Problems in the week after the birth

Find out about some common problems after birth and how they can be managed.

Tears and stitches

It is common to have pain, tenderness or swelling in and around your vagina after the birth. The pain can be worse if you have had stitches. Using an ice pack, or damp and cold sanitary pads for a few days after the birth can help.

If you do have stitches, bathe the area often in clean, warm water to help it heal. Have a bath or shower with plain warm water. After bathing, pat dry yourself carefully. In the first few days remember to sit down gently. Lying on your side can also be comfortable.

Let your midwife know if your stitches are sore.

Pain relief after a caesarean section

After a caesarean section (when your tummy is cut open to get your pēpi out) you will feel sore. You will have good pain relief supplied in the first week to help with your recovery.

You will usually be fitted with a catheter for up to 24 hours. A catheter is a small tube that fits into your bladder so that you will not need to get up to wee. 

Once you go home, you will be offered medicine to help with the pain for a week or 2.

Tummy pains and cramps

After pēpi is born your uterus (womb) starts contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size. You may feel quite painful cramps in your tummy, or period-type pains — especially if this is not your first pēpi.

Breastfeeding also makes the womb contract, so you may get tummy pain while you are feeding.

Try to wee a lot. Make sure you wee before feeding pēpi, as a full bladder can make the pain worse.

Swollen legs

Your legs and feet are likely to swell after the birth. Some people also have swollen hands.

The swelling will gradually go away over about a week as your body gets rid of the fluid you stored during pregnancy. Weeing helps to get rid of the fluid.

Talk to your midwife if:

  • the swelling does not go away after a week
  • you have headaches or pain in your legs.
Get help straight away from your midwife or a doctor if the swelling is only in 1 leg or ankle, and your calf is quite tender or sore. This could be a sign of a blood clot.

Weak bladder

You may wet your pants a little bit if you sneeze, cough or move suddenly. This is quite common in the early days and weeks after pēpi is born. The pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel may become weaker during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles — Ministry of Health (external link)

Rhesus negative blood group — anti-D injection

You might be one of nearly 1 in 5 pregnant people who have a rhesus negative blood group. Whether you have a rhesus negative or rhesus positive blood group will be looked for as part of your first antenatal blood tests.

First antenatal blood test — Ministry of Health (external link)

If you have a rhesus negative blood group, straight after the birth your midwife will take blood from the baby’s umbilical cord to check their blood group. They do not feel the test. 

During birth some of your baby’s blood can mix with yours. If you are rhesus negative and your pēpi is rhesus positive, this mixing of blood can cause problems in any future pregnancies.

Your midwife or doctor will offer you an anti-D injection soon after baby’s birth to prevent problems.

Talk with your midwife or doctor to find out more.

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