Your health after your baby has died
There are physical issues to consider after you birth your baby, as after a live birth you will bleed, your breasts will change and eventually, your menstrual cycle will begin again.
After giving birth, women will generally have vaginal bleeding for five to ten days; it may be even longer if the baby was born at or close to full term. Initially, this blood loss will be dark red, becoming lighter over the next few days. It is recommended that women use pads rather than tampons to reduce the risk of infection.
Women need to see a general practitioner (GP) if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- prolonged or heavy bleeding
- blood clots
- severe lower abdominal pain
- changes in your vaginal discharge or offensive smelling discharge
- fever or flu-like symptoms.
Following the birth of your baby, you may experience some breast changes. Your breasts may show signs of producing milk in a pregnancy that ended as early as 16 to 18 weeks. Your breasts may become tender. You may notice they are larger and there may be some milk leakage. This is not unusual; it is your body responding normally to pregnancy.
Painful breasts may be relieved by:
- avoiding handling or stimulating your breasts
- wearing a firm comfortable bra day and night (you may need a larger size)
- using cold compresses to decrease swelling (cold wet face washers or gel packs are useful)
- pain relief such as paracetamol
- small hand expressions of milk (for comfort only as expressing milk will cause more milk to be produced)
- wearing breast pads to help soak up the milk
- if you have been expressing milk for some time you will need to decrease the frequency and duration of expressing gradually over time. Discuss this with your midwife.
Your breasts will become more comfortable and softer within the first week after birth. There is no need to restrict your fluid intake or to take fluid tablets; milk production will stop as your body adjusts.
Sometimes medications are used to stop breast milk. Medications work by stopping your body from making prolactin, which is the hormone that makes milk.
If your breasts become red and sore or you develop flu-like symptoms (such as fever or body aches and pains) you may have developed mastitis. It is important to contact your doctor (GP) or the hospital to avoid your symptoms getting worse.
Sex and intimacy
It may be some time before you start thinking about resuming a sexual relationship with your partner. There are many reasons for this, apart from the complications of grief and loss. If you have suffered any discomfort, tearing or injury to your perineum, or you have had a caesarean section, sex can be uncomfortable and painful for some time afterwards. Even women who have had a straightforward vaginal birth can find sex in the weeks after childbirth painful or unpleasant.
When you do feel comfortable, and are pain free and ready, and assuming there are no medical reasons not to, then there is no reason why you cannot have sex when you want to. If you don’t feel ready it’s okay to wait. It is a very individual decision.
Your sexual needs and your partner’s sexual needs may be very different for a while. It can be helpful to keep talking to each other about your thoughts and feelings. If you find it hard to talk to each other you might consider talking with a health professional or a counsellor.
After giving birth, it is common for women not to think about contraception until after they have their first period. It is important to remember that ovulation happens before your period and it is possible to ovulate and become pregnant within weeks after a birth.
If you do not want to become pregnant again straight away, talk to the doctor or midwife about contraception.
The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.