Health After Pregnancy

Health after pregnancy and childbirth

The birth of a baby brings about lots of emotional and physical changes. On this page we try to describe some of the most common questions or concerns women can have after childbirth. If you have any other questions please ring the advice line on 01642 854876 for The James Cook University Hospital or 01609 763082 for The Friarage.

The NHS Choices website also has lots of information about you and your body after birth.


Hand hygiene is essential to prevent infections in new mums.

If you have a perineal wound (stitches in your bottom) or a caesarean section wound you must always wash your hands before you touch these areas.

Keep your wound clean and dry. After a bath or shower be sure to gently dry these areas.

If you experience an increase in pain, any smelly loss from your wound, or if the wound becomes very tender, please report this to your midwife or the advice line as soon as possible.

Even if you didn’t require stitches ensure you take good care of yourself including washing your hands and bathing or showering each day.

Watch out for stomach or back pain that does not settle with paracetamol, smelly loss from your vagina, feeling hot or shivery or shaky and cold and flu symptoms as these are signs of infection that should be reported as soon as possible!

Meet our first babies when the midwifery-led centre opened in October 2014!

Meet our first babies when the midwifery-led centre opened in October 2014!

What to expect

A new baby brings a big change in the life of you and your partner. At South Tees Maternity our midwives are there to support you through this experience, from birth to the first few weeks of life.

Whether you have your baby at home, in hospital or in our midwifery led unit, you can expect to be able to contact a midwife any time of the day or night for questions. In hospital we have midwives and maternity care assistants to provide you with support during the day or night. At home you have access to our maternity advice lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will also receive visits from our team of community midwives and maternity care assistants.

We encourage questions and if you need more information or we haven’t covered what you wanted to know, please ask.

Vaginal bleeding 

After you give birth you should expect blood loss from your vagina. This is known as lochia and happens for around 2 to 6 weeks. You are advised to use sanitary towels and not tampons during this time.

To begin with your blood loss will be fresh and red in colour, this will change over time to older browner blood. It is quite similar to a menstrual period.

If your blood loss is heavy (you need to change your pad more than once an hour), smelly or not getting lighter after one week then please tell your midwife or ring the advice line on 01642 854876.

If blood is pouring down your legs without stopping (like turning on a tap) then this is an emergency and you should ring 999.

Mum and newborn

Bladder care

Pregnancy and childbirth rarely cause bladder problems. After the birth of your baby your midwife will have checked that you are emptying your bladder properly by collecting your urine when you went to the toilet. If the bladder was emptying well they would not need to check this again unless you have concerns.

Very rarely some ladies can have difficulty passing urine after giving birth. This can develop over a few days and is more likely to happen if you have had a problem emptying your bladder in the past. If you have had a previous problem please let your midwife know so she can keep a close eye on your bladder function.

Tell your midwife if you have any worries about your bladder:

  •  If you try to empty your bladder and you are unable to pass urine or the amount of urine you pass is very small let your midwife know so your bladder emptying can be checked
  • If you have not passed urine for more than six hours during the day and you are unable to pass urine when you try please let your midwife know straight away. This is very important if you are feeling your bladder is very full.
  • If you feel you may have a urine infection collect a sample and get it checked by your GP surgery or your midwife.

Things you can do to help yourself:

  • Ensure you are drinking enough fluids so your kidneys can produce urine normally. Often, after a long labour, ladies can be tired and dehydrated. It is important to drink two litres (or four pints) of fluid per day. Your drinks need to be spaced regularly throughout the day.
  • Avoid drinking too much caffeine and avoid alcohol as these can irritate the bladder and make you feel more dehydrated.
  • Ensure you monitor your bladder emptying. Most people will pass urine every 3-4 hours through the day if they are drinking normally.
  • Go to the toilet regularly (at least once in six hours). If you have not been to the toilet in the last 6 hours and do not feel you need to go please try to go and collect and measure the urine you pass. If you pass less than 100ml of urine and feel your bladder is empty please ring the advice line (01642 854876).

Advice if you are leaking urine:

If you have leakage and difficulty passing urine it is important that you tell your midwife so she can check your bladder emptying. If you are just getting leakage but are passing urine regularly with good amounts and no problems please follow the advice below.

Stress incontinence is most often caused by weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. These urine leaks happen without a feeling you need to go to the toilet and are caused by things such as movement, coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise. Stress incontinence is made worse if you are overweight or if you smoke. Trying to lose weight or giving up smoking will help alongside pelvic floor exercises.

After doing three sets of exercises every day for three months we would expect you to be seeing less leakage of urine when you cough, sneeze or exercise. If you have noticed no improvement in the leakage please see your GP and request a referral to your local continence team who can help you with your problem.

Cathy Warwick with mums and babies at official opening.

Cathy Warwick with mums and babies at official opening.

Pelvic floor exercises

After childbirth the pelvic floor muscles are often weak and stretched. We recommend you do three sets of pelvic floor exercises every day. The easiest position to do your exercises is lying down with your knees bent up. As the muscles get stronger, try to do the exercises in a sitting then a standing position.

When you try to do your exercises it may feel you are hardly moving the muscles. Do not get disheartened by this, it is important that you continue to try and do the exercises. A set of exercises is made up of 3 slow holds and 10 fast contractions:

  • 3 slow holds

Contract the muscles around your bottom as if stopping yourself from passing wind. Then try and contract around your vagina as if stopping the flow of urine. Hold this contraction for as long as possible and count. The aim of this exercise is to increase the length of time you can hold the contraction. When you can no longer hold the contraction relax the muscles fully. Rest for at least thirty seconds between contractions and repeat three times. Aim to build up the hold time to ten seconds. You may only be able to contract the muscles for a couple of seconds at first but gradually this will improve with practice.

  •  10 fast contractions

After doing the long holds move to the fast contractions. Contract the muscles around your bottom and vagina the same way as for the slow contractions. This time only hold the contraction for one second then let the contraction relax fully. Quickly contract the muscles again and relax after one second. Repeat this for a total of ten contractions.