What to Expect When Recovering from Childbirth

Whether you’ve had an easy labour or a complicated birth, the recovery period is something we all need to go through to allow our body to heal.

7 min read

What to Expect When Recovering from Childbirth


Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, and it’ll go through even more after delivery. So, what exactly happens to your body after childbirth? Whether you’ve had an easy labour or a complicated birth, the recovery period is something we all need to go through to allow our body to heal.


For the first 6 weeks (or more) after delivery, the body is expected to go through many transformations as it adjusts to not being pregnant anymore. Here are some things to expect during this postnatal period:


The Healing Process


Abdominal Cramps

After delivery, expect some abdominal cramps as the uterus contracts to its normal size and shape. In the course of pregnancy, your uterus expands from the size of a grapefruit into the size of a watermelon. The uterus will gradually return to its pre-pregnancy size in a process called involution over a period of 6 weeks. During this process, you might feel sharp pains at times or dull aches at other times. They should decrease in intensity with each day postpartum.


Vaginal Discharge and Bleeding

While pregnant, hormones cause the uterine lining to thicken to support the placenta. This lining will then be shed after delivery as your uterus returns to pre-pregnancy state. The vaginal discharge and bleeding after delivery is called lochia and made up of blood, placental tissue, sloughed off endometrial lining and mucous. Lochia starts off brown, and will change in colour to a lighter red, light pink and then white. It usually takes 3 to 6 weeks to clear, although some may go for a little longer.


Recovering from stitches

If you’ve had vaginal tears or a C-section, your stitches will take time to heal. The stitches will usually take 1 to 2 weeks to dissolve on its own. Gently pat dry after a shower or when going to the toilet to keep your wound clean and dry as a wet wound will increase risk of bacterial growth and infection. It is normal to feel soreness for weeks after delivery. For a perineal tear, a sitz bath or cold ice packs may help to relieve any discomfort.


Body Changes After Delivery


Sore Nipples and Breasts

Hormones in the body trigger the production of breastmilk after delivery. Your breasts might tend to get tender and full. A warm compress can help to provide some relief.


Hormonal Changes

In the weeks after childbirth, you might experience mood swings like never before. One moment you’re on top of the world with the arrival of your little one, and the next you’re sobbing over something as trivial as your partner not preparing your meal perfectly. This shift in emotions is caused by a dramatic drop of estrogen and progesterone levels. These hormonal changes are also what causes you to feel hot and sweat more, and you may also notice that your hair is dropping in clumps after enjoying lustrous locks during your pregnancy. Just remember, all these are normal and only temporary, and once your hormones are regulated, you should feel better.2


Is Recovery After a Caesarean Section Different?


A C-section requires additional care as your abdominal tissues are cut open during surgery. Although the external wound will heal in 1-2 weeks, your internal wound will take a lot longer and it is important to not do any heavy lifting during this period. While it’s tempting to just lie around to recover, it is helpful to move around and take a walk every now and then to encourage blood circulation and prevent blood clots. As there is also more pain from a C-section than a natural birth during recovery, taking painkillers can help to manage the pain for a quicker process of regaining your body.


Complications During Recovery


While some soreness is to be expected, extreme pain might be a sign that something isn’t right and should not be dismissed. Remember to always pay attention to your body even as you focus on taking care of your new addition to the family. If you have any of these symptoms, it is better to seek immediate medical care to prevent it from becoming life-threatening3:


  • Heavy bleeding that fills up more than one pad per hour, or bleeding that is getting heavier rather than decreasing
  • Passing large clots that are bigger than a plum
  • Chills or fever that might indicate the start of an infection in the body
  • Changes to vision or persistent headache could be a sign of high blood pressure after delivery
  • Strong odour or pus from wound site can happen when the wound is infected and needs to be cleaned


As your body goes through all the changes during the postpartum recovery period, remember to take it easy and let your body heal and do not feel that you need to bounce back to pre-pregnancy body right away.



1. https://familydoctor.org/recovering-from-delivery/

2. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/features/maternal-depression/index.html

3. https://www.webmd.com/women/vaginal-bleeding-after-birth-when-to-call-doctor


This article was written by Motherhood.com.my.


DISCLAIMER: The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Due to unique individual needs, the reader should consult health professional to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader's situation.