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Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth


Topic Overview

What is postpartum?

During the first weeks after giving birth, your body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant. This is called postpartum (or the postpartum period). Your body goes through many changes as you recover. These changes are different for every woman.

The first weeks after childbirth also are a time to bond with your baby and set up a routine for caring for your baby.

Your doctor will want to see you for a checkup 2 to 6 weeks after delivery. This is a good time to discuss any concerns, including birth control.

What happens to your body during the postpartum period?

You likely will feel sore for a few days and very tired for several weeks. It may take 4 to 6 weeks to feel like yourself again, and possibly longer if you had a cesarean (or C-section) birth.

Over the next few days and weeks, you may have some bleeding and afterpains as your uterus shrinks.

How can you care for yourself?

It is easy to get too tired and overwhelmed during the first weeks after childbirth. Take it easy on yourself.

  • Try to sleep when your baby does.
  • Ask another adult to be with you for a few days after delivery.
  • Let family and friends bring you meals or do chores.
  • Plan for child care if you have other children.
  • Plan small trips to get out of the house. Change can make you feel less tired.
  • Drink extra fluids if you are breast-feeding.

Your doctor will tell you how to care for your body as you recover. Your doctor will tell you when it's okay to exercise, have sex, and use tampons. He or she also will tell you how to manage pain and swelling while your body heals.

How does postpartum affect your emotions?

The first few weeks after your baby is born can be a time of excitement—and of being very tired. You may look at your wondrous little baby and feel happy. But at the same time, you may feel exhausted from a lack of sleep and your new responsibilities.

Many women get the "baby blues" during the first few days after childbirth. The "baby blues" usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than 2 weeks. If you have the blues for more than a few days, or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your doctor right away. You may have postpartum depression. This needs to be treated. Support groups and counseling can help. Sometimes medicine also can help.

For more information, see the topic Postpartum Depression.

What should you know about newborn care?

During your baby's first few weeks, you will spend most of your time feeding, diapering, and comforting your baby. You may feel overwhelmed at times. It's normal to wonder if you know what you are doing, especially if you are first-time parents. Newborn care gets easier with every day. Soon you may get to know what each cry means and be able to figure out what your baby needs and wants.

At first, babies often sleep during the day and are awake at night. They don't have a pattern or routine. They may make sudden gasps, jerk themselves awake, or look like they have crossed eyes. These are all normal, and they may even make you smile.

You naturally develop an emotional bond with your baby simply by spending time together, being physically close, and responding to his or her cues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about the postpartum period:

Special concerns:

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