The baby’s here, and your pregnancy complaints are over—but the post-delivery aftershocks are only just beginning…
[Note:] These are typical effects of a vaginal birth. If you experienced complications during or following delivery, you may face additional challenges.
Cramping my style
It’s a well-kept secret: Labor pains continue even after baby’s debut. Why? Well, because your uterus is still contracting. It’s doing its duty, trying to return to prebaby size (this is a good thing!). These after pains will likely worsen as you breastfeed since the oxytocin released by nursing encourages uterine contraction. And although the process isn’t pleasant, try to look on the bright side: The faster your uterus shrinks, the sooner you’ll fit into those prebaby jeans.
A sore sight for eyes
Have you surveyed the swollen, bleeding scene that was once the site of your vagina? Frightening. Of course, some change should be expected—you pushed a baby through a hole that’s usually the width of a quarter—but who would have predicted this carnage? Look away and rest assured, the swelling will subside, and you’ll gradually return to normal. In the meantime, use your hospital- issued squirt bottle to rinse off between showers, and care for any stitches as directed by your nurse.
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Flow down below
It was nice having a 40-week break from your monthly woes, but now the red current shows up with a vengeance, which is why the hospital supplies you with pads the size of travel pillows (and disposable undies in sexy mesh, which you will find yourself shamelessly stuffing into your bag before you leave for home). This is no ordinary period. The lochia gush—filled with blood and discarded tissue from the uterus —will eventually taper off and desist, but only after a couple weeks of the yucks.
While pregnancy water retention is nigh unto unbearable, the swelling can get even worse right after delivery. The abundance of fluid can make you feel kind of whale-ish, but your body will naturally flush it out by upping its outpouring of urine and sweat.
Beyond the bloating, which is mercifully temporary, expect to look a little pregnant for the first few weeks following delivery. Your uterus is still contracting, and your abdominal muscles have not yet reclaimed their rightful stations, so your belly will naturally protrude more than it did pre- pregnancy. While it’s normal to find your- self lamenting over these changes (“I’ll never fit into my old clothes!”), don’t be too hard on your life-giving bod. Getting back in shape takes time, but if you can pace yourself and maintain healthy habits, you will get there.
Although you may experience an adrenaline rush following childbirth (particularly if you delivered naturally), your body will be exhausted, and the need for sleep will catch up with you soon. Snooze in the hospital as often as you can between interruptions for taking your vitals, breastfeeding, and filling out paperwork. Rooming in with your infant is a wonderful idea, but if it keeps you from sleeping, don’t feel guilty about asking a nurse to escort your wee one to the nursery for a little while.
In the homebound weeks to come, you’re sure to experience supreme exhaustion like never before. And thus the adage, “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” Make a mental list of “must do’s” versus “should do’s,” and then cross out the “shoulds.” Cleaning, cooking, social visits and laundry can wait—you need your Zs!
Got the blues
Maybe you didn’t have a “movie moment” upon meeting your baby—no glowy haze (unless you were on major pain killers), no swelling of violins … and that’s totally OK. In fact, you’re likely to feel weepy and moody for the first few weeks of new parenthood. No worries. Think about it: Your hormones just dropped off drastically, plus you’re sleep-deprived and recovering from major body trauma. Your life just changed big time—becoming a mom and being responsible for an infant can give a person a little anxiety! Allow yourself about a month to come around, but certainly call your doctor if you feel violent or suicidal, or if your blues turn into a full-blown depression after the first few weeks.
Diapers all around
Incontinence can really throw a wet blanket over the early days of motherhood. Your nerves and pelvic muscles were affected during delivery, and are now to blame for urinary leakage. Meanwhile, your kidneys are working overtime to rid your body of excess fluid. You may not feel the urge to pee even when your bladder is full, but emptying it regularly should help you avoid major flooding.
Since you’ll be wearing a pad anyway, leakage shouldn’t cause too much discomfort, and it should clear up as your pelvic muscles regain strength in the weeks following delivery. If, however, you continue to experience incontinence, ask your doctor for recommendations.
And a side of constipation
While number one can’t be subdued, number two has taken a hiatus. For the first few days following childbirth, your body’s avoidance of BMs is good—the last thing you want right now is something else to push out of your body. Later in the first week though, you may find yourself feeling a bit uncomfortable if you can’t get those bowels moving. Eating fibrous foods will help, but if that’s not enough, your doctor may recommend a stool softener. Best wishes for full flushes!
Three honest mamas share their after-baby shockers.
“I always thought baby blues were about feeling disconnected to your baby, but mine were more a constant state of fear and anxiety about wanting to do the right thing and wanting to be good enough for my twins. I’m sure sleep deprivation didn’t help, but those first two weeks were a cry-fest I wasn’t expecting. After that, I could feel the chemical change and I was me again.”
—Ali Babcock, Rockwall, Texas
“With my last baby (my third), I woke in the middle of the night and had to use the restroom, so I stood up and suddenly felt this massive pressure in my vagina. I literally felt like something was going to fall out of me. I made it to the bathroom and found a blood clot on my pad the size of a small mouse!”
—Kasey Tross, Chesterfield, Virginia
“The biggest postpartum shock for me was definitely the night sweats. I didn’t have them with my first, but I did with the other three and they got worse with each child. I had them for almost a month with the last two. I would wake up drenched and freezing—so not pleasant. Sleeping on beach towels and changing the sheets all the time gets old!”
—Sarah Gardner, Alpharetta, Georgia