What happens to your body after giving birth
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ll know just how much of a toll growing your beautiful baby takes on your body. There’s no getting around it, your body will change, and although it’s totally worth it, many of these changes may cause you some difficulty, especially in the first couple of months after the birth.
If you are prepared for these changes, they won’t hit you so hard and you’ll be better able to manage them, which is why I’ve put together a list if some of the most common health issues experienced post-pregnancy and what you can do about them:
Perineum soreness must be one of the most common health problems for women who’ve recently given birth. The perineum is the part of your body that runs between the vagina and rectum, and you can bet it will be stretched to its limits when you’re giving birth. Less often, the perineum might get torn up. Either way, it’s going to be sore for a while. But don’t, worry because there are several things you can do to soothe the pain and ensure that you heal as quickly as possible.
If you only do one thing to help your perineum soreness, do your pelvic floor exercises. These will strengthen your pelvic muscles, which will strengthen the perineum and help it to heal. It will also help to prevent another mummy problem –incontinence.
Other things that will help include applying an ice pack to the area, sitting on a pillow and always wiping from front to back to avoid infections in the area, especially if it has been torn or an episiotomy has been performed. You might also want to take some painkillers if it gets bad.
Afterbirth pains are basically cramps that occur as your uterus starts contracting back to its original pre-pregnancy size. For most women, they aren’t too painful, but they can cause a lot of discomfort in the days immediately after giving birth.
If you feel these pains, it’s always a good idea to force yourself to go to the toilet, even if you don’t feel like you need to pee because when your bladder is full, it displaces the uterus, making it more painful.
Some women find that having the area massaged really helps to relieve the cramps, and others find that lying face down on a comfy body pillow helps with the worst of it. In terms of medication, taking Ibuprofen as directed will help by reducing inflammation in the area.
If your baby was delivered by Caesarean section, there are no two ways about it, you are going to be in pain for a few weeks after the birth, but your doctor will be able to provide you with pain medication if you need it. You may be able to use over-the-counter medication, but you should not do so without first checking with your physician.
Because you lose a lot of blood during this procedure, you’re likely to feel extremely fatigued after a Caesarean and the best thing for this is to rest as much as possible. I know that isn’t easy with a newborn baby to care for, but ask friends and family for help.
You should also avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity for at least a couple of months after having a Caesarean, just to be on the safe side and ensure that you don’t damage yourself.
A vaginal discharge known as lochia is likely after giving birth, and it can be quite scary because it often contains blood clots and body tissue, but you shouldn’t worry because it isn’t usually a problem. Just use some chunky sanitary towels until the problem heals up and maintain good levels of hygiene down there.
Incontinence or Urinary Problems
Giving birth puts a lot of stress on the pelvic area, so it isn’t surprising that a lot of women experience urinary problems in the weeks after having a baby. Luckily, in most cases, any problems such as burning sensations when you pee, feeling the need to pee but not being able to do so and worst of all peeing yourself, go away after a short while, but for some women, they persist much longer and can become a bigger issue. Either way, it’s important that you do the pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles and give you back more control. You’ll also want to invest in continence care products to keep you comfortable and contain the problem, so you don’t have to deal with embarrassing accidents.
If incontinence persists, you should probably pay a visit to your doctor, because it may be that you need further treatment to correct the problem.
Giving birth is extremely taxing on the body, so it’s only natural that you may feel more sluggish and fatigued than usual in the first few weeks after giving birth, especially when you take into account that you have a brand new baby to watch around the clock. So, it’s important now, more than ever that you take good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals. If you lost a lot of blood during the birth, and you most likely did, your iron levels might be low, and that could also be contributing to your fatigue, so adding iron rich foods like spinach to your diet will probably help too, as will napping whenever your baby naps, for the first month at least.
When you’ve had a baby, your breasts will start filling with milk to feed your little bundle of joy. Unfortunately, the swelling that ensures can be quite painful. In most cases, this pain will dissipate as soon as you start feeding your baby, but if you’re not breastfeeding it could stick around until your breasts stop producing milk.
To make it less painful, you can take lots of warm showers or place a warm towel on the area. You should also wear a sports bra if you aren’t breastfeeding, as this will offer you a greater level of support.
As well as sore and swollen breasts, you might experience painful nipples if you’re a breastfeeding mom, particularly in the early days of breastfeeding when you’re not used to it.
If you do plan to breastfeed, you’ll want to stock up on nipple creams, allow your breasts to air dry, rather than rubbing them with a towel and wear nipple shields to stop them chafing against your clothes, if possible.
You might think that pregnancy swelling will go away once you’ve given birth, but that isn’t always the case, and your hands, feet, and legs can stay uncomfortably swollen for a little while after the birth.
There isn’t too much you can do about this, but you can look after your body and make yourself more comfortable by putting your feet up as much as possible lying on your side and wearing loose clothes that won’t lead to discomfort.
Haemorrhoids - those painful swollen veins that hang around the anus and cause discomfort and embarrassment. We all hate them, but most pregnant women have had at least one, and they often hang around long after you’ve met your baby, often getting worse post-birth than they were before.
Dealing with haemorrhoids can be tricky, but using a cream or spray you can buy at the pharmacy is a good way to tackle them, as is soaking the affected area in a hot bath. It’s also a very good idea to up your fibre intake, so that bowel movements are easier and don’t make the problem worse.
Excess weight is probably one of the least troubling body issues to have when you’ve just given birth, and you shouldn’t feel compelled to start dieting the second you get out of the hospital.
But, if you find the extra weight you’re carrying to be uncomfortable unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you should be able to get some light exercise. Pushing your baby around the block, eating plenty of healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains and breastfeeding will all help you to lose the weight in a healthy way.
Constipation is a common post-birth problem, and although it’s not normally serious, it can be painful, and it’s always annoying. Luckily, managing constipation is pretty simple.
All you have to do is up your water and fibre intake and possibly talk to your doctor about suitable constipation medicines. Exercise is also great to get things moving, so a walk around the block with your newborn is a great idea when you feel ready.
If your hair starts to thin post-pregnancy, do not panic. Start eating more nutritious food, treat your hair very cautiously and only style with the cool setting on your hairdryer. It will usually sort itself out in a few weeks.
Lots of pregnancy guides tend to focus on the birth and the preparation for labour, but they forget about what happens after. I was totally unprepared for what happened after I had the baby and thought the worse was over, so was a little shocked in the weeks that followed! I wish someone had filled me in on all the horribleness after the birth. But just remember ‘this too shall pass’ and before you know it all the above will be a distant memory.