What to expect
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We refer to the first six weeks after childbirth as the postpartum period. This is a time for you and your baby to adjust. Over the next six weeks, your reproductive tract will gradually return to the way it was before you were pregnant.
Your breasts will fill with a clear fluid called colostrum in the first few days after birth. Later, breast milk will come in. Your breasts may become firm and painful due to a build-up of milk. This will disappear over time. Learn more in our next section, Breastfeeding and IBD.
In general, women with Crohn’s disease will have a similar recovery to those who do not have IBD. Women with ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, may have a higher risk of postpartum flare. Make sure you and your doctor are monitoring your IBD during this time.
Also, be aware of the potential for postpartum depression and when to seek help. Learn more about post-partum depression in our Adjusting to Life with Baby section.
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Vaginal birth puts a lot of strain on the area between your vagina and anus, called the perineum. If you had a tear or episiotomy, the pain should resolve in about two to three weeks. If you had a very serious tear, the pain might last a month or more, and you may have trouble passing bowel movements.
Some tips to care for this are to put a covered ice pack on the perineal area, take Tylenol, use a squirt bottle to spray warm water on the area when you are urinating (this dissolves the urine and makes it burn less), and don’t sit for long periods of time.
Recovery from a C-section
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You may be quite sore after your C-section and you will be given pain medication for this. You may notice pain both at your incision site and in your uterus as it starts to shrink in size – this will feel like cramps.
You should try to walk within 24 hours of your C-section, with the help of the nursing staff. This will become easier over time.
You will also develop gas, which can be very uncomfortable if it occurs under your incision site. Walking can help you pass the gas.
Women who have C-sections are sometimes given antibiotics, which can sometimes lead to Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection. If after giving birth you develop diarrhea, make sure to get checked for C. difficile, because your diarrhea could be due to this rather than your IBD.
If at any time you notice pain in your calves, fever, or abdominal pain that is getting worse, see your doctor.
It usually takes about six weeks to fully recover from a C-section. Make sure to walk carefully and get help going up and down stairs. Avoid lifting anything over 10 lbs. and do not drive for the first few weeks.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recovering from a C-section can be difficult. Ask a loved one or even consider getting a paid caregiver to assist you.