Advice about stitches, piles, bleeding and other physical changes after birth, plus tips to help you make a healthy recovery.
If you've had a caesarean, see recovering from a caesarean.
If you've had stitches after tearing or an episiotomy (cut), bathe them every day to help prevent infection. Have a bath or shower with plain warm water then carefully pat yourself dry.
If your stitches are sore or uncomfortable, tell your midwife.
Painkillers can help. If you're breastfeeding, check with your pharmacist, midwife or GP before you buy over-the-counter painkillers.
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 peeing 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, which may make it sting less.
Tell your midwife if:
- you're finding it really difficult to pee
- you feel very sore
- you notice an unpleasant smell
You probably won't 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.
If you've had stitches, it's very unlikely you'll break them, or open up the cut or tear again.
It might feel better if you hold a pad of clean tissue over the stitches when pooing. Try not to strain.
Talk to your midwife or GP if you have constipation that won't go away. A gentle laxative may help.
Also tell your midwife or GP if poo is leaking or you're pooing when you don't mean to.
After having a baby, it's quite common to leak a bit of pee if you laugh, cough or move suddenly.
Pelvic floor exercises can help with this but tell your GP at your postnatal check if they aren't. They may refer you to a physiotherapist.
Piles are very common after birth but 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 pooing easier and less painful.
Try not to push or strain – this will make the piles worse.
Let your midwife know if you feel very uncomfortable. They can give you a cream to soothe the piles.
Bleeding after birth (lochia)
You'll bleed from your vagina after the birth. It 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 6-week postnatal check because they could increase your chance of getting an infection.
You may notice the bleeding is redder and heavier when you breastfeed. This happens because breastfeeding makes your womb contract. You may also feel cramps similar to period pains.
The bleeding will carry on for a few weeks. It will gradually turn a brownish colour and decrease until it finally stops.
If you're losing blood in large clots, tell your midwife. You may need some treatment.
When will my periods start again after pregnancy?
It's hard to be exact about when your periods will start again, as everyone is different.
If you bottle feed your baby, or combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, your first period could start as soon as 5 to 6 weeks after you give birth.
If you fully breastfeed (including at night) without any bottle feeding, your periods may not start again until you start to reduce breastfeeding.
How soon after giving birth can I get pregnant?
You can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of your baby, even if you're breastfeeding and your periods have not started again yet.
Find out more about when you can use contraception after having a baby.
How soon can I use tampons after giving birth?
You should not use tampons until you've had your 6-week postnatal check. This is because you'll still have a wound where the placenta joined with the wall of your womb, and you may also have tears or cuts in or around your vagina.
Using internal sanitary products like tampons and menstrual cups before this wound has healed could increase your chance of getting an infection.
Use maternity pads or sanitary towels during this time while your body is still healing.
To begin with, your breasts will produce a 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 tummy will probably be quite baggy after delivery and still quite a lot bigger than 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 your womb contract. You may feel quite painful period-like cramps while you're feeding.
You could also try these gentle postnatal tummy exercises.
Is it something serious?
Tell your midwife, health visitor or GP straight away if you get any of these symptoms.
|Symptoms||What it could be|
|Pain, swelling or redness in the calf muscle of one leg||deep vein thrombosis (DVT)|
|Pain in your chest, difficulty breathing||pulmonary embolism|
|Sudden or very heavy blood loss from your vagina, possibly feeling faint, rapid heart beat||postpartum haemorrhage|
|Fever, sore and tender tummy||infection|
|Headache, changes in your vision, vomiting||pre-eclampsia|
Video: what can I do to help recover from tearing?
In this video, 4 mothers talk about what they did to help recover from tearing after birth.
Media review due: 7 February 2023