We at LOLA understand that having your breast milk come in, when you do not have your baby to feed, is one of the cruellest experiences for any mum already devastated by the loss of her child and emotionally and physically exhausted by delivery.
After the birth of your baby, you will usually experience your breasts filling with milk around 3 days after. This may be very painful and uncomfortable. It is recommended to keep a supportive bra on in this period. Ice packs may be useful to deal with this (you could wet breast pads and freeze them). Curly cabbage leaves may also help. Try not to touch the breasts to avoid stimulating more milk. If this pain is excessive (it is for 1 in 3 women), it is possible to have a tablet to help suppress the milk production. These tablets may be prescribed in the hospital if you are still there or usually by the GP if you are home.
You may also find this link useful for additional advice in managing breast milk after you have delivered your baby.
Taking care of your body: care and infections
After you have delivered your baby, it is important to be aware of how your body will respond and to take good care of yourself as you begin, physically, to heal.
After giving birth, you are likely to experience a post-birth discharge known as “lochia.” This varies for each woman and changes from red (lochia rubra, which usually lasts 3-4 days) to pink/ brown (lochia serosa, which lasts 4-10 days) to clear (lochia alba, which lasts 10-28 days). This may vary if you have had a Caesarean; it may seem lighter at the beginning and you may have heavier discharge for a few days in the week after the birth. It is really important that you change your sanitary towel frequently throughout the day and be aware of hand hygiene before and after you change your pad to avoid transmitting any infection. It isn’t advisable to use tampons at this time. Your discharge should never smell bad and if it does, it is a good idea to inform your midwife or GP as this may be a sign of infection.
If you have had a Caesarean, you will also have a wound low down on your abdomen. It is important to keep this clean and dry. It may appear bruised during the healing process and this is normal. Your midwife will examine your wound when she visits you. Do let your midwife or GP know if there are any concerns, specifically if the wound is smelly or if there is discharge from the site.
After you have delivered your baby you will normally experience period-like cramps known as “after pains”. These may be stronger if this baby is not your first child. You may take pain relief for this. If you have any concerns or issues with persistent pain in your abdomen or excessive vaginal bleeding after a week, it is a good idea to contact your GP or midwife for a check-up. Your midwife should also routinely visit you at home during this time.
Other general symptoms to be aware of include feeling shivery or generally unwell, pain or swelling in your legs or shortness of breath or coughing up blood. It is really important that you don’t hesitate to contact your midwife or GP if you have any concerns.
Your bladder and bowel should return to normal function after the birth of your baby. It is important that you pass urine regularly and completely empty your bladder each time. If you have had perineal stitches, they may sting the first day when you go to the toilet. If you are worried about this, it can be nice to have a jug next to the toilet so that you can pour water over your vulva, which may help with the sting and help with hygiene, too. You may take pain relief or a suppository can be given to help with any perineal pain. You may also find ice packs useful, to give immediate relief and promote healing.
It may be 2-3 days before you have a bowel movement. The first bowel movement can be a little scary if you have had a perineal tear in particular. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and to keep the stool soft, have fruit and vegetables in your diet. A gentle laxative like lactulose may be given if you think constipation may be an issue for you. If you have a haemorrhoid, then it is important to avoid constipation and you may find it helpful to apply a topical cream.
If your blood group is Rhesus Negative, you may require an Anti-D injection before you go home. You will be advised of this by your midwife.
Pelvic Floor Exercises are recommended and may be commenced gently as soon as you feel ready to do so. This link from NHS on Pelvic Floor Exercises might be useful, when you are ready.