After the birth of your baby, your body has to go through a healing process. How long it takes depends on your general health condition. It may well take up to a year for your body to return to the state it was at before pregnancy.
Postpartum and involution (involution of the uterus)
Shortly after the birth, the placenta is expelled and contractions of the uterus occur, which serve to close the blood vessels on the inner wall of the uterus. The area where the placenta was located can be compared to an open wound that needs to heal. These uterine contractions, also called "afterpains", can feel like strong cramps in the first days after the birth. Such cramps can also occur during breastfeeding, because the stimulation of the nipples stimulates these uterine contractions. They are painful, but they serve to heal your body and will soon stop on their own. If these cramps become too severe, you can take pain medication.
Postpartum contractions also serve to help the uterus shrink back to its normal size after birth. In the hospital, a nurse will monitor the process and may massage your uterus to stimulate contractions.
It may take ten days for the inner wall of the uterus to heal completely. During this time, there is regular discharge from the vagina, called lochia. For a day or two after birth, your postpartum flow will be bright red and resemble heavy menstrual bleeding. The discharge then becomes weaker and takes on a dark brown color, then turns pink and after about 10 days becomes whitish. This is a sign that the inner wall of the uterus has healed completely.
You should avoid sexual intercourse until the flow stops, and be very careful about hygiene in the perineal area (the area between the anus and vulva) during this time to prevent bacteria from entering the vaginal tract.
Healing the episiotomy
During a vaginal birth or cesarean section, there will most likely be an incision that needs to heal. If you give birth vaginally, an episiotomy may be required. This small incision enlarges the vaginal opening just before the baby’s head appears. He will be stitched up afterwards. It takes a few weeks for an episiotomy to heal – just like any other incision. The site of the incision may be a little tender or irritated during the first week after birth. While infections can occur, they are usually avoidable with good perineal hygiene and care.
In the case of a caesarean section, it takes longer for the scar to heal. Normally, it is four to six weeks. Painkillers can be taken if necessary. Initially, stronger pain medications will probably be given, which will probably make you feel a little light-headed and tired. If the stitches do not go away on their own, they will need to be removed about five days after birth.
Tips for continuing the healing process at home:
There is also a lot you can do at home to help the healing process:
Change your bandage frequently to prevent the episiotomy scar from becoming infected (at least every four to six hours) Clean the perineal area with warm water after urination or bowel movements. Use either a soft terry towel (dab only) or gauze pads to dry off. Remember to always wipe from front to back. Take a warm sitz bath or use warm compresses to promote healing for an episiotomy.
Do pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) they stimulate blood flow to this area of the body, which speeds up the healing process.
Make sure the dressings on the cesarean scar are always clean and dry And follow the care instructions you were given at the hospital.
Eat a particularly healthy diet, to support the healing process. Provide yourself with proteins, vitamins and plenty of fluids.
Rest! Try to spend the first week after birth on the sofa or in bed. Don’t put yourself through too much, even if you feel fine. What counts is taking care of your baby. Shopping, cooking, laundry and housework can be taken care of by others. It is best to organize this help before the birth so that everything will go well at home.
Sleep when the baby is asleep. Expect that you will now have to get up more often during the night. To compensate, you should sleep during the day when you have the opportunity. You should sleep as much as you did before your baby was born within 24 hours. This will likely happen in several stages.
When should I contact the doctor?
Consult your doctor or midwife if any of the following signs occur. These could indicate impaired healing or possible infection:
Body temperature above 37.8 °C lasting longer than one day.
Bright red or heavy bleeding (lochia) after the fourth day of childbirth or large clots of blood in the lochia.
Postpartum flow with a foul odor.
Lower abdominal pain in the first days after birth.
Signs of infection (redness, heat sensation, swelling, discharge) at the perineal incision or cesarean section.
Birth is a completely natural process – and not a disease. Your body will heal quickly. If you follow these recommendations, you will be surprised how quickly you will feel fit again after the delivery.
If you are still in the third trimester you can already find out about the postpartum period. But don’t forget to take your time and rest – because once your little bundle of joy is there, you won’t have many more opportunities to do so.