What is Post-partum?

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Post-partum is the period that starts form the birth of the newborn baby. It lasts about 40 days. It is in this period that maternal lactation starts and the recovery of the body to its situation prior to the pregnancy. It is a time of great physical changes, both psychological and social.

During post-partum or the post-natal period there are vaginal discharges or lochia that for the first few days are a red colour, and it is normal to expulse some small clots. Subsequently, around the 3rd or 4th day, they turn a reddish-brown colour, and around the 8th to 10th day, a whitish or yellowish colour. The amount of lochia decreases as the days pass. They usually last between 3 and 4 weeks, although small discharges are normal until the return of menstruation.

The womb contracts to return to its normal size. These small contractions, also called afterpains, can cause some discomfort, and each women tolerates them differently. Breastfeeding accelerates this process as it decreases the bleeding.

Maternal care in the Post-natal period

To maintain healthy habits, a complete and varied diet and perform physical exercise is essential in the post-natal period. A daily shower with water and a neutral soap is sufficient.

The stitches of the episiotomy (the perineal cut) or tear do not require any special care, but the area has to be dried after the shower. It is not necessary to remove the stitches as they are reabsorbed in a few days.

Bathing in a bath, swimming pool or sea, the use of tampons, as well as sexual relations with penetration, are contraindicated until the end of the forty-day period (estimated time in which the genital apparatus returns to its normal state) in order to avoid infections. In the event of having sexual relations with penetration during this period, it is advised to use a preservative to decrease the risk of infection and as a contraceptive method. The ovaries start to function again, but the time ovulation starts and the body becomes fertile again is uncertain, so there is a possibility of a new pregnancy in these days.

The stitches in caesareans are usually made with suture staples or with a continuous intradermal suture.

Alert signs in the Post-natal period

You must consult the doctor or go to the emergency department if these symptoms occur:

  • Foul-smelling lochia, or more abundant than a period.
  • Fever above 38º C.
  • Significant pain in the abdomen or the scar that is not resolved by the drugs prescribed for the pain.
  • Intense pain in the area of the episiotomy or surgical wound with inflammation, reddening or suppuration of fluid.
  • Very painful or inflamed haemorrhoids.
  • Pain or reddening of the breasts, normally accompanied by a reddened area.
  • Pain on micturition.
  • Feelings of continuous sadness or intense fears.

Substantiated information by:

Anna Sandra Hernández Aguado
Isabel Benito Díaz
Maria Àngels Martínez Verdú

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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