Women's  Healthcare Topics is a website about pregnancy and your newborn baby.

Recovery from a Vaginal Delivery

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

There will be Both Physical and Emotional Adjustments

Every woman's recovery a vaginal birth will be different.

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.

Every woman is unique, and every woman's recovery experience will be different.

Post-Partum Depression

For some women, postpartum depression is a potential post-delivery complication. Approximately 10-20 percent of all mothers will experience some form of 'baby blues' that may become more severe, or may be formally described as post partum depression.
They key to a successful recovery is recognizing your symptoms early enough to get treatment and support from your physician. Here are some of the more common symptoms of post partum depression to be weary of:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Frequent crying

  • Feelings of guilt or inadequacy

  • Fear that you might harm your baby

  • Feeling an overwhelming sense of doom

  • Sleeping problems

  • Feelings of loss of control

  • Helpless or suicidal feelings

  • Constant sadness

The good news is with early treatment and adequate care, postpartum depression can be resolved and most mothers will recovery completely.

Exercise

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.

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