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Just as every woman and baby is unique, so too is their labor and delivery experience. 

James W. Brann, MD

Your Pregnancy MD
Pregnancy Week Forty

Author James W. Brann, M.D.

The average length of a pregnancy is about 40 weeks, and the vast majority of births take place between 37 and 42 weeks.

Congratulations! You have made it to 40 weeks pregnant. While many women will delivery sometime this week others may find they pass their due date and go on to deliver in the next two weeks. Remember that due date prediction is not an exact science though due dates do offer your doctor strong guidance about your babies potential delivery date. It is often hard for doctors and parents alike to predict the exact date their baby will be delivered, but many have fun trying.

By 40 weeks pregnant most babies are ready to come out, weighing in at over 7 1/2 pounds and measuring as much as 19 – 21 inches long. Did you know some babies will topple the charts at over 10 pounds (though this is uncommon)!

Your baby will have little room to move about during the final weeks of pregnancy and is likely strongly considering making a move if he hasn’t done so already.

Your doctor should have already talked to you about when to head to the hospital or birthing center. Some doctors may prefer for you to come sooner than later, depending on your individual situation. Women who have high-risk pregnancies may be asked to come at the first sign of labor, whereas others with low-risk pregnancies might be asked to come after contractions have been regular for an hour or more.

If your water breaks, regardless of whether you’re having any other signs of labor, you need to go to the hospital right away. This is a sign that labor is imminent.

If you haven’t already, review the signs of labor so that you can recognize them when the time comes. Signs of labor include lightening (baby drops into the pelvis), a loss of your mucous plus (also called a bloody show), your water breaks (rupture of membranes), and labor contractions that come at regular intervals and get progressively stronger and closer together.

You should have felt your baby descend into your pelvis a few weeks ago. By now, your bump should be lower in your abdomen, and you have probably felt increasing discomfort in your pelvic area. (You’re probably waddling too.)

In the hours prior to the onset of labor, you can experience frequent bowel movements and diarrhea. You may also start to get nauseous and even vomit. It may feel like you’re battling morning sickness all over again.

Cervix effacement and dilation might be taking place without your knowledge. In late pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions can begin to thin out and open your cervix just a little bit. As you enter labor, your cervix will continue to dilate and efface. When your baby is ready to be born, your cervix will have dilated to 10 centimeters!

Your water breaks – If your bag of water breaks, you should be having regular contractions. Some women don’t have any contractions until after their water breaks. This is a sign that your baby is ready to come out into the world. When your water breaks, it can be a gush of fluid – just like a dramatization that you’d see on TV. However, you may also feel a trickle of fluid from your vagina.

Braxton Hicks contractions will become more intense now. There’s a good chance that these practice contractions will turn into real labor pains this week. If your contractions aren’t going away, regardless of whether you take a short rest or walk around, you’re having real contractions! At this final week in your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to start timing your contractions.

Contractions – When you’re in labor, you will start to feel true contractions. Unlike Braxton Hicks contractions, you are going to feel contractions that get stronger, occur closer together, and last longer. At first, they may be 10 or 20 minutes apart. As labor progresses, they are going to start hitting you every 3 to 4 minutes. It’s a good idea to head to the hospital when your contractions are coming every five minutes for at least one hour.

Pelvic pressure is probably causing you a lot of discomfort. Most babies are in the head-down position by now, so don’t be surprised if your little one’s head decides to bump against your bladder and hips. Fortunately, this pelvic pressure will go away once your baby is born.

Can My Partner Cut the Umbilical Cord?”

The umbilical cord is one of the most vital organs during your pregnancy. During your pregnancy, this narrow and flexible tube is your baby’s lifeline. The umbilical cord facilitates transfer of oxygen and essential nutrients from your bloodstream to your baby’s. This structure also allows transmission of your baby’s wastes to your bloodstream, which are eventually excreted by your kidneys.

For nine months, the umbilical cord connects you and your baby 24 hours a day and 7 days a week; therefore, in most cases, the umbilical cord is not merely an organ or product of conception for mothers. It represents the strong bond of love between mother and child that will last for a lifetime. It is for these reasons that cutting the umbilical cord is enormously symbolic for mothers and their partners.

Cutting the structure that connects you and your baby for nearly a year signifies the end of your baby’s stay inside your womb and the start of a new life in the external world, which will be surely filled with joys of parenthood. Can your partner cut the umbilical cord? Will he be allowed to perform this meaningful event? Is he willing to do it?

Cutting the umbilical cord is a personal choice

To cut or not to cut, that is the question. It is a question that only you and your partner can answer. Cutting the umbilical cord is a personal choice. Some partners are more than willing and excited to do it, whereas others are not even considering about performing act.

If you and your partner want to cut the cord, it is important to inform your physician about your wish. In most cases, physicians ask their patients and their patients’ partners even before labor about their plans with regards to who will do the cutting. Physicians usually ask it again on the day of labor. People change their minds all the time. On the day of your labor, your partner may also change his mind, too. If your partner decides not to cut the umbilical cord during your delivery, he must inform your physician about his decision. Your physician will understand. As your healthcare provider, he or she is expected to respect your decisions.

Why won’t my partner cut the umbilical cord?

There are some significant others who may not be too willing to do the cutting. Some expectant mothers do not mind their partners’ refusal, whereas others may find their partners’ refusal upsetting and at times, offensive. If your partner refuses to perform the cutting, do not think that he cares less about you and your baby or that your baby’s arrival is not at all important.

There are a number of reasons why he cannot or will not cut the cord. Some partners may find cutting the cord too uncomfortable. As a consequence, there is this fear that they may not be able to handle it well. Not everyone can take the sight of blood. Have you heard about fathers puking and passing out in the delivery room? It can happen to your partner as well. There are times when a bit of blood is still left in the umbilical vessels between the clamps. Cutting the cord may cause that spray effect. It can be a bit bloody and messy.

Others are just not too comfortable cutting the link between the mother and the baby due to a more personal reason; however odd it may sound. They may find it a little too intrusive. There are partners who admitted that cutting the cord made them feel as if they were doing it to take over something.

For certain partners, cutting the cord may not be a big deal. It is not because they do not care but there are things that matter more than the act. Others believe that cutting the cord will not have an effect on their bond with their babies and that being with you, right at your side on your labor day is more important. If your partner declines to cut the umbilical cord on your labor day and it bothers you, it is important to take time to talk about it. Your partner may have reasons for his refusal. Listen with an open mind, and once he has made up his mind, respect his choice. And who knows, he might just end up cutting the cord out of adrenaline rush on that special day. Rather than focusing on negativities, nourish your relationship with your partner. Communication is the key.

If my partner wants to cut the cord, what should he expect?

If your partner is more than excited to cut the cord, what should he expect? Do you need to attend special classes to do it right?

No, you and your partner do not have to take up special classes just to learn how it is done. Cutting the umbilical cord is an easy task. Your first step is to inform your physician in advance about your desire to have your partner cut the umbilical cord. Tell your physician about you and your partner’s wish as soon as you arrive at the hospital.

Your partner should expect to cut your baby’s cord after your baby has been delivered. Your physician will first wait for the pulsating of the cord to stop before clamping the cord. Two clamps will be placed, about 1 inch apart, on the cord. When it is your partner’s turn to work, your physician will inform him. Your physician will hold the section of the cord to be cut and a piece of sterile gauze will be placed under the area. Your partner will be given with a pair of sterile scissors, which will be used to cut the cord. Your partner should not worry about hurting you or your baby. There are no nerves in the umbilical cord, so pain should not be a concern. The umbilical cord is a flexible tube and it is a little rubbery. Your partner may have to make a few cuts to complete it.

“Am I Allowed to Shower or Bathe during Labor?”

Labor is often associated with severe pain. The common association of labor with intense pain is not unsupported. Almost every woman who experienced childbirth will most likely describe it as a strenuous and painful experience, despite the feeling of fulfillment after delivery. It is not a surprise that most expectant mothers, especially women who are yet to deliver their first babies, are exceedingly anxious about going through the entire process of childbirth.

It is good to know that there are ways on how you can help yourself have a satisfying birth and relieve the discomfort associated with labor and delivery. Taking a bath or shower is one of them. It may not be one of your priorities on the onset of signs of true labor, but bathing is one of the best things you can do before the contractions get much stronger and labor pain escalates to an almost intolerable level. Immersion in warm water deep enough to cover the woman’s abdomen is used to enhance relaxation, reduce labor pain, and promote labor progress. [Ref.]

Is there time to take a bath or have a shower?

The signs of true labor have just begun. Your contractions are not slowing down by walking and the contractions seem to take on a regular pattern. You reach for your packed bag and your partner drives you to the hospital where you have chosen to deliver your baby. After completing the admission procedures, your physician or nurse encourages you to take a bath. Aren’t you supposed to be lying down until you deliver your baby? Are you even allowed to take a bath during labor?

If you are a first-time mother, it is likely that the delivery of your baby and placenta will be completed in 16 hours, on average. If you have previously delivered, complete delivery is typically expected in 9 hours. Certainly, you can, and should, make time to take a bath during your labor.

Your physician will most likely recommend you to have a bath when your cervix is dilated less than 3 to 4 cm, which occurs during the latent phase of labor. During this phase, your contractions are less intense. A bath much later in labor is not advised due to exhaustion associated with increased pain intensity.

What are the benefits of taking a bath or shower during labor?

Immersion in a bath of warm water or a warm shower during labor offers an alternative option to decrease pain. Women who went into labor report that the feeling of warm water on the abdomen and on the back during labor can be an effective pain relief measure. For women who had a back labor, where the pain is more intense than the usual labor, deep immersion or showering can be a lifesaver. In addition, taking a bath during early labor seems to increase the speed of labor and delivery. Research suggests that bath speeds up labor for one to two hours. Certainly, a warm bath or shower is one of the safest, inexpensive and least invasive methods to relieve labor pain.

How does a shower or bath relieve pain and speed up the labor process?

For many centuries, water has been used as a healing agent. When you sit in a deep warm bath, physiological changes are expected to take place immediately. The warmth and movement of water on your body improves the circulation of blood and alleviates muscle tension. The buoyancy of water allows you to feel lighter, taking the pressure off your body. This effect promotes relaxation and enhanced sense of comfort. The effect is more apparent in women having back labor.

When you are more relaxed, the production of stress hormones decreases. Stress hormones, specifically adrenaline, counter the effect of oxytocin, another hormone that induces the contractions of uterine muscles. The more relaxed you are, the more oxytocin produced. With increased oxytocin, your contractions become more effective, which can help speed up labor.

When should you get into the bath?

The beneficial effects of taking a bath during labor can only bring about short-term effects. For this reason, timing of the bath is essential. If you take a bath too early, it is most likely that you will not experience its benefits. There is even a possibility that your labor may not progress. It was found that baths may temporarily slow the contractions when taken to early.

What temperature should you use?

The temperature of your water should be close to normal body temperature, which is about 98.6°F or 37°C. The temperature of your water is essential. If it is too warm, your temperature may increase. Women with higher than normal body temperatures at labor are at greater risk of delivering babies with poor muscle tone and Apgar scores less than 7. A newborn with an Apgar score less than are more likely to require oxygen therapy. Moreover, taking a bath in a hot tub may expend your energy, leading to exhaustion. You need all the energy you need during the advanced stages of labor, so make sure to use the right temperature.

How do I take a bath?

A staff member will prepare a tub filled with warm water. Change into your bathing suit, and immerse yourself in warm water. In certain hospitals, tubs may not be available; however it is most likely that they have showers for mothers in labor. The pressure of water flowing through the shower nozzle may also provide effective relief of pain.

Each bath should not last longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Discuss this with your physician to their recommendations.

When should I not take a bath?

If you had a normal pregnancy and there are no complications during your labor, taking a bath during active labor is not contraindicated. One of the most common contraindications of bathing during labor is premature rupture of membranes. This condition is manifested by rupture of the amniotic sac, the bag that contains your baby and the amniotic fluid, without the onset of uterine contractions. Mothers with PROM are at risk of intrauterine infections. Immersing in water further increases the risk.

Can I Walk During Early Labor?

Walking can naturally help pick up the labor progress more effectively. Researchers found that walking during early labor and staying upright can be helpful in promoting and maintaining the regularity of the uterine contractions. These positions are more likely to strengthen the contractions, thereby promoting easier descent of the baby through the birth canal. The results of the review suggest that the first stage of labor may be approximately an hour shorter for women who are upright or walk around. [Ref.]

Lying down is discouraged. When lying down, the weight of the uterus and the baby can put some pressure on the on the blood vessels in the abdomen. This pressure weakens the strength of the contractions, leading to slowing down of cervical dilation and of the baby’s movement down the birth canal. [Ref.]

Walking during early labor does not only maintain the regularity of your uterine contractions, it also induces some changes in your pelvic joints that facilitate the descent of your baby down the birth canal. Walking changes the shape and diameter of the pelvis; it involves movement of the hips back and forth. These pelvic changes and movements, along with the assistance of gravity, will help your baby to find his or her way down through your pelvis and then through the birth canal. Walking or swaying back and forth during uterine contractions can also help your baby rotate.

Your physician will most likely encourage you to get out of bed and walk during early labor usually until your cervix opens to 4 cm. Walking is strongly encouraged unless continuous monitoring is required. It is recommended to walk with your birth partner in the room or along the hall. Avoid slippery areas and narrow curbs. Once you feel the contractions, lean against your birth partner or against a wall or counter, and sway your hips back and forth and side to side.

Keep yourself hydrated. During early labor, it is recommended to have sips of clear liquids to avoid dehydration. Find a pair of properly fitting and well-supported walking shoes. Sneakers with a no-slip tread are a good and safe choice. You may not feel like walking during the later stages of labor. If the contractions become intolerable, stop and assume another position or lean against a wall in a standing position. Walk again as soon as you are able to tolerate walking.

“Does the Hospital Allow Me to Take Photos and Video of My Childbirth?”

Your baby’s arrival in the world is a glorious event. After months of excitement and anticipation, seeing and holding your baby for the first time is simply priceless. As a proud parent, you would like to treasure this amazing moment for the rest of your life.

Through video cameras or modern cameras that provide high-definition images, you may relive this beautiful moment again and again. With the increasing popularity of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, sharing the birth of your baby to the rest of the world has become easier and yes, more heart-warming.

However, there are a number of hospitals and medical centers that have started restricting snapping photographs and videos of births. This most recent development has, of course, caused an outrage in the parenting community.

But it is your right, right?

For most parents, barring pictures and videos during birth is a violation of their right as parents. You may have the same thoughts. Your baby is your own flesh and blood, and no one has the right to keep you from taking pictures and videos of him or her.

However, for hospitals that have chosen to limit cameras during childbirth, the issue does not concern the rights of parents, but about their responsibility to maintain safety and privacy of both the mother and baby and to protect the privacy of healthcare providers. Although this is the era of oversharing, not all physicians or nurses have the desire to become instant social media celebrities.

It was the norm

More and more medical centers and hospitals are limiting cameras during delivery to achieve balance between patient safety and legal protection of their staff and the natural desire of parents to document the glorious moment of their babies’ births. There are some who question this recent change in policies. For decades, taking photographs and videos in delivery rooms has never been a controversial issue. It was the norm; everyone was doing it. Parents are naturally sentimental whenever a new addition in the family comes along.

But in the past few years, advances in technology have compelled some medical centers and hospitals to change their policies. Some say that barring photographs and videos is a way to protect hospitals and healthcare providers from malpractice suits. This statement is difficult to prove. You may or may not agree with this speculation.

Are there national standards regarding cameras in delivery rooms?

Despite the arguments between parents and hospital administrators, there are no national standards that specifically address the use of cameras inside the delivery room. Each medical center, birthing center, or hospital has its own set of rules, causing implementation of varied policies.

There are hospitals that encourage recording of videos and taking of photographs, especially now when modern cameras are not as intruding as before. Some facilities accommodate families to help facilitate closer and stronger bonds among family members and to simply, spread joy and feelings of self-fulfillment. Barring of photographs or videos may only be implemented during emergency cases.

There are some medical centers that do not completely ban photographs and videos. Although taking of pictures and videos are not allowed during the actual birth, they may be allowed after the baby has been safely delivered and the physician has given permission. There are others that allow photography and videography for a certain number of minutes after birth.

At this time, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Hospital Association do not have the exact figure of hospitals that allow or disallow photography during childbirth.

What is your option?

Certainly, whether or not you can take pictures or videos depends on your physician’s preference and on the policies of the hospital where you plan to deliver. If your physician informs you that he or she allows taking of photos and videos during an actual delivery, the next step is to ensure that the center where you plan to give birth allows it.

 Although your physician is perfectly fine with it, he or she has the obligation to follow the policies of the hospital. Most hospitals that still allow cameras inside the delivery room have specific guidelines. Tripods, freestanding lights, and electrical cords may not be taken into the delivery room for safety. It is your responsibility to take note of them.

If your physician does not allow photography and videography during the actual birth, ask for more details of information. Ask if it is okay to take photos and videos before and after the delivery. Some physicians may actually encourage you to take photos, except during actual birth. It is your right as a patient to get as much information as you can to address your concerns. Also, it is good to keep in mind that each physician has his or her own working style, just like the rest of us. Some physicians cannot work with noise and are easily distracted, whereas others have the ability to work effectively with a bit of media circus in the delivery room.

There are speculations as to why certain physicians are not too accommodating when it comes to documenting births with films and photos. You have chosen to work with your physician during your pregnancy because you trust his or her skills. Is it a sufficient reason to change your physician right in the middle of your pregnancy?

Every birth is an amazing experience. There is no doubt about that. Photographs and films are a great way to capture this moment and share it with family and friends who truly care for you and your baby. The hospital or your physician may set some restrictions on taking photos and videos of your childbirth. You may not be too happy about it; however, it is good to remember that the exact feeling, the thrill and the joy of holding your baby for the first time, is best recorded with your heart and mind. No picture or video can capture that. Make the most of the experience. And would it be nicer to have your husband by your side during your baby’s birth and not taking pictures?

Normal Postpartum Bleeding and Discharge (Lochia)

Blood loss is expected during labor and delivery. Vaginal births may normally cause you to bleed about 500 mL of blood. If you have a cesarean section, you may lose twice as much blood. When blood loss is within the expected volume, complications typically do not occur as the blood volume increases by 30 to 50% during pregnancy.  

After your delivery, you will also have a vaginal discharge, which may continue until the end of the postpartum period. The postpartum period is defined as the period starting from about an hour after the delivery of your placenta until the next 6 weeks. The normal vaginal discharge seen after giving birth is called lochia.

Normal Bleeding after Delivery

The site of implantation of the fertilized ovum is the same area where the placenta attaches to the uterine wall through the blood vessels. After your baby is born, the placenta separates from the uterus, leaving the site of attachment open, leading to bleeding in the uterus.

After the placenta separates, the uterus contracts, sealing the blood vessels. Contraction of the uterus after birth is exceedingly essential as it significantly reduces the bleeding.

What is lochia?

Lochia is the vaginal discharge occurring during the postpartum period. Lochia is made up of blood, sloughed-off fragments of the mucus membrane lining the uterus, white blood cells, mucus, and bacteria. The lochia may be described as a sloughing process, which is essential for the uterus to return to its normal or non-pregnant state.

What are the characteristics of lochia?

  • The vaginal discharge first three days after birth is bright red in color as it mainly consists of blood. This type of lochia is called lochia rubra.
  • By the fourth day postpartum, the amount of blood in the discharge decreases and the leukocytes in the area increase their number. The invasion of the leukocytes to the area of injury aids the healing process. Changes in the discharge’s components cause the lochia’s color to turn from bright red to pink. A lochia with this characteristic is termed lochia serosa. Lochia serosa is more watery lochia rubra.
  • About 10 days after birth, the discharge changes its color from pink to white. This type of discharge is called lochia alba, which mainly consists of mucus and leukocytes.

In most new mothers, the lochia is present until the third week after birth, but it is important to keep in mind that it is not abnormal for a lochia flow to be present during the entire postpartum period.

How to deal with lochia?

The lochia is an excellent medium for bacterial growth. Uncontrollable growth and reproduction of bacteria may spread through the vagina to the uterus.  Use of tampons during the postpartum period should be avoided. Tampons are a great breeding ground for bacterial growth as well.

Tampon use may increase your risk of having an infection and toxic shock syndrome. As a general rule, you may only use tampons after you get a go-ahead from your physician, which is between 4 and 6 weeks after birth. The physician usually determines whether or not tampons may be used during the first postpartum checkup.

Abnormal bleeding (Late postpartum hemorrhage)

Hemorrhage may occur during or after the first 24 hours of the postpartum period. Late postpartum bleeding may occur any time after 24 hours during the postpartum period. It is estimated that 1% of postpartum women suffer from postpartum hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage may be caused by uterine atony (flaccid uterine muscles), retained fragments of placenta, cervical, vaginal, or perineal lacerations, and disseminated intravascular disease.

All new mothers experience vaginal bleeding and discharge, called lochia, after birth. Close observation of your vaginal discharge may indicate its occurrence. The following signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of postpartum hemorrhage:

  • Bleeding that saturates more than one sanitary pad in an hour.
  • Large blood clots on your pad. Blood clots larger than a gold ball require immediate medical intervention.
  • Bright red bleeding occurring after 3 days or more after childbirth.

For certain women, signs of late postpartum hemorrhage may not be obvious. Other signs that may suggest a case of late postpartum period include increased heart rate, lightheadedness, clammy skin, rapid or shallow breathing, and a decreasing blood pressure. If you have any of these symptoms, it is recommended to call your physician immediately.

Recovery from a Vaginal Delivery

Recovery from a vaginal delivery after childbirth at 40 weeks

Just as every woman and baby is unique, so too is their labor and delivery experience. How well you recover after a vaginal delivery will depend on a number of factors.

The overwhelming feeling most women are consumed with immediately after a vaginal delivery is fatigue. The level of fatigue you experience may depend in part on your overall health and well-being, the number of hours of labor endured and how much rest you had prior to labor.

Most women will go through a period of both physical and emotional adjustment after delivery. How long it takes you to get back on your feet after giving birth will depend on a number of factors, including the degree of tearing and overall labor experience. For most women a relatively uncomplicated birth will result in a rapid recovery.

If however, you spend a large portion of your pregnancy on bed rest or if for example, you had a difficult birth it may take some time for you to feel ‘normal’ again.

How much energy you have after labor will also depend on whether this is your first child or not. If you have other children to care for, you will probably be more exhausted for a longer period of time after labor.

Pregnancy and delivery require a physical and emotional period of adjustment. For many women the physical recovery is often considered the easier of the two. Emotionally your body will go through a number of changes, including rapid fluctuations in hormones. In addition, taking on the role and challenges of motherhood may take some time adjusting to.

It is recommended that you wait six weeks before having intercourse after delivery, to allow your body to heal physically from the effects of labor and delivery. Your doctor may also suggest that you avoid any heavy exercise for the same period of time, and may advise you not to drive for a few days to a couple of weeks after delivery.

Exercise is just as important after pregnancy as it is during your pregnancy. You should be able to resume an exercise routine sooner if you have a vaginal birth than if you had a C-section. Some women are able to resume some mild exercise within days of giving birth, whereas others will need a full six weeks to recover.

The best form of exercise to engage in initially is walking. Walking is a great way to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and start into a routine gradually.

One of the best ways to recover from a delivery is to take advantage of as much help as possible in the early weeks. Accept offers to help clean and prepare meals. You should avoid housework for a short time and take advantage of every opportunity possible to sleep when your baby does. Doing so will help enhance your recovery experience and ensure that you are able to recover as swiftly as possible.

What can I expect from a C-section Recovery?

Recovery from a C-Section delivery after childbirth at 40 weeks

Recovering from labor and delivery is slightly different if you undergo a cesarean section. Typically after a C-section you will be whisked away to a recovery room, where you will be closely monitored for an hour to ensure that you don’t develop any complications from surgery.

You will also receive pain medication to help alleviate the soreness in your abdomen. Believe it or not, within 24 hours your nurse or physician will encourage you to get up and start walking around, in order to help reduce chance of blood clots in your legs and improve your recovery rate.

Walking can also help relieve gas build up that commonly occurs in the abdomen after a cesarean birth. Generally walking around is uncomfortable at first, but most women find the pain subsides within a few days after delivery.

Most women should expect a hospital stay of between 3-5 days after a C-section. During this time you will be able to feed and care for your newborn as you feel up to it.

Cesarean section incisions may take 4 weeks or more to heal completely, and most women report some tenderness for several weeks along the incision line.

Recovery from a cesarean delivery is much like recovery from a vaginal delivery. You can expect to bleed for a few weeks after delivery, and you will feel many of the same ‘labor pains’ after delivery including contractions of your uterus as it shrinks back down to its pre-pregnancy size.

Many women will require a little extra help the first week after a cesarean delivery. It is not recommended that you attempt to lift anything heavier than your baby, and your physician may instruct you to avoid stairs or driving for a couple of weeks after delivery.

Remember that you are the best judge of your pain and comfort. If things seem overwhelming, slow them down and remember to ask for help when necessary.

When to Call Your Doctor

In certain circumstances complications should arise, and you should alert your physician immediately to reduce the likelihood of a life threatening or severe condition. After your cesarean, call your physician if you experience any of the following:

  • Heavy bleeding that requires a fresh sanitary pad every hour for more than 4-5 hours.
  • Vaginal bleeding that gets heavier instead of lighter.
  • If you are passing large blood clots the size of a golf ball.
  • If you have a fever or increased drainage from the incision, or if your incision starts bleeding.
  • You experience pain or swelling and redness in your calves, which may be a sign of blood clots.
  • If you have any symptoms of severe postpartum depression, including feelings of despair, hallucinations or other dangerous thoughts.

Generally the scar in your abdomen will gradually fade and you will feel like your pre-pregnant self in no time at all.

At your six week check up your physician should give you the green light to begin a regular exercise program and resume intercourse if she/he hasn’t already.

Remember that every woman is different, and each woman will recover from their cesarean labor experience at their own pace. Avoid comparing yourself with others, and remember to pamper yourself in this time of newfound joy.

Revel in the new life you have created, and you will be sure to recover swiftly and thoroughly. Many women find recovery from a cesarean no more challenging than that of a vaginal birth, and some feel it is easier.

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