When people discuss giving birth, you either hear how horrifying the experience was or how magical; whether they delivered naturally or had a caesarian — but what happens after labor and delivery?
Here are a few experiences that took me by surprise after delivering my first baby.
• Bleeding– After delivery, you’ll experience a vaginal discharge called lochia, which consists of blood and tissue from the lining of the uterus. For most women, the bleeding is quite heavy in the first 3 to 10 days postpartum (sometimes heavier than a menstrual period) — this is perfectly normal and will reduce over the next several weeks.
Tip: Buy a lot of overnight pads and full-size undies.
• Cramps- Unfortunately, contractions last well after giving birth. Once you’ve delivered, your uterus starts to tighten as it starts the process of returning to its pre-pregnancy size and location. These postpartum contractions are called ‘after pains’ — you feel them most when you breastfeed, which triggers the production of oxytocin, the hormone that causes the contractions.
Tip: The pain is not unbearable and it subsides on its own after a week; but keep pain killers on hand for the first couple of days to help reduce the pain.
• Soreness- Your girly parts might be on fire, or at least feels like it! If you deliver vaginally, your perineum (the area between the rectum and the vagina) will be stretched, swollen, bruised, and possibly torn. Whether you need stitches to repair the perineum or not, it may be uncomfortable to sit down at first.
For mamas who have a C-section, you’ll be recovering from major abdominal surgery, which will likely cause soreness around the incision.
Tip: For vaginal delivery, ease pain with a Sitz bath (where you soak the perineum in water for 10 minutes, as often as needed), use a squirt bottle with warm water to clean up after going to the bathroom and pat dry. For C-section, ask your doctor to recommend pain relievers that are safe to take if you’re nursing.
See my favorite hospital survival kit here.
•Post baby bump- Contrary to social media – your body will not go back to its pre-pregnancy size or form right away! In fact, after delivery most women still look at least 6 months pregnant for a while. Remember your body just grew a human being which took approximately 9 months, so give yourself at least that amount of time to be back to normal.
Tip: For some women, breastfeeding helped with their weight loss; for others, developing a healthier eating habit and adding light exercises (once cleared by your doctor) did the trick! I say, try to do all 3 if you can, but do not put too much pressure on yourself and listen to your body.
• No Milk- Besides the fact that breastfeeding hurts and latching is not easy at first – there’s no milk right away! Prior to giving birth, I always thought I would have a huge flow of milk as soon as my baby was born, but that wasn’t the case at all. First comes colostrum (a milk like fluid that contains all the nutrients your baby needs to fight viruses and bacteria) then after 3-5 days, you start producing breastmilk. For some women, even when their milk comes in it’s not a huge flow to start with; it increases over time.
Tip: Feeding your baby often will increase milk flow and for those nipples, Lansinoh makes the best soothing products.
• Skin Changes- Your stomach might be at least 3 shades darker after delivery. This is especially common in women with darker skin tones. Don’t panic, this usually lightens up within the first 6 months after giving birth.
Tip: Keep the area moisturized.
• Stretch Marks- For some women, stretch marks are worn as a badge of honor and for others it can be an insecurity. You can go an entire pregnancy with no visible scar and they show up right after delivery!
Tip: Keep your skin moisturized over the next few weeks as your tummy shrink and drink lots of water. If stretch marks don’t fade or disappear on their own; laser and cosmetic removals are available.
• Loose Skin- Loose skin after pregnancy is a challenge that many new moms face; this I experienced a few months after having my second baby due to my rapid weight loss.
Tip: Try to lose weight slowly, keep your skin moisturized and drinks a lot of water. Remember, “slow and steady wins the race.”
• Loss of bladder control: An annoying involuntary leaking of pee that new moms often experience, usually while laughing, sneezing, coughing, or performing any strenuous activity like running. This is caused by the pregnancy and delivery weakened muscles around the bladder and pelvis, which make it harder for you to control when urine starts — or when it stops.
Tip: Do a lot of Kegel and Pelvic Floor exercises during and after pregnancy. Squeeze ladies!
• No period while breastfeeding: Yes, that’s right! If you are exclusively breast feeding you will not get a period which means you’re unlikely to get pregnant. In very rare cases you can still ovulate and therefore get pregnant so definitely take some precautions.
• Loss in sex drive: You have to wait at least 6 weeks post-pregnancy to have intercourse, but for some women the desire just isn’t there beyond those few weeks – and that’s ok! Your body has done an amazing job of carrying your baby and between your hormones being all over the place and those sleepless nights with a newborn– you may need to take some time to heal (physically and mentally).
Tip: Don’t feel pressured or ashamed – this is normal for many of us! Talk to your partner about how you feel so he/she is on the same page. Also, there are so many ways to be intimate without intercourse, make time to explore those other options when you feel ready.
• Maternal Instinct: One of the most surprising things will be discovering is an inner strength and maternal instinct you never knew you had. Get ready for all the unsolicited advice on to how to care for your baby.
Tip: Trust your maternal instinct and do what you think works best for you and your baby. There will be a lot of challenges ahead, but you’ll get through them and wonder how you did it after!
• Unconditional love: I did not know I could love anyone more than I love myself! My babies are literally my heart outside of my body – you will gain a greater appreciation for your parents and life as you know it will never be the same – it will be much better.
Tip: Make the time, put in the work and enjoy every moment because they grow really fast.
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