Your Recovery After Vaginal Delivery

Your Recovery After Vaginal Delivery


The time after a woman goes through childbirth is known as the postpartum period. It begins with delivery and lasts until your body has healed. This section will help you know what to expect and what you can do to help yourself to be more comfortable and heal.


While in the hospital

  • You will get fluids through an IV in your hand or arm until you can drink the liquids you need. You will be able to eat solid food as soon as your condition is stable.
  • Your nurse will check your uterus to make sure it stays hard and firm. If your uterus becomes soft and spongy, vaginal bleeding may increase. Your nurse will massage the uterus to make it firm again. Your nurse can help you locate your uterus and teach you how to massage it. Your uterus will return to pre-pregnancy size over the next few weeks.
  • You will have vaginal bleeding, called lochia, the first few days like a heavy menstrual period. You may also pass small clots. The discharge will decrease daily and change from bright red to brown or clear over the next 2 to 4 weeks. You will wear thick sanitary pads and be given some to take home. 
  • Keep your bladder as empty as possible to help decrease vaginal bleeding. Try emptying your bladder every 2 to 4 hours.

Perineal care:

Perineal care is the cleaning of the perineum, which includes the vagina, the anus (rectum), and the area around these openings. You will need to wear a sanitary pad to collect the vaginal drainage. Perineal care is done each time you urinate or have a bowel movement to:

  • Help prevent infection
  • Comfort sore muscles around the vagina or birth canal
  • Stop odor caused by vaginal drainage

Your nurse will teach you how to do perineal care while you are in the hospital and you will continue it when you go home. 

Steps for peri care:

  1. Wash your hands before going to the bathroom and after changing your sanitary pad. Do not use tampons.
  2. While in the hospital, place dirty pads in the red trash bag in your room. At home, place them in a small bag or wrap in toilet paper to control odor and place in the trash. Do not flush pads down the toilet.
  3. Use your “peri bottle” to spray water onto your perineal area after going to the bathroom.
  4. Gently wipe or pat this area from front to back with toilet paper. This will prevent the spread of germs from the rectum to the bladder and vagina.
  5. After perineal care, apply sprays, ointments, or ice packs as advised by your health care provider.
  6. Change the sanitary pad every few hours or as needed.
  7. Wash your hands after perineal care.

Other ways to sooth the perineal area:

  • Ice packs are available to place on your perineal area, episiotomy, or hemorrhoids. The ice may help to decrease swelling and relieve perineal discomfort.
  • Sitz baths are portable bowls that fit on top of the toilet seat and can be filled with warm water. Soak the perineal area in the water for 15 to 20 minutes, or as recommended by your doctor or nurse. Gently pat dry with toilet paper. Use the sitz bath several times a day. You can use 1 to 2 inches of water in your bathtub instead of a sitz bath bowl.

Getting out of bed and taking showers while in the hospital:

Your nurse will help you to get up and out of bed the first few times to prevent falls from feeling dizzy or light headed. To get out of bed safely, dangle your legs over the side of the bed and move to a sitting position. You may be strong enough to walk to the bathroom to change your pad with help from the nurse.

  • If you become dizzy or light headed in the bathroom, pull the emergency call light on the
    bathroom wall for help. This is for your safety.
  • Ask your nurse when you may take a shower.


After leaving the hospital

  • The first week home, make your appointment for your postpartum check up in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Do not douche to get rid of odor, unless instructed to by your health care provider.
  • Use only sanitary pads until you have your postpartum check up in 4 to 6 weeks. Ask your health care provider when you can use tampons again.
  • Do not use any powders, oils, or perfumes in the perineal area.
  • Take showers, not baths, until your postpartum check up.

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these signs

  • You are soaking your pad and need to change it every hour
  • Have blood clots the size of a golf ball or an egg
  • Bleeding goes back to bright red after turning pink or brown
  • Fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius
  • Pain that becomes worse in the abdominal or vaginal areas
  • Pain, redness, warmth, or firmness in the lower leg (calf)
  • Trouble breathing, dizziness, or fainting
  • Burning, painful urination, trouble when urinating, or bad vaginal odor
  • Breasts that are full or painful (may be swollen, hot, itchy, lumpy, or shiny)
  • Feeling like you have signs of the flu, such as vomiting or nausea
  • Feeling like you cannot cope with caring for yourself
    • Excessive crying, anger, mood swings that feel out of control, or feeling overwhelmed may all be signs of postpartum depression or a postpartum mood disorder.
    • Call your health care provider right away, treatment is available.


© 2000 – August 1, 2019, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: