A vast majority of pregnant women educate themselves on body changes that will occur during the nine months of childbearing. Thus, to a certain extent, they are equipped to survive these changes. However, the postpartum changes often take women by surprise.
After childbirth, the body once again undergoes important changes as it gradually recovers and returns to the pre-pregnancy state. Here’s a guide on the body changes to expect during the early weeks after childbirth.
Physical Changes in the Postpartum Period
- Breast changes – There is a change in the appearance of the breasts. They appear swollen. Not only this, they become flushed and feel sore and too full. The breasts are engorged with milk for the first two or three days after childbirth. The swelling and discomfort in the breasts will reduce once you start nursing. Another embarrassing problem you may experience is breast milk leakage. After a few weeks, the milk producing tissues shrink and breasts return to their pre-pregnancy size. They then begin to sag and look flat and deflated.
- Belly – This is the first thing women ask- how soon will my belly go down after delivery? It will take a couple of weeks. Right after birth, the stomach feels very loose and flabby and may develop a pouch like appearance. Besides, many women look like they are still pregnant (5-6 months). The skin over the stomach, the muscles and tissues have been stretched beyond their capacity to accommodate the growing baby. Exercise will help you regain a firm stomach in a few months. Speaking about the size of your stomach, the uterus will begin to shrink (process is called involution). Thus, the stomach will go back to its pre-pregnancy size or at last reduce. The dark brown line passing through the navel will also fade away.
- Stretch Marks – The post partum change that worries women a lot is stretch marks. One develops stretch marks on the belly, breasts, the inner thighs and the bottom. They are bright red or purplish in color. Stretch marks in most cases stay for life. They only fade to a light silver color and blend with the skin.
- Soreness – The body muscles get sore- the back, the jaws, the arms and neck. It is because of the strain during labor and delivery. The soreness will go away in a couple of days. If you gave birth vaginally, you will experience vaginal soreness caused by a perineal tear or episiotomy. It becomes difficult to sit. Tears or bruises in the perineum also cause immense pain and discomfort when urinating. A c-section delivery results in pain and a sore feeling at the location of the incision.
- Incontinence – Women for a few days after childbirth have no control over their bladder. This happens irrespective of whether you had a C-section or a vaginal birth. Some new mothers may also develop a urinary tract infection and will experience pain and burning when urinating. On the contrary, to the stress and stretching during childbirth, reduces the urge to pee in some women. Kegel exercises are the best to regulate urination and restore the muscles of the bladder.
- Vaginal Bleeding and Discharge – Vaginal bleeding in the postpartum period is called Lochia. As the uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy shape, it discards some part of its lining. This results in post partum bleeding. Lochia lasts for full six weeks after delivery. It starts with a heavy flow and tapers off gradually. It is bright red in color and fades to a light pinkish discharge by the 10th day of post partum.
- Constipation – Women who suffered constipation during pregnancy may continue to have difficulty with constipation even after childbirth. One reason may be on account of less food intake before and after labor. The second reason is an episiotomy or hemorrhoids. Eat foods rich in fiber and drink plenty of water to improve bowel movements.
- Lower Abdomen Pain – Women complain of pain in the lower abdomen after childbirth. These contractions like pain are called “After pains”. They help to shrink the uterus. They may feel more intense when breastfeeding.
- Hair Loss – During pregnancy, hair loss reduces to minimum. It is on account of the high levels of estrogen in the body. However, once pregnancy is over hair loss returns in full swing. Your hair will fall out in excess for the first six months. Thereafter, the hair growth cycle will get back to normal.
Psychological Changes during the Postpartum Period
Mood swings are the most common post partum change. Women also tend to get emotional and become very sensitive. Some women also experience post partum depression. These psychological changes are caused by the fluctuating levels of hormones in the body.
Don’t worry. These are not lasting changes. You will bounce back to normal within a few weeks. You can discuss any concerns and doubts with your doctor.