Physical Changes for the New Mom
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How Your Body Changes After Pregnancy and Childbirth.
You may feel like you hardly know your own body anymore, but the good news is that for the most part, these changes are temporary and should diminish over time. Here’s what you may notice after giving birth:
Your uterus grew from the size of a pear (pre-pregnancy) to the size of a watermelon, and it’ll take a few weeks for it to contract back down again. You may feel cramping pain for several days after birth as it contracts, especially if you’ve given birth before. Even after your uterus has contracted, you may still look a little bit pregnant. That’s because pregnancy has stretched your abdominal muscles, and time (and exercise) can help you return to your pre-baby shape.
Your milk will come in a few days after giving birth, which can cause your breasts to become hard and engorged. They’ll eventually adjust to your baby’s needs, so nurse frequently to reduce any discomfort. If you’re not planning on breastfeeding, you may feel uncomfortable for a few days until your milk subsides. See our breastfeeding page for more information. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can also cause your breasts to sag a bit more than before.
Vagina and Perineum
If you’ve given birth vaginally, you may notice your vagina is swollen, sore and more stretched open. This will all subside over the next few weeks, although you may notice that your vagina will remain slightly larger than before giving birth. Ask your provider about how to do Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscle tone in your pelvis.
You’ll experience a discharge called lochia for a few weeks after birth, which changes from red to pinkish to whitish. This will diminish over time. Be sure to use a sanitary pad for lochia instead of a tampon, which can cause an infection.
At your new mom checkup your doctor or midwife will let you know if it’s okay to have sex again. Don’t be concerned if you don’t feel much interest in it right away — that’s completely normal. You might experience vaginal dryness due to changing hormone levels, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Use a water-based lubricant as needed. You should also have a plan for contraception when you do have sex again, as it’s possible your menstrual cycle will return even if you’re breastfeeding. If you used a diaphragm before having a baby, you’ll need a new one to fit your changed cervix.
You may also feel swelling and tenderness in your perineal area, especially if you had any tearing or an episiotomy. The first few days after birth, you might find cold compresses helpful, plus going for walks and changing your position often, too. Talk to your doctor or midwife if the pain seems to be getting worse or you notice signs of an infection.
Pregnancy and birth can be hard on your bladder, especially if you had a long, difficult delivery. Your bladder may be a bit swollen and have some loss of sensitivity in the days that follow childbirth. This means you may have a hard time feeling the urge to urinate. Try to urinate often, even if you don’t really feel like it. Your body will be ridding itself of extra fluid in the days following birth, and holding too much in your bladder could distend it. That in turn could cause urinary problems and make it more difficult for your uterus to contract. Also, stretched pelvic floor muscles can make it harder to hold your urine, causing leakage, especially when you sneeze or laugh. Doing regular Kegel exercises can help.
Your Weight and Body
When you leave the hospital, you’ll be about 12 to 20 pounds lighter than when you arrived. After all, you’re no longer carrying the baby, placenta and extra fluids. You’ll likely want to lose more weight still, and that should happen gradually over the next several months. It took nine months to gain the weight, and it will take many months to safely lose it, too.
If you’re breastfeeding, wait a couple months for your milk supply to get established before you try to lose any weight. Aim to lose no more than a pound or two a week. Some breastfeeding moms won’t lose those last few pounds until after weaning. See our nutrition & fitness page for more helpful tips.
You may feel some looseness to your pelvic joints after giving birth, which should go away over time. Your hips might seem slightly wider than before, which may be temporary or permanent. The same goes for your feet, which may have grown during pregnancy.
After birth, your hair may start falling out more than usual, but will grow back again. Your skin might feel drier, and you may notice stretch marks on your belly and/or breasts. These marks will lighten over time.
Changing hormone levels — on top of adjusting to the demands of motherhood — can make you feel extra weepy or anxious. This is normal, and can last a few days or a few weeks. If it lasts longer or seems to be getting worse, call your provider. It may be postpartum depression, which can (and should) be treated. You’ll find coping tips, support groups and helpful community resources on our postpartum depression page. You can also call or visit the Lytle Center, and talk to staff members who specialize in PPD. If you feel you can’t care for — or may do harm to — yourself or your baby, call your provider immediately.