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Normal Body Changes
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You were pregnant for nine months, and those body changes were expected, maybe you were even prepared for the changes you read and heard so much about. But what woman is fully prepared for all of the changes that take place in her body after she gives birth? This is the period of time when you might become frustrated or confused about changes you weren’t prepared for and didn’t quite expect … and don’t know how to take. The first and foremost thing to remember at this time is: You just gave birth! It’s okay to be out of shape, or to feel like your body isn’t the same as it once was. But, for a woman who just carried a child for nine months and went through painstaking labor for who knows how long, you probably look darned good.

Below are some "normal" body changes that will happen to you after you give birth.

  • So, you’re tummy isn’t quite back to its usual self, even though that one prominent bulge is gone. With some work, if you can find the time, remember that you can get your stomach back in shape. But give your body time to shape itself up, and don’t be too hard on yourself. So what if you still have to wear maternity pants? Your body was part of the process of giving birth to your child, it's entitled to stretch itself out a bit.
  • On the topic of stretching, you might have noticed those aggravating things we like to call stretch marks. Stretch marks are those pinkish or reddish streaks on your breasts, hips and abdomen. They were caused by all of the stretching your skin did when you gained that weight during pregnancy. It’s important for you to face the grim reality: these stretch marks might never go away. But, they won’t always be so noticeable or itchy. Eventually, stretch marks fade and you might not be able to see them.
  • You might have noticed a change in our vagina after giving birth. The vagina may be more slack, or loose, than it once was. This doesn’t happen with all women, but it can be a problem for some women, especially on the second or third births. But, don’t worry—it’s completely normal for a woman who just passed a 7 lb. (or more) baby through herself. Your vagina is very elastic, and can stretch from a small opening to a large enough passageway to deliver a baby. And that’s pretty remarkable. So, you can expect some slackening after birth. By practicing Kegel exercises during pregnancy and after birth, you can help to retain the tightness in your vaginal muscles and your vagina will be able to go back to normal.
  • You will have vaginal bleeding that changes to discharge during the first weeks after birth. Your uterus is healing where the placenta was attached and these discharge changes (known as lochia) are the signs of healing. The bright red blood will turn to a dark red-brown color, then yellow, and finally clear.
  • You may experience “night sweats” as your body releases the extra fluid you stored in your tissues for the labor and birth. You may wake up with your night clothes and bed linens soaking wet.
  • You may have discomfort or pain in your perineum especially if you had an episiotomy (the cutting of the muscle between your vagina and rectum). Warm water (sitz baths) and over-the-counter pain medication can help during the first few days. Kegels will also help with discomfort and healing.
  • Some women have constipation and/or hemorrhoids after birth. To help with constipation, drink 8 – 10 glasses of water per day, eat whole grains and fresh vegetables and take a fiber supplement (without stimulant). For hemorrhoids, be diligent about cleaning after a bowel movement, using witch hazel (such as Tucks pads) and resume doing Kegel exercises regularly.
  • After the placenta is delivered, your brain is triggered to release hormones to initiate breast milk production. Between the third and fifth days after birth, your breasts will produce breast milk—not just colostrum (the first milk in the breast). Your breasts will feel warm to the touch, heavy and a little tender. Your breast size may increase one cup size.
  • Exhaustion/sleep deprivation is a common experience for all new mothers and parents. Babies are not born to sleep through the night, that will take time. To help with the exhaustion:
    • Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You may want sugars and quick snack foods to help with your energy, but in the long run you may feel more tired.
    • Drink 8 – 10 glasses of fluid each day. If you are dehydrated, you will feel sluggish and tired.
    • Try to nap or at least rest when the baby rests.
    • Go to bed earlier in the evening.
    • Limit visitors in the first week or so.
    • Practice relaxation techniques to help you “unwind” so you sleep more deeply and to help you deal with your stress
    • Continue taking your prenatal vitamins

Many women experience increased sexual pleasure after birth because of a more keen awareness of the muscular control from labor. Also, women whose vagina might have been too small before birth can now have more enjoyment from sex. Other times, women can experience a slight decrease in sexual enjoyment from this experience. If you have a noticeable change in sexual enjoyment or if your vagina remains markedly streched after childbirth, talk to your provider about your options for treatment.

Your breasts changed a lot during pregnancy. And it’s not over, because your breasts are going to change again after you give birth. No, they are not going to stay as large as they were during birth forever. After you give birth, your breasts will engorge, which means that they will fill with colostrum (the first milk for newborns, with extra antibodies). If you choose not to breastfeed, your breasts will still feel engorged, and your milk will still “come in” after a few days. When the milk starts to come in, the sensation can be uncomfortable, and your breasts will feel hard, especially if you are not breastfeeding. If you’re not breastfeeding, your milk eventually dries up, an uncomfortable experience. Engorgement can be painful, so ice packs and pain relief may be necessary. Your body will stop producing milk due to no demand, and these feelings will subside. All new mothers, whether or not they breastfeed, might experience some leakage. This can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, if it happens at an inopportune time. Sometimes you will leak milk even if you think about your baby or hear a baby cry. To minimize the embarrassment of leakage, since you can’t prevent it, stock up on nursing pads and wear a firm bra.

You may experience breast infections, or mastitis, during this time. Caused by bacteria, mastitis is characterized by a reddened area on your breast that is particularly tender and a fever. Mastitis will not affect your breast milk, but you should consult your provider for a diagnosis and treatment options.

Click below to read about related topics.

Normal Body Changes
Warning Signs
Sexual Activity & Contraception
Postpartum Depression