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What to Expect AFTER Expecting!

What to Expect AFTER Expecting!

You’ve done the expecting. You’ve labored. You’ve given birth. Now is the time to love on your new bundle of joy, establish a new routine and try to catch some sleep! But while you may be focused on your new little one, it is important not to forget about yourself, particularly as your body recovers from giving birth.

Whether you delivered vaginally or via Cesarean section (C-section), your body needs time to heal. Recovery times vary by person, but the first six weeks after giving birth are typically considered your recovery period. Also, recovery experiences vary by person (and pregnancy). Here are a few things you may encounter post-birth:

  • Postpartum bleeding. Similar to a heavy period, postpartum bleeding (or lochia) rids the body of the excess blood, tissue and mucus from your pregnancy. This can last up to six weeks, with the bleeding being the heaviest during the first three- to 10-days, and then gradually tapering off. Be sure to contact your medical provider if you start to pass large blood clots or are bleeding through more than one pad in an hour. (Speaking of pads! Make sure to stock up on them prior to giving birth, as tampons are not recommended during postpartum recovery.)
  • Discomfort (down there!). Your body has been through a lot! If you pushed during labor, you may experience some perineal pain, particularly if you tore or had an episiotomy. The discomfort should ease anywhere between three- to six-weeks post-delivery. To help ease the pain, try to avoid long periods of standing or sitting, ice (especially the first 24-hours after birth) and/or try warm sitz baths for 20 minutes a day. Helpful tip: use warm water to clean the area before and after urinating to help reduce irritation.
  • Other physical discomforts. Post-delivery, you may notice other discomforts throughout your body. These can include sore breasts (particularly if you are breastfeeding), constipation, hemorrhoids, urine or fecal incontinence (particularly when you laugh, cough or sneeze—thanks to your stretched muscles!) and abdominal pain (often called “after pains,” as your body shrinks back to normal).
  • Baby blues. Within a few days of giving birth, you may experience the “baby blues.” This includes bouts of sadness, irritability, anxiety or crying, and can last up to two weeks postpartum. Baby blues are very normal, but it is important to prioritize your own self-care just as much as you prioritize your new baby’s care. If your baby blues last more than two weeks, consult your medical provider as you may be experiencing postpartum depression—which impacts one-in-four new moms and comes with feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loneliness, irritability, guilt or worthlessness.
  • Weight loss. While you may have shed some pounds immediately after giving birth, it may take a few weeks or months to lose the rest of your pregnancy weight. For some new moms, breastfeeding can help with weight loss as well as walking and exercise (when your medical provider gives you the go-ahead). But the bottom line is, just love your new body, baby weight and all!
  • C-section shelf. During your pregnancy, you will likely develop excess skin and fat as your body grows. After a C-section, that skin and fat (plus any scar tissue) can “hang” from your C-section scar, thus the C-section “shelf.” For some women, the C-section shelf will eventually go away, but, for others, it may be there to stay. If you are recovering from a C-section, rest and give yourself time to heal. When ready, you can try to massage the area to help smooth things out, enhance your diet with foods that naturally help tighten skin (garlic as well as foods high in Vitamin C or Zinc), and add some low-stress tummy exercises to your workout routine.

The growth and changes associated with nine months of pregnancy will not go away overnight. You have put your body through the wringer—and reaped the reward of creating life—so now it is time to care for yourself and let your body heal. With each new mom, what to expect after expecting may be different, so be patient and take each day one at a time.

To learn more about the Cosgrove Maternity Center at Southwest General, visit our website.