You and your body just after birth
The first few days with your new baby can be a very emotional time for you and your partner. There's a lot to learn and do as new parents.
There is the excitement of getting to know your baby, but you will also be tired, and your body will be recovering from labour and the birth.
Keep your baby close to you as much as you can. Your partner could also spend time holding and being close to your baby. They may feel a little left out, especially if they have to leave you and your baby in hospital and go back to an empty house.
They may need a bit of support and encouragement to get involved. The more you can both hold and cuddle your baby, the more confident you will all feel.
Below you can find out more about:
How you feel after the birth
You may feel tired for the first few days, so make sure you get plenty of rest. Even just walking and moving about can seem like hard work. Get some tips on coping with stitches, piles and bleeding.
For a lot of mothers, the excitement and pleasure of the new baby far outweigh any problems. But you can begin to feel low or rather depressed, especially if you are very tired or feel you cannot look after your baby in the way you would like to.
Giving birth is an emotional and tiring experience, and your hormones change dramatically in the first few days. Some women get the "baby blues" and feel weepy around three to five days after giving birth. Feeling weepy can be worse if your labour was difficult, you are very tired, or you have other worries.
Make sure you and your partner know the signs of postnatal depression.
Some women worry because they don't love their baby immediately. But it's not always love at first sight. You may just need to give yourself time to bond with your baby. You can still care for your baby and provide all the warmth and security he or she needs in the meantime.
In hospital with your baby
If you have your baby in hospital, you may be able to go home with your baby straight from the labour ward, or you may be moved to a postnatal ward, where you will be with other mothers and babies.
If your delivery is straightforward, your stay in hospital is likely to be short. It helps if you've discussed your postnatal care with your midwife during pregnancy so you know what to expect. Any preferences can then be recorded on your birth plan so staff on the postnatal ward are aware of them.
You'll probably need quite a lot of help and advice with your first baby. Whether you are in hospital or at home, the midwives are there to guide and support you, and also check you're recovering from the birth. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
A midwife will be available in your community to help you look after yourself and your baby. You can get help and support at a Children's Centre - find a Sure Start Children's Centre near you.
Your body in the first few days
Your body will have been through big changes over the past few days.
To begin with, your breasts will produce a nutritious yellowish liquid called colostrum for your baby. On the third or fourth day, they may feel tight and tender as they start to produce milk. Wearing a supportive nursing bra may help. Speak to your midwife if you're very uncomfortable.
Read more about breastfeeding in the first few days.
Your abdomen (tummy) will probably be quite baggy after delivery. Despite delivering your baby and the placenta, you'll still be quite a lot bigger than you were before pregnancy.
This is partly because your muscles have stretched. If you eat a balanced diet and get some exercise, your shape should gradually return to normal.
Breastfeeding helps because it makes the womb (uterus) contract. Because of this, you may feel quite painful period-type cramps while you are feeding.
Find out about keeping fit and healthy with a baby.
It's quite common after having a baby to leak urine accidentally if you laugh, cough or move suddenly. Pelvic floor exercises can help with this. You can find out more about incontinence and where to get help on the Bladder and Bowel Foundation website.
If the problem lasts for more than three months, see your doctor, who may refer you to a physiotherapist.
Stitches, piles and bleeding after birth
If you've had stitches after tearing or an episiotomy (cut), bathe the area often in clean, warm water to help it heal. Have a bath or shower with plain warm water. After bathing, dry yourself carefully.
In the first few days, remember to sit down gently and lie on your side rather than on your back.
If the stitches are sore and uncomfortable, tell your midwife as they may be able to recommend treatment. Painkillers can also help.
If you're breastfeeding, check with your midwife, GP or pharmacist before you buy over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Stitches usually dissolve by the time the cut or tear has healed, but sometimes they have to be taken out.
Going to the toilet
At first, the thought of passing urine can be a bit frightening because of the soreness and because you can't feel what you're doing. Drinking lots of water dilutes your urine, but tell your midwife if you really find it difficult to pass urine.
You probably won't need to open your bowels (have a poo) for a few days after the birth, but it's important not to let yourself get constipated. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread, and drink plenty of water.
Whatever it may feel like, it's very unlikely that you'll break the stitches or open up the cut or tear again. It might feel better if you hold a pad of clean tissue over the stitches when doing a poo, and try not to strain.
Piles (haemorrhoids) are very common after birth, but they usually disappear within a few days. Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread, and drink plenty of water. This should make bowel movements easier and less painful. Don't push or strain as this will make the piles worse. Let your midwife know if you feel very uncomfortable and they will be able to give you an ointment to soothe the piles.
Bleeding after the birth (lochia)
After the birth, you will bleed from your vagina. This will be quite heavy at first, and you'll need super-absorbent sanitary towels. Change them regularly, washing your hands before and afterwards. It isn't a good idea to use tampons until after your six-week postnatal check because they can cause infection.
While breastfeeding, you may notice that the bleeding is redder and heavier. You may also feel cramps like period pains, known as "after pains". These things happen because breastfeeding makes the womb (uterus) contract.
The bleeding will gradually become a brownish colour and may continue for some weeks, getting less and less until it stops. If you find you are losing blood in large clots, you should save your sanitary towels to show the midwife as you may need some treatment.
Avoiding deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after pregnancy
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition where a clot develops in the deep veins of your legs. It can be fatal if the clot travels from your legs to your lungs.
Pregnant women and women who have had a baby in the past six weeks are among those who are more at risk of DVT. Flights that last more than five hours, where you sit still for a long time, may further increase your risk.
If you plan to travel by air, it's important to get advice from your GP or health visitor before the trip. They can give you advice on sitting exercises to keep your circulation moving.
If you develop a swollen, painful leg or have breathing difficulties after a trip, see your GP urgently or go to the nearest A&E department.
Postnatal exercises will help to tone up the muscles of your pelvic floor and tummy, and help you get your usual shape back. They will also get you moving and feeling generally fitter. You may be able to attend a postnatal exercise class at your hospital. Ask your midwife or health visitor.
See more about postnatal exercises.
Recovering from a caesarean
It takes longer to recover from a caesarean section than it does from a natural birth.
After a caesarean, you'll feel uncomfortable and will be offered painkillers. You will usually be fitted with a catheter (a small tube that goes up into your bladder) for up to 24 hours. You may be prescribed daily injections to prevent blood clots (thrombosis).
Depending on the help you have at home, you should be ready to leave hospital within two to four days.
You'll be encouraged to become mobile by getting out of bed and walking around as soon as possible, and your midwife or hospital physiotherapist will give you advice about postnatal exercises that will help you to recover.
You can drive as soon as you can move without pain as long as you can perform an emergency stop. This could take up to six weeks.
Read more about recovering from a caesarean.
Checks and immunisations after birth
After you've had your baby, you'll be offered some checks and immunisations.
If you were not immune to rubella (german measles) when tested early in your pregnancy, you will usually be offered the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine by your maternity team before you leave the maternity unit, or by your GP shortly afterwards.
If you aren't offered the vaccine, talk to your midwife or GP as this is a good opportunity to get it done. You shouldn't try to get pregnant again for at least one month after the injection, but it's safe for you to breastfeed.
If you're rhesus negative
If your blood group is rhesus negative, a blood sample will be taken from the umbilical cord after the birth to see if your baby is rhesus positive. If they are, you will be offered an injection to protect your next baby from something called rhesus disease.
The injection should be given within 72 hours of your baby being born. Speak to your doctors or midwives if you want to know more.
Article provided by NHS Choices
Record managed by Oxfordshire Family Information Service