Throughout your pregnancy, you’ve probably been so focused on your pregnant body and your baby to think of much else. Except for maybe the odd wistful glance at your pre-pregnancy jeans, you probably haven’t given your post-pregnancy body much thought.
Your body must now recover, and reverse all those wonderful changes it went through as well as perhaps breastfeeding too! Remember, everyone is different, every labour, every birth, and every post-birth experience is different.
Some of the changes to your body are physical, like changes to your breasts as your milk comes in. Other changes are emotional, such as feeling tired and stressed, but here are a few things you can expect.
your post-pregnancy body
The reality is that immediately after birth you’ll probably still look pregnant! It takes around six weeks for your uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size so it’s understandable and quite normal for your tummy to be this way. Remember you have just produced a baby – that’s amazing!
Regular, gentle exercise and healthy eating can help you get back in shape. Your abdominal muscles get stretched out during pregnancy so it will take time!
Although exercise is perhaps the last thing on your mind you should continue your pelvic floor exercises or at least start straight away. This helps speed up healing and helps your bladder control. It will also tone up your vagina, and make sex more enjoyable – although sex is perhaps not your mind right now!
varying degrees of sore – healing the wounds
It’s normal to feel sore, bruised and washed out after having a baby. You may feel like you’ll never be able to sit comfortably again, but grazes and small tears to your cervix, vagina and perineum should heal quickly.
If you had an episiotomy, stitches can be painful for a few days or even weeks and if you had a caesarean birth, it'll take longer for the tissues and your wound to heal completely. Take it easy, put your feet up and just enjoy getting to know your new baby.
If you're worried about how you are healing, ask your midwife or GP for advice.
after birth pains
And just when you thought your contractions were over... you might experience after birth pains, or afterpains, which feel like mild labour contractions all over again! Afterpains often happen while you’re breastfeeding due to a hormone called oxytocin being released. Don’t worry though it’s your uterus contracting as it returns to its pre-pregnancy size.
After giving birth, you’ll have some bloody discharge from your vagina whether you gave birth vaginally or by caesarean. Called lochia, it will be like a heavy period probably for about ten days and can take up to six weeks to tail off. If this is your first baby, the amount of blood may be a bit of a surprise.
You’ll need to use maternity sanitary towels which although may resemble a small pillow, are longer, softer, and much more absorbent than sanitary towels. Bring out the big knickers and change your pad often.
a whole new cup size!
You may have been enjoying new curves during pregnancy but be prepared for a whole set after birth. Your breasts will probably feel soft at first and after a few days as they begin to make milk will become swollen, tender and hard. They may throb, feel uncomfortably full and leak! And the vision of a voluptuous siren is gone in the snap of a support bra strap!
A properly fitted bra and breast pads are a must and you’ll probably have to wear a sleep bra at night with breast pads too. Nursing your baby is usually the best way to relieve discomfort, but if you’re not breastfeeding cold packs can help ease swelling.
Pregnancy and birth are bound to leave their mark on your body, quite literally sometimes in the form of stretch marks. They may take a few months to fade to silver, pink or light brown, depending on the colour of your skin. Although they will fade, they won’t disappear completely. You may not like the look of your stretch marks now, but they will look a whole lot better in a few months’ time.
readjusting the fluids
You know all that extra fluid your body took on during pregnancy? You now need to readjust. Be ready for weeing and sweating as your kidneys work to filter out the excess. You might find it hard to have a poo as the levels readjust and rebalance.
Drink plenty of fluids, which may seem contradictory, but it really does help!
Your body will have changed, but be proud of the job it’s done nurturing your baby and bringing them into the world. Remember to allow yourself time to recover and to get your strength back. Rest. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your body – It’s amazing!