Before, during, and after pregnancy, friends, family, and random internet sources alike will try to tell you what is “normal” and what isn’t. It can leave you feeling really confused as to why your experience doesn’t compare to what’s “normal.” Even after giving birth, you’ll hear statements like “You’ll heal in no time” even though, for many women, the post-partum period can be much more complicated than that would suggest. Here’s what you should know about the first few months after giving birth, also frequently referred to as the “fourth trimester.”
Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles as they have to support the weight of the baby. In the first few days after giving birth, you may find that you can’t make it to the toilet before urinating. This is called incontinence and it usually goes away as your pelvic muscles become stronger. You may also find that you feel pain or burning when you urinate or you have trouble urinating. Soaking in a warm bath can help to relieve these issues and if that doesn’t help, speak to your OBGYN.
They will need adequate time to recuperate. In addition to giving your body time to heal, you should also eat a diet filled with nutritious, easy-to-digest foods and spend time off your feet, sleeping when the baby sleeps. That gives your hormones and body time to regulate and transition into restorative mode. There are exercises you can do that will strengthen those muscles but the best thing to do in the early days is rest.
Even if you had a vaginal birth with no tearing, your body has undergone a massive undertaking by building a human, pushing said human out, and producing the nutritional requirements for the newborn through breastfeeding. As a result of this process, you may experience bleeding in the days and maybe weeks after giving birth.
Following birth, you will most likely have to wear at least a hospital-grade pad at first and then a regular pad as the bleeding lightens. You may find that you bleed more after bringing the baby home because you are on your feet and moving around more. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible. After about 10 days, you should start to see less blood. You may experience light bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery.
If you are breastfeeding, it is likely that you will experience some nipple pain in the first few days, especially if your nipples crack. In this case, you should ask your OBGYN to help you make sure your baby is latching properly. He or she should also be able to recommend a cream that you can put on your nipples. You should also massage breast milk onto your nipples after breastfeeding and let it air dry.
In addition to pain in your nipples as a result of breastfeeding, your breasts will also become engorged as they start to fill with milk. It usually happens a few days after giving birth and can leave your breasts feeling tender and sore. The discomfort generally goes away once you start regularly breastfeeding. If you’ve chosen not to breastfeed, this feeling may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually taking a few days.
You can relieve this feeling of discomfort by trying not to miss a feeding or going a long time between feedings particularly during the night. Before you breastfeed your baby, express a small amount of milk from your breast either by hand or using a breast pump. It also helps to take a warm shower or lay warm towels on your breasts to promote milk flow. If the feeling of engorgement becomes too overbearing, put cold packs on your breasts.
Many women experience swelling in their hands, feet, and face during pregnancy due to the extra fluids in the body. It’ll take some time for this swelling to go away even after the baby is born but you can help relieve the swelling by lying on your left side when resting or sleeping, putting your feet up, drinking plenty of water, and keeping cool.
You may have noticed that your hair probably grew thicker and fuller during pregnancy. This happens as a result of the high levels of hormones in your body causing you to lose less hair during pregnancy. After your baby is born, you may notice that your hair has started to thin or you may even lose hair. Hair loss usually stops within 6 months of giving birth and you should return to your normal hair fullness within a year. Just make sure to eat a nutritious diet as the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help protect and restore your hair and be gentle with your hair. No tight ponytails or sleeping in rollers all night; they can put stress on your hair and pull it at the scalp.
You may notice stretch marks on your body from where your skin stretched to accommodate the pregnancy and they generally fade over time. You can use creams or lotions that are specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Movement may be difficult in the first few days after giving birth and sitting down may not provide much relief. Once you have stopped bleeding, full-body baths should help as the heat therapy a bath provides helps to promote tissue health. Until you get to that point, we recommend sitz baths as they bring heat and circulation to the tissue and can help to speed up the healing process and reduce scar tissue.
You may also find that you have trouble with bowel movements. This can happen for a few days after giving birth. To relieve the pain caused by constipation, make sure to eat foods that are high in fiber, omega 3s, and magnesium as they can help to soften stools. Make sure you are also drinking lots of water.
Hemorrhoids are swollen, painful veins in and around the anus that may bleed or hurt. They are common during and after pregnancy. You can relieve the pain associated with hemorrhoids by soaking in a warm bath or asking your provider about over-the-counter medications that can help with the pain.