Pregnancy - discharge after vaginal delivery
You are going home after a vaginal birth. You may need help caring for yourself and your newborn. Talk to your partner, parents, in-laws, or friends.
What to Expect at Home
You may have bleeding from your vagina for up to 6 weeks. Early on, you may pass some small clots when you first get up. Bleeding will slowly become less red, then pink, and then you will have more of a yellow or white discharge. The pink discharge is called lochia.
In most cases, bleeding decreases the most during the first week. It may not stop completely for several weeks. It is not uncommon to have an increase in red bleeding around 7 to 14 days, when the scab forms over the spot where your placenta was shed.
Your menstrual period is likely to return in:
You may lose up to 20 pounds (9 kilograms) over the first 2 weeks after having your baby. After that, weight loss of around one half pound (250 grams) per week is best. Your health care provider can explain more about losing weight after pregnancy.
Your uterus will be hard and round and can most often be felt near the navel shortly after birth. It will get smaller very quickly, and after a week will be difficult to feel abdominally. You may feel contractions for a few days. They are most often mild but can be stronger if you have already had several babies. Sometimes, they can feel like labor contractions.
If you are not breastfeeding, breast engorgement may continue for a few days.
You will need a checkup with your provider in 4 to 6 weeks.
Take tub baths or showers, using only plain water. Avoid bubble baths or oils.
Most women heal from an episiotomy or lacerations without problems, although it may take several weeks. Your stitches do not need to be removed. Your body will absorb them.
You can return to normal activities, such as light office work or house cleaning, and walking, when you feel ready. Wait 6 weeks before you:
To avoid constipation (hard stools):
Ask your provider what you can do to relieve the discomfort and speed the healing of your episiotomy or lacerations.
Try eating smaller meals than normal and have healthy snacks in between.
Any hemorrhoids you develop should slowly decrease in size. Some may go away. Methods that may help your symptoms include:
Exercise can help your muscles and improve your energy level. It can help you sleep better and relieve stress. It may help prevent postpartum depression. In general, it's safe to start gentle exercises a few days after a normal vaginal delivery -- or when you feel ready. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day at first, Even 10 minutes a day can help. If you feel any pain, stop exercising.
You can start sexual activity around 6 weeks after delivery, if the discharge or lochia has stopped.
Women who breastfeed may have a lower sex drive than normal, along with vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. This is because breastfeeding lowers hormone levels. The same drop in hormones most often prevents your menstrual period from returning for many months.
During this time, use a lubricant and practice gentle sex. If sex is still difficult, talk with your provider. Your provider may recommend a hormone cream that can reduce your symptoms. These changes in your body are temporary. After you are done breastfeeding and your menstrual cycle returns, your sex drive and function should return to normal.
Talk with your provider about contraception after pregnancy before you leave the hospital. You may be able to get pregnant as soon as 4 weeks after having a baby. It is important to use effective contraception during this time.
In the days or even months after delivery, some moms feel sad, disappointed, tired, or withdrawn. Many of these feelings are normal, and they often will go away.
Pee often and drink plenty of fluids to avoid bladder infections.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you have vaginal bleeding that is:
Also call your provider if you have:
Postpartum preeclampsia, while rare, can occur after delivery, even if you did not have preeclampsia during your pregnancy. Call your provider right away if you:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Exercise after pregnancy. FAQ1 31, June 2015. www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-After-Pregnancy. Accessed August 15, 2018.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Task Force on Hypertension in Pregnancy. Hypertension in pregnancy. Report of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Task Force on hypertension in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2013;122(5):1122-1131. PMID: 24150027 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24150027.
Isley MM, Katz VL. Postpartum care and long-term health considerations. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 23.
Sibai BM. Preeclampsia and hypertensive disorders. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 31.
Review Date: 8/16/2018
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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