Thrilled and excited. This is a big moment in your life, a natural high. You may find it hard to sleep, hard to think of anyone but your baby. You and your partner may feel compelled to tell your birth story to anyone who will listen. If there are things that happened that you are still a little confused about, talk them over with your doctor or midwife.
Overwhelmed. The full-time care of a tiny baby is a critically important 24-hour-a-day job, and it’s yours now. The job begins when you’re already worn out from labor and birth, and it may be months before you get more than three or four hours sleep at a stretch.
Let down. Lows often follow emotional highs. It’s natural to feel a bit of a letdown, especially with the new challenges you’re facing. You may also feel a twinge of sadness about no longer being pregnant. And even though you are his primary caregiver, you now have to share the baby with your partner, family, and friends.
Weepy. “Baby blues” are probably the result of sudden changes in your life and in your hormones. They strike a few days after the birth. You may feel anxious and worried about your ability to care for your baby, and you may feel guilty about having all these feelings. You should feel better in a few days, especially if you are being well cared for and have lots of support.
“Feeling beat up.” You’ve just been through the most strenuous work of your life. Nearly every muscle, joint, and organ of your body has worked overtime to push the baby out. It’s no wonder you feel the effects from head to toe. Depending on the length and intensity of your labor and whether you had a vaginal or surgical birth, expect your body to feel the effects of delivery for at least a few weeks. Your eyes may be bloodshot due to broken blood vessels from intense pushing. You may also have popped a few blood vessels in your face. Your baby’s face may have similar marks, but these “spider marks” on baby’s face will clear up within a few days; yours may take a few weeks. In the days after birth, you may look and feel washed out, pale, and exhausted.
Feeling faint. For a day or so after delivery it’s usual to feel lightheaded and dizzy, especially when changing position from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing. You may feel woozy and wobbly when you walk. The end of pregnancy brings a sudden shift in blood volume and total body fluid; it takes a while for your cardiovascular system to adapt and compensate for changes in position. Until this lightheaded stage subsides (usually after a day), you may need to seek assistance when getting out of bed or walking.
Shivers and shakes. Immediately after delivery many women experience chills and whole-body shakes, probably due to a resetting of the body’s temperature regulating system after a long bout of hard work. Rest and ask for warm blankets to cover yourself. These chills should subside within a few hours after delivery.
Bleeding and vaginal discharge. For days, sometimes weeks, after birth, the uterus continues to discharge leftover blood and tissue, called lochia. In the first few days the lochia is usually red, in an amount comparable to a heavy menstrual period, and it may contain a few clots. Toward the end of the first week the amount of lochia usually decreases and it becomes reddish- brown and thinner. In the next few weeks this discharge changes from pinkish to yellowish-white, and you will find yourself changing fewer pads. Any activity that increases the emptying of the uterus, such as standing, walking, or breastfeeding, will also increase the amount of discharge.