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What to Expect After Giving Birth

By By Anne Katz, RN, PhD

What to Expect After Giving Birth

Twenty-five years after the birth of my first child, I can still remember how awful I felt. Sure I was excited about this beautiful baby girl that had miraculously and painfully emerged from my body. But I wasn’t prepared for the icky feelings from my body that followed. And I’m a nurse and midwife!

Women typically aren’t prepared for recovery from childbirth, according to research recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Most women aren’t satisfied with how their healthcare providers prepared them for potential breastfeeding problems, hair loss, hemorrhoids, mood swings and anxiety, to name but a few postpartum issues. Some women told researchers this lack of preparation left them feeling less satisfied with their healthcare providers, and compelled some to skip their postpartum check-ups.

Labor is short, relatively speaking, and followed by a much longer recovery period. Healthcare providers focus so much on prenatal care and often skip over what happens following childbirth. But you can change this and we’ve got just the list of questions for you to bring to your next prenatal appointment.

Think of this as preparing for after delivery, just as you’re preparing for the birth. In the rush to get out of hospital, you may forget or simply fail to ask these questions – and then wonder if what you’re experiencing at home is “normal.” Take notes now to prevent anxiety once you’re tucked away safely at home with that new wiggly bundle that is your baby.

Get these questions answered before you give birth:

  • How much will I bleed after delivery and what should I expect? How much bleeding is too much and who do I call if that happens?
  • What should I expect my perineum (“down there”) to feel like after delivery?
  • If I have an episiotomy or tear, what will that feel like as it’s healing and how do I help promote healing?
  • What are “after pains” and what can be done about them?
  • How soon should my abdomen return to its pre-pregnancy shape and size? What will it feel like immediately after the delivery?
  • What changes can I expect in my breasts if I am breastfeeding? If I decide not to breastfeed, how do I care for my breasts and how will they feel?
  • How do I prevent engorgement in my breasts when breastfeeding?
  • Will I be able to use the bathroom as normal? When will my elimination be normal again? What problems should I look for?
  • What’s the best way to lose my pregnancy weight? Are there any diets that are better than others?
  • How soon can I start exercising again? How do I start and what should I be doing?
  • What about sex after delivery? How soon can I resume intercourse and is there anything special I need to know about or plan for?
  • Is there anything I should avoid doing for any period of time, and if so, why?

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