Congratulations you did it! You’re holding your newborn in your arms, and the bonding process begins as you meet your baby for the first time. What an amazing journey you and your body have been through. Today’s blog will take you through some of the things you may experience in the first few days and months of motherhood.
Every Pregnancy is Different
Some Mums glide through with ease, whilst others encounter challenges which proved tough to handle. Some Mums went through delivery with no hiccups at all and some Mums experienced a more difficult birth. As you can see, each pregnancy and delivery is different, just like conception; no two Mums are the same. This applies to how your body and mind will react in recovery, from Day One after the birth to a few months after, and further down the road. Each Mum will react differently and so it is extremely important to recognise this and to give yourself time to heal after all the rigours of change it has gone through.
Depending on how your birth went there will be many feelings you may experience. For example, you may feel alert, happy and relaxed or at the other end of the scale, bruised, exhausted, even disappointed. So words of experience and wisdom, as a Mum of two, be kind to yourself and your body. Allow yourself as much time as you need to regain your strength back coupled with plenty of rest, support and good nutrition. Trust me you will see results much quicker than rushing to get back to ‘normal’.
So what happens to your body after the birth?
As I have mentioned many times before, your body has spent months nurturing and growing your baby. So it only makes sense that all the changes that have occurred are now going to go into reverse. Below I am going to outline briefly what changes will happen for all Mums after.
- Bloody discharge from the vagina called lochia. This occurs whether you had a vaginal or caesarean birth.
- Afterpains which feel like mild labour contraction. They often occur while you are breastfeeding.
- Your pelvic Floor, though stretched, will firm up. This is as long as you do your pelvic floor exercises (or Kegels as they are more generally known). I will be doing a separate blog on this topic but in the meantime if you have trouble remembering to do them, then download the app Squeezy NHS Pelvic Floor (£2.99 from the App Store). I have recommended this to a number of my pregnant and postnatal Mums, who have sung it’s praises because it reminds them and increases confidence that they are exercising correctly! If there is one piece of advice I give my Mums over anything else it is to remember pelvic floor or Kegels. Trust me you won’t regret doing them before or after and it is the one action you can take as soon as possible after the birth of your baby!
- Stitches received during the birth can be painful either for a few days or sometimes even weeks. It is normal to feel bruised and washed out after having a baby. If you experienced an episiotomy or more severe tear (this is usually classified as a third-degree or fourth-degree tear) then be prepared healing will take longer. If you have any concerns about how your healing is progressing then ask your midwife or GP for advice and support.
Breasts and Breastfeeding
- Breasts. To start these will feel soft because of the colostrum (baby’s first milk – protein-rich, creamy and full of antibodies that protect your baby from infection.) How wonderful is your body! After a few days your body will want to ensure it is making enough milk for baby and this is when the real milk will ‘come in’ making your breasts feel swollen and tender. You may encounter engorgement, I did with my first and my own Mum recommended using green cabbage leaves, placing them against my breasts under my feeding bra – “what??” I hear you cry. Well I’m not sure how but it worked! Either way engorgement will ease over time when your baby feeds and your body adjusts to his or her needs.
- To start your nipples may feel sensitive, even sore with the first 10 or so seconds of each feed but this will lessen over time, once your baby becomes accustomed to latching on. However, if you continue to struggle with breastfeeding then ask your midwife, who can refer you to a lactation consultant.
How long will it take to lose my baby weight after the birth?
This is a question I get asked all the time… but how long is a piece of string? During the first few days after giving birth you will lose some weight quickly. Extra water that was carried during late pregnancy will be removed through wee and sweat, blood levels return to normal as your womb gets smaller. When this occurs, weight loss tends to slow down. Don’t panic here because this is totally fine. Trust me, you are more likely to keep the weight off if you lose it slowly. By eating healthily and keeping active, your weight will continue to drop gradually. I will cover these areas in later blogs – watch out for lots of tips, advice and receipts.
Be Kind to Yourself
Mums can feel disappointed or low if their body doesn’t snap back to its pre-pregnancy shape soon after having the baby. Again, stop and realistically think about the whole process your body has just undergone through pregnancy and labour – YOU NEED TIME TO RECOVER!
Also remember that any extra fat stored in your body during pregnancy is there for a reason. Energy to help with breastfeeding. Yes breastfeeding can help some Mums lose weight, especially if Mum is breastfeeding six months or more but once again I want to point out that much of the weight loss will depend on diet and exercise. Just a little note here whilst some Mums will lose weight whilst breastfeeding, others may not. Breastfeeding also needs calories, which can mean an increased appetite. Again don’t feel disheartened. Just look at what you body is doing to provide milk for your newborn.
Love Your Tummy
Onto your tummy, which after birth may be a bit flabby and wrinkly. It can be a shock, especially if you are used to having a flat, toned belly, pre-baby. But remember, this belly helped to grow your beautiful baby. Be kind to your body, and thank it for what it is done. If you do feel self-conscious about your tummy, don’t worry as there are things you can do to help.
As mentioned, start gently with pelvic floor and tummy muscles exercises (these exercises will be in a later blog) as soon as you feel up to them. Another reason for getting started is that these exercises will not only get you back into shape but also help protect you against back pain. Reminder here, it took nine months to create your bundle of joy, it’s going to take nine months or more to recover. So it only makes sense that healthy eating, regular exercise will help shed those pounds.
What takes longer to recover after birth?
Swollen ankles, piles, stretch marks on your breasts, tummy or thighs will take longer, but don’t worry, they will recover. As pregnancy hormones drop you may lose all the lovely hair you had during pregnancy but again don’t be concerned as your hair will soon return back to normal. If you had a c-section you will experience soreness around your scar for a while. Getting moving as soon as you can will help speed your recovery and prevent any blood clots. Any pregnancy hormones (especially if you breastfeed) can still affect your joints for up to six months after giving birth so ensure any exercise is gentle for the few months, no high-impact activities such as running or exercise classes. Keep it simple and you won’t go wrong.
How will I feel a few months after the birth?
At six weeks, after the birth of your baby you will be offered a postnatal check-up with your GP. This is where you can talk with your healthcare provider about how you are feeling physically and emotionally. So if you have any feelings of anxiety, continued bleeding, soreness from stitches, on-going stress incontinence etc then now is the time to voice those concerns. Under no circumstances should you suffer in silence – ask for help. I want to point out that this appointment is usually timed for your baby’s first vaccinations, so if you feel this won’t be enough time to discuss any of the above or more, then make sure you reschedule another appointment.
So just another reminder, your wonderful body would of changed after pregnancy and childbirth, but give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done and be proud of yourself. It did one amazing job of growing and bringing your baby into the world.
Next time I will be looking at specific exercises to get you back on the road to recovery.
Happy Birth, Happy Mum, Happy Baby!
- NHS UK