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What Should You Expect after a Vaginal or Cesarean Birth?

Learn what to expect after a vaginal or cesarean birth from childbirth expert Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach in this Howcast video.


So, what to expect after giving birth? If you've had a vaginal birth you can expect a great sense of euphoria from the flow of oxytocin rushing through your veins. Remember, oxytocin is the love hormone, so because you have the greatest amount of oxytocin after giving birth, you may experience a new respect for your body and its capabilities after having a vaginal birth.

Immediately after having a vaginal birth, you may feel really hungry and thirsty. You just did a lot of work, and your body is ready to be replenished. You may also experience some trembling, or shaking, or afterpains. All of this is normal. You may also experience swelling and/or discomfort in your perineum. Some people say that an ice pack can help.

You may experience increased urination, perspiration, and vaginal bleeding after giving birth. This vaginal bleeding is called lochia. It can happen about two to four weeks after giving birth. When bleeding after birth, you want to look for bright red bleeding or fever. This may indicate an infection and, if so, you should call your care provider right away.

After having a vaginal birth you may also experience enlargement or engorgement of your breasts, hemorrhoids, and/or constipation. After having a vaginal birth, you may experience an immediate loss of 10 to 15 pounds as your uterus begins to experience involution or returning to the size that it was before you gave birth. Remember, your uterus was the size of a walnut all the way up to the size of a watermelon when giving birth. So your uterus needs some time to decrease back to the size it was before giving birth.

Your uterus will begin to shed its lining that built up during the pregnancy. This is called lochia. During this time you need to wear a maxipad for two to four weeks after giving birth, and vaginal bleeding is normal. If you notice any bright red blood or a fever contact your doctor or midwife immediately.

Much like a vaginal birth, with a Cesarean birth you can expect to experience fatigue, engorgement and/or enlargement of the breasts, and sometimes constipation. You may be surprised to know that you can also sometimes experience perineal pain as well.

After a Cesarean birth you may experience some pain at the site of the incision. Some pain at the site of the incision is normal after a Cesarean birth. You'll go for a checkup within one to two weeks after giving birth. If anything feels out of the ordinary or unusual to you feel free to call your care provider before that two week visit.

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