Stillbirth and Infant Loss (Vaginal Delivery): Care Instructions

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Overview

The loss of a baby can be hard. You may wonder why it happened. A loss can happen even in a pregnancy that had been going well.

In the weeks to come, try to take care of your physical and emotional needs. Take care of yourself in whatever way feels best.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Taking care of your body

  • Use pads instead of tampons for bleeding. After birth, you will have bloody vaginal discharge. You may also pass some blood clots that shouldn't be bigger than an egg. Over the next 6 weeks or so, your bleeding should decrease a little every day and slowly change to a pinkish and then whitish discharge.
  • For cramps or mild pain, try an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • To ease pain around the vagina or from hemorrhoids:
    • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
    • Try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath) when you can or after bowel movements.
    • Clean yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
    • Use witch hazel or hemorrhoid pads (such as Tucks).
  • Try using a cold compress for sore and swollen breasts. And wear a supportive bra that fits. It can take days to a few weeks for your milk to dry up.
  • Ease constipation by drinking plenty of fluids and eating high-fiber foods. Ask your doctor or midwife about over-the-counter stool softeners.
  • When you feel ready, try to get some exercise every day. For many people, walking is a good choice. Don't do any heavy exercise until your doctor or midwife says it's okay.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is okay for you to have vaginal sex.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife if you want to try to get pregnant again. They can talk to you about when it is safe.
  • If you don't want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor or midwife about birth control. You can get pregnant even before your period returns.

Taking care of your emotional health

  • Rest whenever you can. Being tired can make it harder to cope with your emotions.
  • Tell your family and friends what they can do. You may want to spend time alone, or you may seek support from family, friends, or religious or spiritual groups.
  • Try to eat healthy foods, get some sleep, and get exercise (or just get outside) while you heal.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife about how you are coping. They will want to watch you for signs of depression. You may want to have counseling for support and to help you express your feelings. You can also call the Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) for support.
  • Think about making a memory book of your pregnancy and baby. You may choose to take pictures and keep a lock of hair. The hospital may take photos or footprints for you.
  • If you can, try to talk to others who have gone through this loss. You can make connections online or in person. Here are some organizations that can help:
    • The Compassionate Friends: Go to www.compassionatefriends.org for this resource for people who have lost a child. The group can help put you in touch with one of its support groups in your area.
    • Share (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc.): This group at www.nationalshare.org can offer advice and connections to others who have lost a child.
    • The International Stillbirth Alliance: This group at www.stillbirthalliance.org offers information and resources.

When should you call for help?

Share this information with your partner, family, or a friend. They can help you watch for warning signs.

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
  • You have a seizure.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor or midwife now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • A fever.
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness from an incision or wound.
    • Frequent or painful urination or blood in your urine.
    • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • You have signs of preeclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
    • A severe headache.
  • You have signs of heart failure, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
  • You had spinal or epidural pain relief and have:
    • New or worse back pain.
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness at the injection site.
    • Tingling, weakness, or numbness in your legs or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or midwife if:

  • Your vaginal bleeding isn't decreasing.
  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You are having problems with your breasts.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter G572 in the search box to learn more about "Stillbirth and Infant Loss (Vaginal Delivery): Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.