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Caring for Yourself After You Have Your Baby

Congratulations on your new baby! In order to take care of your new baby, you need to take care of yourself. These instructions give you general information about caring for yourself after you leave the hospital. Your doctor may give your more detailed instructions.

Follow-up appointment

You should make an appointment to see your doctor or midwife 4 to 6 weeks after your baby is born.

Activity

Your physical activity depends on how you feel. If you delivered your baby vaginally, you can probably start light exercise within 2 weeks. Walking is a good way to start. Slowly increase your activity as you feel stronger.

If you had a c-section (cesarean birth) or had your tubes tied (tubal ligation), you may need to be more careful. Your doctor will tell you when you can increase your activity.

Episiotomy

If you gave birth vaginally, you may have had an episiotomy (eh-peez-ee-OT-o-me). This is a cut (incision) that the doctor makes in the opening of the vagina to make it larger. This helps prevent tearing of the vaginal tissues when the baby is born. After the baby is born, the doctor closes the incision with stitches.

You can take sitz baths to make you more comfortable and to help you heal. A sitz bath soothes the area of your body from the vagina to the anus. Fill the sitz bath with warm water. Lift the toilet seat and place the bath under the seat. Put down the seat. Simply sit with your bottom in the warm water until it no longer feels warm. Pat yourself dry gently. Dump the water into the toilet. Use the sitz bath for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, 3 times a day, for the first week after delivery.

Your stitches will dissolve in 10 days to 2 weeks. They do not need to be removed. You may feel a sticking or pulling sensation as your stitches heal.

Incision care

If you had a c-section, you will have a cut (incision) in your belly. Clean your incision with soap and water every day. If you have small adhesive strips across the incision and they do not fall off in 7 days, carefully peel them off. Check your incision every day for signs of redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of skin. Call your doctor if you see any of these signs.

Vaginal discharge

It is normal to have some vaginal discharge for 3 to 6 weeks after you have your baby. This discharge will change in amount, color, and appearance. Passing small blood clots is also normal. Report any bleeding that keeps getting heavier or smells bad.

Hygiene

You may shower, wash your hair, and take tub baths unless your doctor has told you not to. Do not use tampons until your period

Breast care

Your breasts may feel warm, firm, and heavy during your first days at home. Wear a comfortable bra that does not have an underwire. If you are breast feeding, feed the baby a little more often to relieve pressure. If you are not breast feeding, wear a bra with good support. You can apply cold packs to the breasts for 15 minutes several times every day.

Pain control

You may still have discomfort at home. You may use over-the-counter pain relievers unless you were given a prescription. If you are breast feeding, check with your doctor before you take any medicines.

Nutrition

Continue to eat a well-balanced diet. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water, juice, or milk every day. You may want to drink more if you are breast feeding.

Bowel movements

Your bowel movements should return to normal within a few days. Add more fruits, vegetables, bran, and fluids to your diet.

Birth control

Your doctor will tell you when you can start having sex again. Before the baby is born, you and your partner should decide what birth control (contraception) to use after the birth. You both should feel comfortable and familiar with your choice. If you have not made a decision or have questions, talk to your doctor before you go home.

Emotions

It is important to pay attention to your moods and emotions after delivery. Many women cry or feel sad soon after their babies are born. This is called “baby blues.” Baby blues can be caused by hormone changes. It can also be caused by many new responsibilities and challenges that a new mother faces. If feelings of sadness last more than 7 days, call your doctor.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A temperature of 100.4 F for 4 hours or 101 F once
  • Vaginal discharge with a bad odor
  • Bleeding that soaks more than 2 pads an hour for several hours
  • Breasts that are painful, swollen, reddened, or hot or have a hardened area for more than 5 days
  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, heat, or drainage from your abdominal incision or episiotomy
  • Feelings sadness that last longer than 7 days

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