What happens to your body after birth?

by Catherine Ball |

Your body will have altered a lot during pregnancy and once your baby is born, it will start changing again.

Some of these changes will be emotional (hello hormones!), while others will be physical but it is important to understand that giving birth is a major ordeal for your body and it will need time to recover and heal.

If you are concerned about anything at all, talk to your midwife or GP and remember to attend your postnatal health check, which usually takes place around six weeks after birth.

Is bleeding after birth normal?

It is completely normal to experience bleeding after birth and it will feel like a heavy period, although you may also find you pass some blood clots as well. Known as lochia, this discharge is your body getting rid of the extra blood and bodily fluids it needed during pregnancy. It usually lasts for about six weeks, although it will get lighter over time.

You are also likely to experience some contractions or after-pains as your uterus shrinks back to a normal size. These are similar to period pains and often feel more intense when you are breastfeeding and can be worse if you have had a baby before.

Your perineum – the area between your vagina and anus is likely to feel sore. You may have torn or needed an episiotomy which required stitches or it may simply feel swollen and uncomfortable.

This is completely normal and it will take a bit of time to heal. If going to the toilet is uncomfortable, you may want to try a peri bottle or jug to pour warm water on the area while you urinate. This can reduce any stinging or burning sensations.

How does it feel when my milk comes in?

Whether you decide to breastfeed your baby or not, your body will start producing milk after you give birth.

You are likely to notice your breasts feeling fuller when your baby is around two to four days old. The sensation of your milk coming in can be a little uncomfortable and some people find their breasts feel hard and swollen.

Your breasts might also start to leak milk, especially when you think about your baby or hear them crying. Wearing breastpads will soak up the leaks and help prevent your clothes getting wet.

If you are breastfeeding, then feeding your baby regularly and on demand will help prevent your breasts from becoming engorged and will build up your supply. If you are bottle feeding, it may take a little while for your milk to dry up, although this should happen naturally within seven to 10 days.

If your breasts are uncomfortably full, you may want to express a little (by hand or using a pump) to relieve some of this discomfort.

How will hormones affect me after birth?

Once you have given birth, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your body will drop dramatically. This can cause what is often referred to as the baby blues and you may feel weepy, anxious or irritable for no reason.

These mood changes often start a few days after birth and can come as a shock after the initial euphoria of welcoming your baby. However, they usually pass within a week or so but if you are concerned about how you are feeling, talk to your midwife.

Is it normal to feel tired after giving birth?

You are likely to feel very tired after giving birth, whether you have had a vaginal delivery or a c-section. Go easy on yourself and rest as much as you can, although we appreciate your baby probably won’t let you get too much sleep!

If you feel really shaky and exhausted, this may be down to having low iron levels. It is common for new mums to suffer from anaemia due to blood loss so taking a vitamin supplement with iron in it is a good idea to support your postnatal health.

Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet as much as you can to give you the energy you need to look after your baby and allow your body to recover.

Why do I leak wee after giving birth?

You were probably told to practice your pelvic floor exercises when you are pregnant but whether you remembered to do them or not, you really should try to strengthen these muscles once you have given birth.

A vaginal delivery can seriously weaken your pelvic floor and some women find this means they leak a little bit of wee when they cough, laugh, sneeze or make a sudden movement. You may find you need to wear maternity pads for a little bit longer due to this stress incontinence.

Continuing with your pelvic floor exercises will help but if it is a serious problem, speak to your doctor as they may be able to refer you to a specialist.

It is also common to feel constipated for the first week or so after giving birth. Drink lots of water and eat fruit and vegetables to help get things normal.

You may also be prescribed a gentle laxative to soften your stools if the constipation is severe or you suffered a perineal tear.

Why does my stomach still look pregnant?

Sadly, your pregnancy bump won’t disappear the moment you give birth. Although the skin will feel much softer, you will still have a bump while your uterus contracts and your body gets rid of the extra blood and fluid.

Most pregnant women will have diastasis recti – a separation of the abdominal muscles but this gap will often close by itself in the first eight weeks after you give birth. If it doesn’t, you may still look like you are pregnant and your core muscles will feel weak.

Speak to your GP about it if you feel there is an issue as they may be able to recommend exercises which will help. Personal trainers who specialise in postnatal exercise can also help you find a routine which will allow you to regain strength in your abdominal muscles without exacerbating the problem.

Why am I losing hair after giving birth?

When you are pregnant, your hormone levels cause you to grow more hair than usual. Once you give birth and your hormones start to return to normal, your body will start getting rid of this extra hair.

This can seem alarming if you wake up with hair on your pillow or notice it coming out when you brush but it is normal. It does mean your hair probably won’t feel as thick as it did when you were pregnant though.

Your skin can also change during the postnatal period, again due to those pesky hormones. Dry skin and acne are both normal but should settle down when your hormone levels do.

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