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Published on April 01, 2009

Postpartum Care: What to Expect after Labor

Postpartum care involves managing sore breasts, skin changes, hair loss and more. According to the Mayo Clinic, here’s what to expect:

  • Vaginal soreness – If mom had a vaginal tear while delivering, the wound may hurt for a few weeks. Using an ice pack, keeping the wound clean and doing Kegel exercises to tone the pelvic floor muscles may help to alleviate pain.
  • Vaginal discharge – Expect a bright red, heavy flow of blood for the first few days and a lighter flow for about six weeks after delivery.
  • Contractions – You may feel contractions during the first few days after delivery. These contractions help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus.         They tend to occur when breastfeeding and seem to be more noticeable with a second or third child.
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Sore breasts and leaking milk – Your breasts may become heavy, swollen and tender a few days after delivery. This discomfort, which is known as engorgement, usually lasts a few days. Breastfeeding can help to alleviate some pain. If you are not breastfeeding, you may want to use an ice pack, hot or cold washcloth or a warm bath or shower. Placing nursing pads inside of the bra can help prevent leaky breasts from wetting your shirt.
  • Hair loss – During pregnancy, normal hair loss is put on hold because of the elevated hormone levels. After delivery, the extra hair that wasn’t lost during pregnancy sheds all at once. Hair growth is usually back to normal within six months.
  • Skin changes – Small red spots may appear on the face because of small blood vessels that broke during pregnancy. You may also have stretch marks, which may fade over time.
  • Mood swings
  • Weight loss – after delivery, you may feel flabby and out of shape. Healthy eating and regular exercise can help you to gradually return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
  • Postpartum checkup – About six weeks after delivery, your healthcare provider will want to take a look at your vagina, cervix and uterus to make sure that you are healing properly. They may also do a breast exam and check your weight and blood pressure.

The Healthplex® Sports Club offers postpartum exercise classes through the Moms in Motion program. You must be referred into the program by your doctor or midwife, and there is a minimal fee to participate. For more information, call (610) 328-8873 or visit www.healthplex.net.

If you had a Cesarean section, your physician or midwife will pay close attention to the incision and make sure that you are healing properly. Women who deliver by C-section will have the same hormonal changes as a woman who delivered vaginally.

Every year, more newborn babies are welcomed into the world by the caring professionals at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Delaware County Memorial Hospital than by any other health system in Delaware County. For more information and to make an appointment with a Crozer-Keystone physician or midwife, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit http://4Ubaby.crozer.org

Reviewed by Paul Zamostien, M.D., Crozer-Chester Medical Center obstetrician/gynecologist. Office location in Upland, Pa., (610) 872-7660.

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