby as well as anti-bodies from your immune system. If your baby is sleeping when you are initially ready to feed, this can be expressed with a breast pump and given to the baby later. Skin-to-skin contact is an incredibly effective way to assist in the beginning of breast milk flow, and is encouraged immediately post birth.
Your Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor exercises are recommended in the days immediately post birth – particularly for women who have had a vaginal delivery. The pelvic floor has undergone 9months of pressure and so is weakened from pregnancy. In vaginal deliveries, these muscles stretch and give way for birth, or could have possibly been damaged from tearing of the perineum. The muscle pump action of the pelvic floor exercises also acts to reduce swelling from the area and help to improve blood flow for healing. Once you are comfortable with breast feeding attachment, try and do a 5-6 gentle pelvic floor squeezes each time you are feeding baby. On the first day after your vaginal delivery, you are able to get out of bed, shower and walk around in your room. A physiotherapist is likely to come and see you in this first day.
Discomfort in the perineal region is common, and can be managed with ice packs resting on the area. Applying an ice pack for 20minutes, every 2hours is the best management in these early days to reduce swelling and alleviate pain from the region. A midwife or physiotherapist can assist you and your partner to collect or make ice-packs for use. Depending on your birth, your perineum may be intact, torn or have undergone an episiotomy. Your midwife or obstetrician will discuss these with you. Perineal tearing or damage is common during a vaginal birth, and has a good prognosis for down the track.
If you have undergone an episiotomy or torn your perineum during birth, caring for your perineum is essential in these first 6 weeks, which includes washing gently by splashing warm water (no soap or products) on the area 3-4 times per day, and ensuring the area remains clean and dry.
In these next coming days, women who have had a vaginal delivery are likely to be feeling better each day, be more comfortable walking around and possibly be discharged from their delivery hospital within the first 24-48hours.
Continued discomfort in the perineal region or from haemorrhoids can be managed with therapeutic ultrasound if ice has not been effective for 24hours or more. Discuss with your midwife to see a physiotherapist for ultrasound treatment.