Post-partum Body: What Your Gynaecologist Did Not Tell You, But You Must Know About

Pregnancy is the time for your body to change a lot. It worked hard to keep your baby safe and healthy and give birth.  But, what happens Now when you are a new mother?

Your gynaecologist told you a lot about how your body changes in the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy but did she ever mention how your body will change in the first 6 weeks after giving birth or later, for that matter?

If she hasn’t, this article is for you.

Changes in the first 6 weeks of giving birth

A few physical postpartum changes you must be aware of -like a new mother’s breasts get full of milk and that she gains weight and feel under the season for some time….

But apart from this, what?

This is not the whole after-birth story.

What can you expect from your postpartum body?

Here are some other changes that you can expect:

  1. Perineum and vaginal soreness
    This is a real problem area that new mothers can expect and they are not warned in advance about
    The perineum is the narrow strip of skin between your vagina and rectum. When you are having a baby through a vaginal birth, the perineum takes the brunt and stretches a lot and can also tear.
    No wonder, it’s extremely sore after a natural birth.
    The soreness only goes up if you’ve had an episiotomy in which a cut is made at the opening of the vagina to help the baby out.
    For relief-Put a cold pack on your sore perineum and use a pillow on a chair before sitting on it.
  2. Afterbirth pains
    Pains are not things of the past, ladies! You can experience afterbirth cramping as your uterus shrinks back to its regular size.
    At childbirth, your uterus is round and hard and weighs about 2 ½ pounds.  But by about 6 weeks after birth, it shrinks down to its original pre-pregnancy size and weighs only 2 ounces.
    Try painkillers for relief.
  3. Vaginal discharge
    You may have a lot of vaginal discharge after childbirth as your body is getting rid of the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus. For the first few days, this discharge will be heavy, bright red and may contain some blood clots.
    Over time, the flow will get less. You can have vaginal discharge for a few weeks, or even for a month or more.
    So, be prepared to use sanitary pads until it absolutely goes away.
  4. Weight gain
    The question is at the forefront of most new mothers’ mind, usually is - When will I get back to my pre-pregnancy size and shape?
    It’s gonna take some time….But don’t worry, your body is working on it.
    You lose about 12 pounds immediately after giving birth- 8 pounds for the baby plus about a pound of placenta, and another few pounds of blood and amniotic fluid during birthing.

    And that’s not all- you continue to lose weight during the postpartum period as your body eliminates all the extra water your cells retained during pregnancy, along with the extra blood.
    Your body will produce a lot of urine in the first days after you give birth. You’ll be thus going to pee a lot. So, don’t be scared. It’s normal.
    You may perspire a lot too, especially at night.
    And these two will make you lose about 6 pounds of water weight by the end of the first week itself.
  5. Not knowing when you are going to pee
    You may not also be able to tell when you need to pee after giving birth. This is because labour and delivery can temporary swelling and loss of sensitivity in your urinary bladder.
    So, for the first days after you give birth, you may not feel an urge to pee, even while your bladder is full.
    How do you manage this? You can urinate frequently, even if you don't feel the urge. This will stop the leakage.
  6. Vaginal tears
    The vagina becomes big in size after a normal delivery and it  will probably remain a little larger than it was pre-pregnancy for ever.
    It may also be swollen and bruised after delivery. And it takes several days for the swelling to subside and for your vagina to regain its muscle tone and to get smaller.
    Kegel exercises really help to get as close to the vagina you had pre-pregnancy.
  7. Sex is painful
    Your vagina is torn and swollen and your perineum is shot to pieces- this is the reason that sex is painful for at least 6 weeks after delivery.
    Also be prepared to use a water-based lubricant during sex whenever you feel up to it, as you’ll have less vaginal lubrication than you did when you were pregnant, due to lower levels of estrogen.
    Also do decide beforehand, which method of contraception you want to use as you can get pregnant if you are not nursing. You can also ovulate during nursing and fall pregnant which you don’t want especially after immediately giving birth.
  8. Changes in your breasts
    You will experience breast engorgement as your breasts fill up with milk and they will look like perky melons. But, the downside is that they can also be painful.
    However, once you start breastfeeding, the discomfort should go away.
    But, if you decide not to breastfeed, you may have to bear with the pain till your breasts stop making milk. You can lay warm towels on your breasts and wear a supportive bra for extra support and succour.
    Nipple pain is another bummer. They can become chaffed and painful if you are breastfeeding. Use a nipple cream and always let your breasts air dry after nursing.
  9. Swelling  
    Be prepared for the swelling in your hands, feet and face during pregnancy due to the extra fluids in your body that helped you get ready for labour and birth, to continue postpartum too.
    This swelling takes time to subside after giving birth.
    Manage it by wearing loose clothes, lying on your left side or put your feet up.
  10. Constipation and haemorrhoids
    Haemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins in and around the anus which usually happen in most pregnant women. The bad news is that they can get worse after giving birth. And so can constipation…
    Soaking in a warm bath and using a cream can help relieve pain from haemorrhoids and eat high-fibre foods and drink lots of water to tackle constipation. 
  11. Beauty bummers
    Stretch marks happen in areas where your skin stretched during pregnancy.
    Your hair may also thin out after childbirth.
    You will also have more skin breakouts and may also experience pigmentation on your face due to hormonal changes.
    Your belly will look different too, read hang down a little bit and your belly button will change into a round circle, with a little flap of skin that hangs over the top.
    You will also get pigmentation called ‘linea nigra’ or a preggie line stretching up above your belly button. This does fade eventually and that’s the good news.

The postpartum period lasts for 6 weeks and post this time your body will start to settle down and you may start to feel ‘normal’ again- whatever that means for you. Now, you can officially start having sex, you can also join an exercise class to lose your pregnancy weight and firm up your tummy.

But, all your pregnancy ‘battle scars’ will not go away… You have gone through a major change and with you, your body has also changed. So, wear your postpartum with a smile, and feel beautiful.

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi

Shikha Gandhi is a health journalist and a short film maker. She is also a certified Pranic healer and a lover of long walks.