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Recovering from Childbirth

If You've Had a Vaginal Delivery

Here’s what to expect and how to ease your recovery after childbirth.

Vaginal Soreness

If you had an episiotomy or vaginal tearing during delivery, you’ll likely feel sore in your vaginal area for a few weeks. Here’s how to get some relief:

  • Sit on a padded ring or pillow.
  • Using a squeeze bottle, pour warm water over your perineum when urinating
  • Sit in a shallow bath (warm or cold water), just high enough to cover your buttocks and hips, for about 5 minutes.
  • Take an over-the counter pain reliever (such as acetaminophen) if necessary.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if vaginal pain becomes more severe and persistent, which could indicate an infection.
  • If you’re having trouble moving your bowels, ask your healthcare provider for a stool softener or laxative to prevent constipation.

Vaginal Discharge

Expect a heavy, red discharge (from the mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy) in the early days after childbirth. It will gradually lessen, changing to a pink or brown color and then more yellow or white over the next few weeks.

Call your healthcare provider if you have heavy bleeding (soaking a pad in less than an hour), particularly with a fever and pelvic or uterine pain.

If You've Had a C-Section

If you had a cesarean section to deliver your baby, you’ll need help from your partner, family or friends. You’ll likely be told not to carry or lift anything heavier than your baby and not to engage in strenuous physical activity for a few weeks until you heal. Talk with your healthcare provider about how long you should take it easy.

As with any surgery, a C-section comes with normal, temporary side effects and certain, more serious risks.

What’s Normal?

While recovering from a C-section, you may notice:

  • Mild cramping
  • Bleeding or discharge for about 4–6 weeks (including bleeding with clots)
  • Incision pain

Signs of Serious Health Problems After Childbirth

In the days and weeks after childbirth (whether vaginal or by cesarean section), some mothers are at risk for serious, potentially life-threatening complications that require immediate medical care, including:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Postpartum
  • Preeclampsia
  • Postpartum hemorrhage

Know the signs of these conditions and when to seek medical help.