Home > Health Library > Physical Changes After Delivery (Postpartum Period)
As your body returns to its nonpregnant condition, there
are changes you can expect during the days and weeks after delivery (postpartum
period). Like pregnancy, postpartum changes are different for every
experience shaking chills right after delivery. This is a common reaction in
the hours after delivery. A warm blanket may help you feel more
your uterus shrinks back to its nonpregnant size, you may have contractions
(afterpains) for the first few postpartum days. The sharpest pains usually
subside during the third day. Afterpains are nonexistent to mild following a
first childbirth and are more painful with each successive pregnancy. They are
especially noticeable during breastfeeding; breastfeeding triggers the
release of oxytocin, which in turn causes the uterus to contract.
The uterus takes about 6 weeks to return to its nonpregnant size. If this
was your first pregnancy, your uterus will remain slightly larger than it was
before you got pregnant.
Immediately after delivery, you will have a bloody discharge (lochia)
from the vagina. This will turn pinkish within a week and become white or
yellowish after about 10 days. Lochia may last for 2 to 4 weeks and can come
and go for about 2 months.
Don't be concerned if you pass
occasional blood clots, as long as they are smaller than a golf ball. Use pads,
rather than tampons, during this time. If you have a perineal tear or
episiotomy that is healing, change the pad at least
every 4 hours to help prevent irritation and infection.
You may have some difficulty
urinating for a day or two after delivery. You may also have constipation or
discomfort with bowel movements for a few days after delivery. Drink plenty of
water and juices to ease constipation and help you stay more
In the days and sometimes weeks after delivery, it is
not unusual to urinate more frequently than usual. Your body is ridding itself
of the extra fluid from pregnancy. Some women also sweat heavily as they lose
their extra fluid.
It is not unusual to have sore muscles (especially in your arms, neck, or
jaw) after delivery. This is from the hard work of labor, and it should go away
in a few days. You may also have bloodshot eyes or facial bruising from
You may have pain, discomfort, or numbness
around your vagina. If you had a
cesarean delivery (C-section), an episiotomy, or a
tear in your vagina, you may have discomfort when you sit or walk, and your
first bowel movement may be quite painful. Taking stool softeners and drinking
lots of fluids can help soften stools and ease pain.
Between the third and fourth days
after delivery, your breasts begin to fill with milk. This can cause breast
discomfort and swelling (engorgement). Placing ice packs on your breasts may
relieve the discomfort of engorgement. Some women find a hot shower or warm
compresses on the breasts are more comforting. For more information, see the
topic Breast Engorgement.
During the first days of breastfeeding,
your nipples will probably become tender or sore. But as breastfeeding
becomes more established, the soreness usually goes away. For information about
preventing undue soreness or cracking, see the topic Breastfeeding.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofAugust 21, 2015
Current as of:
August 21, 2015
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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