Getting Back to Normal
However physically fit and well-prepared you may have been before the birth, after it you will feel sore. Labor is just that — hard work, and your muscles will be stretched and aching. If you had a vaginal delivery, you will be extremely tender, and if you had stitches to repair the opening, they will take time to heal. If you had a Cesarean, your internal stitches will make it difficult to move without pain. After the birth, you will have a pink-brown discharge, and you will need to wear sanitary pads to stop it from staining your clothes. This is not a period — the discharge is called lochia and it is quite normal. It usually tails off after about four weeks. During pregnancy, your uterus was stretched many times its normal size. After childbirth it shrinks back to about the size of your fist and this may cause pains, similar to menstrual cramps. This discomfort is most common in women who are breast feeding, and who have already had one or more babies. Your breasts will be swollen with milk, and may be sore or painful for a few days.
When Your Period Returns
Your periods will restart a few months after delivery. If you breastfeed they may not come back until after your baby is weaned. They may take on a slightly different pattern from before — be more regular, lighter, or heavier. Most women wait until their second period, after childbirth, before using tampons again simply because they still feel sore. If your period has changed, you may need to use different absorbency tampons from the ones you used before. In the U.S. and Canada, Tampax® tampons come in four different absorbencies: Lites, for light flow days, Regular and Slender Regular for light to medium flow days, Super for medium to heavy flow, and Super Plus for very heavy flow. Be sure to choose the lowest absorbency tampon to control your flow each day.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
During labor, you may have also strained the muscles that you use to control the flow of urine from your bladder. This is true if the birth was sudden or very difficult. If this has happened, you may find that you have started to lose a drop or two of urine when you exert yourself, or when you cough or sneeze. The answer to this problem is very simple: exercise! Pelvic floor exercises will hurt at first because your whole pelvic area will be sore from birth. But the sooner you start them, and the more you do, the better your chance of regaining a “watertight” bladder. The pelvic floor muscles also control your “grip” during sexual intercourse, so if you keep them fit you may improve your sex life too! How to do them: Imagine that you are urinating and you want to stop the flow. The muscle contraction you would use to do that- an upward and inward pull — is the one you want to practice in order to get your bladder control back to normal. Contract the muscles, hold for a second or two, then release. Then repeat. Start by doing half a dozen “pull ups” and build up to 20 or so per session, holding the muscles in for longer each time.
When Can We Make Love Again?
When you want to, basically. It probably wouldn’t do you any harm to have sexual intercourse within a week or two of giving birth — but it would be far too painful to enjoy. Most doctors recommend that women wait until after their six-week checkup before restarting sexual intercourse. But many women choose to wait longer. The important thing is not to feel pressured about sex. Lots of new mothers find they lose interest, for a while, in making love. If you feel like this, talk to your partner about it and try to get him to understand. In time, your normal sex drive will almost certainly return.
If you do not plan to have another baby immediately, you need to use contraceptives from the time you resume intercourse — even if you are breastfeeding. Remember, you ovulate before your periods return, and you can get pregnant while you are breastfeeding, so take care!