Bleeding and Cramping
The toll of labor doesn’t end when you hear your baby’s first cry – in general, it’s just beginning. Your body has gone through a lot in the past 40 weeks – most particularly the last day – and it will take about six weeks to fully recuperate. While the extent of your recovery varies from person to person, here are some issues you may be dealing with:
The amount of bleeding after delivery can be quite frightening, but it’s completely normal and – if you think about it – expected. First the placenta separates from the uterus, exposing open blood vessels, and then the uterus shrinks down from over 2 pounds to just a mere couple of ounces, expelling blood, mucus and tissue as it does. You also have to figure that the amount of blood in your body increased by about 50 percent during your pregnancy, and now it’s time for things to go back to normal. Here’s what you need to know:
- Expect a flow heavier than your period with blood clots every now and then. If the clots are bigger than a lemon, call your doctor.
- Don’t be surprised if you feel a gush of fluid when you stand up.
- If the bleeding is uncontrollable or you’re bleeding through more than one pad an hour, call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. You could be hemorrhaging – a serious condition that could be life-threatening if not treated.
- The color will be very, very red (which, in and of itself, looks alarming), and eventually turn pink, then brown, then to a yellow discharge.
- Keep super-flow maxi pads on hand – and a lot of them. Don’t use tampons, as your uterus is still open. (As if you’d want to stick anything up there right now.)
- The blood shouldn’t have any foul odor. If it does, check in with your doctor.
- The bleeding may last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a full six, with possible spotting even later.
- If you’re not bleeding at all, give your doctor a call.
Surprise! Just when you thought you felt your last contraction, the constant cramping you felt after giving birth – and still continue to feel – probably has you thinking, when will the pain stop? Here’s what’s going on:
- Your uterus is contracting as it shrinks back down to size, so the pain will be less intense than when it was pushing out a baby but still enough to be uncomfortable.
- Keep in mind that every contraction is helping to slow your postpartum bleeding.
- There’s a reason you feel an intense cramp every time your baby latches on and sucks: Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a chemical that inherently induces contractions and shrinks your uterus faster.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a safe way to ease the pain, but check with your doctor on proper dosage.
- The pain should subside after a week or so.