Your plans are made for the first, second and third trimester, your research is finished, baby books have been bookmarked. You’re all set for the arrival of your baby. But, what happens next? Surprisingly enough, many women have little idea of what to expect after the birth of their child. This is especially true for first-time mothers. The postpartum period can come as a big shock. The changes to your body, your mood, and your hormone levels combined with the addition of a new baby can be overwhelming. Here are 5 common (but unexpected) things to look out for in your postpartum period:
1- Your stomach
Pregnant bellies don’t flatten out quickly. This might sound obvious but this takes many women surprise. The pregnancy tummy is gone, but most women are usually left with excess skin that had expanded to accommodate your growing belly. This is perfectly normal. With time and a bit of exercise, it will begin to return to normal. But. the initial shock of the postpartum tummy can be discouraging.
2- Vaginal bleeding
Vaginal bleeding after birth is not a small scale issue. It is something that can persist for up to 6 weeks after you’ve given birth. This is true even if you’ve had a c-section. Your body has just been through a large physically traumatic event and some postpartum bleeding is normal. Bleeding is usually the heaviest in the first week and should subside over time. Prepare yourself mentally for using huge absorbent pads, panty liners, and hospital-issued underwear (if you can get them) for many weeks beyond the birth.
3- You might cry. A LOT.
Most people have heard about the baby blues. This is when mothers feel emotional, tearful, and can go from one mood to the next in just a few minutes. This too is normal. Changing hormones in the body is what causes the blues and is common. The blues usually come and go within 1-2 weeks. If, however, after 2 weeks you still feel down, tearful, and overwhelmed, you should speak to your doctor to make sure it’s not more serious. Although the postpartum period can be difficult and might feel as though someone has replaced the body that you used to know, just remember that it gets better with time. As with anything else, if you’re having difficulty coping, speak to family or friends that have been through childbirth before. Make an appointment to see your physician or join a new mothers class in your local community where you can interact with other women who are going through the exact same things you are.
4- You’re constipated
In the days after delivery, many women have difficulty with bowel movements. Sometimes it can be psychological and caused by anxiety over episiotomy stitches. Your body is also reorganizing itself as your organs settle down. In either case, remember that it’s normal. Try to relax, drink plenty of water, eat lots of fiber, keep up with your vitamins, and consume lots of fluid.
5- Your hair starts to fall out
According to the American Pregnancy Association somewhere between 40 to 50% of women will experience hair loss after pregnancy1 so don’t be surprised if you start to see a lot of hair shedding. The most common period of hair loss starts 3-4 months AFTER delivery and is due to a drop in your hormone levels. The good news is that this condition is not serious enough to cause bald spots or permanent hair loss. Your hair will grow back. If you feel that you are experiencing unusual hair loss while you are pregnant, this may be due to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
6- Sore & tender breasts
Your boobs go through a lot—starting at conception! Sore, tender breasts occur off and on during pregnancy. Maybe to prepare you for some of the discomfort you will feel in those first few days of breastfeeding. While your baby is learning to latch, you may experience cracked and even bleeding nipples. If your baby latches correctly, this pain will last long. However, if the pain continues, call or visit a lactation consultant so they can help your baby latch.
In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, you may experience engorgement and/or clogged milk ducts. Engorgement is when your breasts are uncomfortably full of milk. As your body is regulating your milk supply based on baby’s needs, your breasts may swell & harden. To treat, apply a warm compress before breastfeeding. Feed more often. Take ibuprofen. Use cool compresses for a few minutes at a time.
7- You might experience swelling
Many aspects of labor and delivery can cause postpartum swelling. Here are a few:
- All the extra hormones in your body from pregnancy can cause water retention.
- Many women receive fluids during labor and delivery. For example, you receive IV fluids when being induced, receiving an epidural, or requiring a C-section.
- Remaining sedentary can also cause swelling. After delivery, especially a c-section, moving around may be difficult. As such, remaining sedentary makes it difficult for your body to get rid of extra fluid.
If there is redness, pain, itching, or cramping or if the swelling continues to worsen, call your doctor. Otherwise, the swelling will go away soon.
1- American Prengnancy Association. Pregnancy And Hair Loss. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/hair-loss-during-pregnancy/