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Postpartum: First 6 Weeks After Childbirth (cont.)

Common Problems

Some women have problems—such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and sore breasts—that last for a while after childbirth. Many minor postpartum problems can be managed at home. If you develop problems and your doctor has given you specific instructions to follow, be sure to follow those instructions.

Constipation and hemorrhoids

Home treatment measures are usually all that is needed to relieve mild discomfort from hemorrhoids or constipation.

To prevent or ease symptoms of constipation:

  • Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and fruit juices.
  • Try a stool softener, such as Colace.
  • Do not strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
  • Get more exercise, such as walking, every day.

To treat the itching or pain of hemorrhoids:

  • Keep the anus clean by wiping carefully after each bowel movement. Gently wipe from the front to the back. Baby wipes or hemorrhoid pads are usually more gentle than toilet paper. If you use toilet paper, use only soft, undyed, unscented toilet paper.
  • Take warm soaks in a tub or a sitz bath. Warm water can help shrink or soothe hemorrhoids. Add baking soda to the water to relieve itching.
  • Use cold packs. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Do not sit for long periods, especially on hard chairs.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and use stool softeners, if needed. Don't strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.

Vaginal and perineal problems

Soreness in the vagina and the area between it and the anus (perineum) is common after delivery. You can ease the pain with home treatment. To reduce pain and heal:

  • Try using ice. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Cleanse yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
  • Try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath) 3 times a day and after bowel movements.

Recovery from an episiotomy or perineal tear can take several weeks.

Pelvic bone problems

Recovery from pelvic bone problems, such as separated pubic bones or a fractured tailbone (coccyx), can take several months. Treatment includes ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and sometimes physical therapy.

Breast problems

Breast engorgement is common between the third and fourth days after delivery, when the breasts begin to fill with milk. This can cause breast discomfort and swelling. Placing ice packs on your breasts, taking a hot shower, or using warm compresses may relieve the discomfort. If you aren't breast-feeding, use ice rather than heat for breast soreness. For more information, see the topic Breast Engorgement.

For breast problems related to breast-feeding, see the topic Breast-Feeding.

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