When you’re pregnant there’s so much to focus on, from the build-up to labour, to the actual birth, and how to care for your baby, that you might find you don’t know a huge amount about what happens to you and your body in the first couple of hours after the birth. Every woman wants to know what’s happening to her and how long it’ll take to recover, so here’s my guide to what to expect – whatever kind of delivery you’ve had.
You may well feel elated as you gaze at your beautiful new baby, but equally, you might be completely exhausted and not overly interested in anything. After all, it’s called labour for a good reason and the chances are you’ve probably been awake throughout the night and are now begging for sleep. Some women feel shocked by the birth as it may not have gone exactly as planned. Don’t worry, all these emotions are completely normal, and you’re likely to experience many of them over the next few days.
Your blood loss will be fairly heavy, similar to a full-on period, and your midwife will have placed a special maternity pad (like an extra thick sanitary towel) between your legs once the placenta has been delivered. She’ll also place a hand on your tummy to check that your uterus feels firm. This means it’s well contracted, which is a good sign, as it needs to be like that to slow the bleeding down.
- How you’ll be feeling a few hours after labour
- How you’ll feel in the first days after labour
- Bringing your newborn baby home – what to expect
Your nether regions will be feeling a bit sore. It could be anything from bruising (even if you haven’t had any stitches) to aching. Don’t be shy to ask for paracetamol if you need it as it can take a few hours for the pain to settle down. If you’ve had an epidural, you’ll still be benefiting from it an hour or two after it’s been removed.
You’ll also experience afterpains. These happen as your uterus begins to contract down to its original size. They’re like mild contractions, or period pains, and you might find they’re not as regular. You might have two or three, then a gap of an hour or so.
If you’re keen to breastfeed, hopefully your baby will latch on soon after the birth, or you’ll be getting help with this. Don’t expect to see gallons of milk immediately, though. Initially you’ll only be producing small amounts of colostrum, which is packed with infection-preventing antibodies.
If any of these happen to you, either in the first moments, or days after the birth, speak to your midwife or GP straightaway:
- Feeling generally unwell
- Sore throat
- Raised temperature
- Fast pulse
- Fast breathing
- Unusual or smelly vaginal discharge
- Any kind of rash
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Abdominal/leg pains
- Aching joints
- Increased blood loss