During antenatal class, there is a lot of focus on childbirth and how to look after your baby afterwards. But, they don’t really tell you what to expect after having a baby, in relation to your body. Pregnancy and birth is an incredible journey that you put your body through. It causes huge strain and you will need to give it lots of time to rest and recover. Immediately after having your baby you will notice several changes, which you were probably not aware of.
Once your placenta has been delivered, you will bleed from your vagina for anytime between 10 days to 3 weeks. At first it will be like a heavy period and it may contain a few clots. If you notice clots larger than a 50 pence piece then notify your midwife. As the days go by your blood loss will reduce and change from bright red, to pink and then brown. If you are changing your pads more frequently than every hour, then you may be bleeding too much, notify your midwife and they can check for you.
You may be expecting that your tummy will go flat after having your baby, unfortunately this is not the case. As your baby feeds, your body produces oxytocin (labour hormone), this will contract your uterus. Each day your midwife will check your uterus to make sure that it is reducing in size. In a few weeks your midwife will not be able to feel your uterus anymore. Even though your uterus has returned to normal, your tummy will take a while to go down. Try doing some gentle core work after 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery, for a caesarian section, you will need to get the all clear from your doctor. You may notice that you have a separation in your abdominal muscles, so talk to a physiotherapist about the best exercises to do.
During pregnancy, you have probably noticed how much bigger your breasts are as they get ready to feed your baby. The first few days after having your baby, you will notice that your baby will feed a lot and this will help your milk come through. Around 48-72 hours, you will notice that your breasts feel hard, sore and full of milk, this can be quite uncomfortable for most women. It is really important at this point to empty your breast by feeding your baby, otherwise it may cause your breasts to become a lot more uncomfortable. If you are struggling to latch your baby then try doing the finger press. Place the flats of your thumbs either side of your nipple, hold for 5 seconds and work your way around the nipple. This will release some milk around your nipple and soften the areola (brown bit around your nipple). Also invest in some cabbage leaves and pop then in the fridge, this will cool your sore, swollen breasts down.
The muscles that support your pelvis are called the pelvic floor muscles. During birth they are stretched to enable the baby to come through. After you have your baby, the pelvic floor muscles need to be strengthen again. Imagine when you have a wee and the muscle that you use to stop yourself mid flow. That is the muscle that you need to strengthen, however don’t do it whilst you are seeing. Draw up that muscle, hold for a few seconds and repeat several times a day. Your body has been through a tremendous journey and now it is time for some rest, recovery and some TLC. Knowing what to expect after having a baby, will give you the knowledge that things are going as you should expect. Enjoy every minute.