While you're recovering from your C-section, remember that you're also recovering from pregnancy. Here's what to expect:
Vaginal discharge. After delivery, you'll begin to shed the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy. You'll have vaginal discharge made up of this membrane and blood for weeks.
This discharge will be red and heavy for the first few days. Then it will taper, become increasingly watery and change from pinkish brown to yellowish white.
Contractions. You might feel contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after the C-section.
These contractions — which often resemble menstrual cramps — help prevent excessive bleeding by compressing the blood vessels in the uterus. Afterpains are common during breast-feeding, due to the release of oxytocin. Your health care provider might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Tender breasts. A few days after birth, your breasts might become full, firm and tender (engorgement) once they begin making milk. Frequent breast-feeding on both breasts is recommended to avoid or minimize engorgement.
If your breasts — including the dark circles of skin around the nipples — are engorged, latching might be difficult for your baby. To help your baby latch, you might hand express or use a breast pump to express a small amount of breast milk before feeding your baby. To ease breast discomfort, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower before breast-feeding or expressing, which might make milk removal easier. Between feedings, place cold washcloths on your breasts. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help, too.
If you're not breast-feeding, wear a supportive bra, such as a sports bra. Don't pump your breasts or express the milk, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.
Hair loss and skin changes. During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels increase the ratio of growing hair to resting or shedding hair. The result is often an extra-lush head of hair — but now it's payback time. After delivery, you'll experience hair loss up to five months after delivery.
Stretch marks won't disappear after delivery, but eventually they'll fade from red to silver. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy — such as dark patches on your face — to slowly fade as well.
Mood changes. Childbirth triggers a jumble of powerful emotions. Many new moms experience a period of feeling down, anxious or inadequate, sometimes called the baby blues. Symptoms include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
The baby blues typically subside within two weeks. In the meantime, take good care of yourself. Share your feelings, and ask your partner, loved ones or friends for help.
Postpartum depression. If you experience severe mood swings, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue and lack of joy in life shortly after childbirth, you might have postpartum depression.
Contact your health care provider if you think you might be depressed, especially if your signs and symptoms don't fade on their own, you have trouble caring for your baby or completing daily tasks, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
- Weight loss. After your C-section, you might look like you're still pregnant. This is normal. Most women lose 13 pounds (6 kilograms) during birth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During your recovery, you'll drop more weight as your body gets rid of excess fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.