Changes in your body

The first few days

For the first few days after the birth, you may feel really tired. If you had a Caesarean section you’ll be recovering from the operation. If you’ve had stitches, the affected areas may be sore and you might be worried about going to the toilet. Although you may have expected to feel great, you might actually feel a bit down.

Immediately after the birth, your tummy will look saggy and soft. As your uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size in the few days after the birth, you may feel contractions known as ‘afterpains’, especially if you’re breastfeeding. If you find these uncomfortable ask your midwife, GP or pharmacist what pain relief is safe to take.

Your breasts may swell and feel tender when your milk comes in. A well-fitted bra should help support your breasts and again you can take pain relief (recommended by your midwife, GP or pharmacist) if necessary.

You might be constipated for the first couple of days after giving birth.The best thing you can do to make it easier is drink lots of water and eat high-fibre foods including fruit and vegetables. It’s unlikely you’ll damage your stitches, but you can hold a pad over your perineum when you try to go – and, try to avoid straining.

If your stitches are very sore, speak to your midwife, who can recommend safe pain relief. You can also make the stitched area feel better by bathing in warm water and drying carefully.

Lochia and bleeding

For the next three to four weeks, sometimes longer, you’ll have a discharge from your vagina, called ‘lochia’. Initially this is a bit like having a heavy period. At first it’s bright red, then pinkish brown, then cream. The lochia will be heavy at first and you’ll need lots of changes of sanitary towels (tampons aren’t suitable because of the risk of infection). The discharge should slow down after the first week.

Get medical advice if you experience any of the following:

  • you start to lose fresh red blood or your discharge
    seems too heavy
  • the discharge gets smelly
  • you have stomach pains or a temperature
  • you pass clots after the first few days.

If you have any heavy bleeding at any time after the birth (soaking through pads) or have large clots of blood contact your midwife or maternity unit. Remember, some fresh red blood loss is normal after a breastfeed but only in the first few days. If the discharge hasn't stopped after six weeks or so, speak to your health visitor or GP.

Last Updated: 02 September 2013
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