Nobody talks about the postpartum body.
There is plenty of information about what to expect during pregnancy. Then all the information jumps ahead to what to expect from your infant. What about the moms? Moms are exhausted from caring for a newborn baby around the clock and also have to deal with a body that is not anything like its normal self.
Here is what to expect from your postpartum body.
No matter how you give birth, you will experience vaginal bleeding afterward. This is your body’s way of getting rid of all the extra blood and other tissue from your uterus. The bleeding will be very heavy at first. You will likely feel a gush of blood when you stand up after sitting for a while. This is normal for a postpartum body. The bleeding will gradually get lighter. It can last for several weeks, however. After giving birth, you cannot use tampons or menstrual cups, so make sure to buy a bunch of maxi pads to be prepared. The hospital will provide you with disposable mesh underwear to go along with the pads, so make sure to take some home with you!
If you breastfeed your infant, your body will need to replace all that fluid. Breastfeeding made me feel thirsty all the time. Make sure to have some good water bottles with lids on hand. I kept one on my nightstand to use during all those overnight feedings. I also kept one in my diaper bag for trips outside the home. I got so tired of drinking water. Some other healthy drink options are herbal teas, coconut water, and maple water.
Using the toilet is a scary prospect with a postpartum body. Pooping for the first time is terrifying because it feels like you will push out all your internal organs in the process. The hospital will offer you laxatives and stool softeners. Go ahead and take them even if you don’t think you will need them! Also, urinating can be very painful if your vaginal area is swollen, torn, or otherwise in rough shape. The hospital will provide peri bottles, which are little plastic bottles you fill with warm water. Then you spray your vagina while urinating, which really cuts down the stinging pain. You can gently pat yourself dry with toilet paper. Make sure to take your peri bottles home from the hospital with you! I recommend having one bottle at home and one in your diaper bag.
Cramping While Breastfeeding
I had no idea that I would experience cramping during breastfeeding for the first few days after giving birth. Apparently, nursing triggers hormones which cause your uterus to contract. This is actually a good thing since it will help your uterus return to its normal size, but it sure is uncomfortable! Also, the cramping is usually mild for first-time mothers, but it’s more intense for subsequent births. Don’t be afraid to ask your nurses or doctors for pain medication if you need it!
Have you heard that old wives’ tale about how when new moms hear a baby cry, their breasts will leak milk? Well, it’s true. Sometimes your postpartum body will leak milk just because your baby hasn’t nursed for a while. It’s embarrassing to walk around with giant wet spots all over your shirt. Also, it’s not very comfortable. You will need some sort of pads to absorb the milk and keep your shirts dry. There are plenty of disposable options, which stick to your bra. I mostly used fabric pads that I could throw in the washing machine. Either way, have plenty on hand.
Unfortunately, the postpartum body often leaks pee. This is called stress incontinence. This is why new moms often leak pee when they laugh and why many moms won’t jump on a trampoline. This doesn’t have to be a permanent problem, though. Physical therapists who specialize in pelvic health can evaluate your condition and offer treatments. Many times, the correct exercises are all it takes to fix this frustrating problem.
With all of these changes, new mothers are at risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Most mothers will experience some feeling of sadness, which is normal. It’s what people often call the “baby blues.” However, postpartum depression is more serious and is something that won’t just go away on its own. If you have severe symptoms, such as being scared to care for your baby, having no interest in your baby, loss of appetite, or strong feelings of sadness or guilt, you may have postpartum depression. Please talk to your doctor about your symptoms. They can be treated, and you are not alone.
While all these postpartum changes can be overwhelming and scary, just remember that they are temporary. Your boobs will not leak milk forever and you will be able to use the bathroom without pain again. It just takes plenty of time and patience for your body to recover.