What change does your body undergo after delivering a baby?
Sushmita has just delivered a healthy baby. She is apprehensive about the changes in her body. The body changes after a delivery and it is good to be well informed about what will happen to you after childbirth.
Changes in the uterus
Your uterus was stretched to accommodate your baby during the pregnancy. It will now contract and reach its normal size. The uterus will shrink rapidly in the next few weeks. You might have some cramping occasionally, especially when you breast feed. After pains is the term used to describe the experience as the uterus shrinks down. These cramps can be relieved with a painkiller like ibuprofen. A hot water bag can also be used.
It is normal to have vaginal bleeding for 2-6 weeks after the delivery. The discharge from the vagina after a delivery is called ‘lochia’. The amount of bleeding may vary from day to day. The colour will change from bright red to a watery red/pink, and gradually to a yellow/white/clear colour. You should not use tampons.
For months, the uterus was pushing on the bladder. During delivery too, there would have been pressure on the bladder. This can cause the bladder to lose sensation or become ‘numb’. You might not always have the sensation that your bladder is full even though it is. It is important for you to pass urine at least every 2-3 hours. Drink plenty of fluids. Sometimes, the bladder becomes so ‘numb’ after the delivery that it might keep filling up without your realising it. After a few hours, your bladder might be over distended. This is known as an atonic bladder. You may require a catheter to empty your bladder. Make sure that you pass urine within six hours after your delivery and then at least every 2-3 hours after that.
You might have your first bowel movements 2-3 days after your delivery. Make sure you take food high in fibre and drink plenty of fluid so that your stools are not hard. In pregnancy, it is common to develop haemorrhoids (also called ‘piles’). Due to the pushing during delivery, they can become bigger and painful. If the haemorrhoids are large and painful, Sitz baths (sitting in a basin of warm water) will help. You can also take stool softeners and use a local anaesthetic ointment. Most haemorrhoids will shrink after a few weeks. Eating healthy after a delivery
There are no dietary restrictions after a delivery. No particular food will prevent the healing of the uterus or the episiotomy. Remember that if you put on too much weight after the delivery, you will find it difficult to shed the extra kilos. Eat foods from the four food groups, especially those with iron , calcium and protein. Avoid all fatty foods. Drink enough fluids . Continue taking your prenatal vitamins and any iron supplements prescribed by your obstetrician.GITA ARJUN
(The author is a Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in women’s health issues.)