9 Things You Need To Know About Your Body After Childbirth
Yes, the hard part is over, but you can't say goodbye to those weird aches and pains just yet.
Since the moment you conceived, you've been preparing – both physically and mentally – for labour. It is a good idea, though, to at least know what to expect post-birth, so you're prepared for the common, and sometimes surprising, postpartum symptoms.
1. You feel like you've done 10 rounds in a boxing ring
As if labour contractions aren't bad enough at the time, you'll probably find that every part of your body aches as if you've done a few rounds with Mike Tyson. All of these symptoms are perfectly normal, so don't worry. According to the experts, considering all the pushing and contortions you get into during labour, it's absolutely natural to feel washed out, exhausted and aching all over. The discomfort should only last a few days, and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. If it lasts any longer, let your public health nurse know so she can recommend the best course of action.
2. You are still getting cramps
Your uterus hasn't finished its job just because it's delivered the baby. Its job is complete when it returns to its original size, which means some more abdominal aches and cramps. They've been described by moms as similar to menstrual pains. Moms who are breastfeeding speed up this resizing process with the increased release of the hormone oxytocin, which results in more pronounced cramps during feeds. Again, your body has been through a lot, so if the pain gets too much for you, doctors can recommend over-the-counter painkillers to help with the pain. Cramping of this sort shouldn't last more than a week. If it does, contact your public health nurse who may recommend you get examined for signs of infection.
3. Your breasts are going wild!
As soon as your body realizes you are pregnant, your breasts start to prepare their ducts to release milk when your baby is born. You probably noticed an increase in cup size during pregnancy; for some moms-to-be it can be quite substantial! Initially, you may wonder where all the milk is, as your baby will feed on colostrum immediately after the birth. This substance has a laxative effect, helping baby get rid of the fluid and mucus that has built up as meconium in the digestive tract – but, when the time is right for the milk to come through, you'll know all about it. You may even be woken with huge, intensely sore and engorged breasts. If this happens, make sure baby is well latched on and that he completely drains each breast during feeds. Rotate feeds on each breast, and change feeding positions to make sure ducts don't get blocked. If you are still in pain, use a pump to stimulate flow and ice packs or warm flannels can soothe the pain. If you are not breastfeeding, the advice is to avoid any breast stimulation (such as touching, water flowing in the shower, etc) and wear a supportive, comfortable bra.
4. You are bleeding quite heavily
Not many new mums are quite prepared for the profuse bleeding after giving birth, known as lochia. It tapers off after two or three days, but you will need to use sanitary pads for up to four weeks afterwards. Don't use tampons, as these can introduce infection. Again, because breastfeeding stimulates uterine contractions, you may feel an increase in blood flow while feeding. You should let your doctor know of any big gushes of blood that occur after the first few days.
5. You sweat when you sleep
Night sweats in the first days after labour are quite common, and are all part and parcel of your hormones adjusting themselves back to normal levels. You may not realise it, but you are retaining a lot of fluid from the pregnancy, and these sweats help your body expel the excess. You've been through a lot, so the last thing you want to do is change your bed linen every morning, so for those first few days, try sleeping on a soft towel to keep the mattress dry.
6. You are constipated
In the first few days after the birth, many women complain that their bowels are blocked up. Some experts say it's caused by anxiety over any stitches or tears you may have experienced during the birth, while others believe that it's simply your body reorganizing itself and its organs and your bowel movements should get themselves in order within a week. The best advice is to relax. Even if you did have stitches, they won't burst and you can help your system get on its merry way again by drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fibre-rich foods and doing some gentle movement, even if that means walking up to the end of the hallway and back again a few times. If after a few days you still haven't been able to go, speak to your public health nurse who may recommend a gentle lactulose formula to help things along.
7. Your nether regions are on fire
There is no doubt about it, giving birth takes its toll down below. Vaginal swelling and stinging are a given, but this should only last a few days. If it gets too much, apply an ice pack to the area a few times a day and use a breastfeeding pillow as a seat – some women even suggest investing in a rubber ring, so that you can rest easy without the agony.
8. Your C-section scar itches
Having a Caesarean means having major surgery, and in the days following the operation, you will most likely suffer from fatigue and nausea. Over the next 4-6 weeks, you may experience feelings of numbness, tingling and itching at the scar site. These should ease eventually – however, if you have a fever, along with redness and oozing from your scar, get checked out for signs of infection.
9. You are losing hair
Not only are you having to cope with all the post-baby body issues, now your lovely locks are starting to come out by the handful. Well, you are not alone. Up to 10% of women lose some hair after giving birth, due to the drop in hormone levels. What you may find is that your hair gets thicker during the 40 weeks, and you're simply shedding the extra post-baby. Things should go back to normal after a few months, however if it's still falling out in clumps, contact your doctor for advice.
But at the end of the day, your little one's safe arrival will be worth all the bleeding, hair loss, boob tenderness in the world, right?!