Life After Vaginal Birth
Kim loves her new baby, but she hates the physical changes that her body is going through in order to return to a non-pregnant state. Kim has to endure two months in this transitional state before she will feel “normal” again. Some changes to your body you will feel and other changes you will see.
See the Changes
For the first three weeks, you will see a discharge called lochia. You will see this discharge for a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of 6 weeks.
Your body discharges lochia, because it is the lining of the uterus that is made of blood, tissue and mucous similar to a menstrual period. The lochia sheds after a birth, because the uterus is resizing itself. During the first 3 to 4 days after Kim delivers her baby, she is bleeding very heavy. This is normal. Most of her bleeding occurs when she stands up after lying down for a while. This happens because the blood is collected in the vagina when she is lying down. Her body releases it when she stands up.
Kim has brand new sheets that she loves. In order to protect them from blood stains, she wears sanitary pads instead of tampons. Her doctor has informed her that tampons will increase her risk of infecting her uterus. Kim knows from her first child that infection can cause her body to hemorrhage. Small blood clots are normal, but if Kim gets big clots and heavy bleeding, she needs to call her doctor immediately.
Kim also limits her physical activity to decrease her blood flow. Activities such as going up and down stairs, or lifting something heavier than her baby can cause Kim to bleed heavier. If she starts to bleed heavy, Kim will slow down or get off her feet and rest.
Stages of Lochia
There are three normal stages of lochia that Kim should be aware of in order to track her body’s progression.
The First Stage is called lochia rubra, and it occurs during the 2nd to 3rd day after delivery. During this stage, Kim will discharge mostly bright red blood at a heavy to moderate blood flow rate. She might see small blood clots during this stage.
The Second Stage is called lochia serosa, and it starts around day 4 and lasts until day 10. During this stage, Kim’s discharge will be pink or pinkish-brown, and her blood flow rate will decrease. If her blood clots or is bright red, Kim is having a problem with the transition. Other signs of problems included a fever over 100.4 °F.
The Third Step is called lochia alba. Kim’s discharge will be light yellow or cream and her blood flow has almost stopped. If her discharge smells or clots, she has to call her doctor.
Feel the Changes
Kim has delivered her baby vaginally. As a result, she has stiches from a tear. Therefore, her perineal area is very sensitive due to the pressure and stretching in the perineum during her delivery. During the first 24 hours, Kim’s perineal area swells and produce soreness. To keep the swelling down, Kim should ice down her stomach. After the first 24 hours, Kim should apply moist or dry heat for 20 minutes at least 3 to 4 times a day. This discomfort should last no more than 5 or 6 days.
Bladder distention is another physical change Kim’s pregnancy has caused. Bladder distention is the over stretching of Kim’s bladder when it is full of urine. When the perineal area is swollen, it can hinder the bladder and make it hard for it to contract. Therefore, Kim finds it painful to pee. She can heal this problem by taking care of the perineal swelling.
Hemorrhoids are a nasty side effect of going through a vaginal birth. Although Kim’s baby is adorable, when her head based the birth canal it caused a swelling of the rectum veins. Kim can treat her hemorrhoids by taking a sitz bath or by applying ice 20 minutes every four hours to shrink the hemorrhoids.
Kim’s contractions do not stop when her baby is delivered. She experiences involution and afterpains. Involutions are normal contractions that shrinks Kim’s uterus to the size it was before her pregnancy. These contractions are vital to stopping the bleeding by pinching off the blood vessels that are used to attach the placenta to the uterus. Afterpains are cramps that Kim experienced for only the first two days after her birth. During her first pregnancy, her afterpains lasted for 4 days. Afterpains is a sign that Kim’s uterus is getting back to normal.
Afterpains have a range of severity. The severity decreases over time. Kim’s afterpains can sometimes be mild and sometimes very uncomfortable. Kim is thankful her new baby weighs only 7 pounds. If the baby is bigger, the uterus has stretch more, and the more the uterus has to stretch the more uncomfortable it is to return to a normal size.
Kim is nursing her baby. The doctor has warned her that breastfeeding can make afterpains more intense, and that she might not be able to take Tylenol 30 minutes before nursing as a way to alleviate the pain.