7 Ways Your Body Changes After You Give Birth
You’re pregnant and fully prepared to care for your precious baby. But there’s someone else you need to nurture after you give birth—yourself.
To take good care of yourself, it’s important to understand the changes your body goes through after childbirth:
1. You’re sore. The perineum, the area between the vagina and rectum, may feel sore after birth, especially if you had an episiotomy (cutting of the vagina’s opening to help deliver the baby). For comfort, place a cold pack on your perineum, sit on a pillow, or soak in a warm bath. You may also feel cramping as your uterus shrinks, but that should stop after several days. If you had a cesarean section, your belly incision may be tender. Ask your health care provider which over-the-counter pain medication is best.
2. You’re noticing discharge. You may notice a vaginal discharge called lochia for up to a month after birth. It’s your body’s way of eliminating blood and tissue from your uterus, so use a sanitary pad until it stops.
3. You’re swollen. After delivery, your breasts will swell as they fill with milk, so place a warm compress on them for relief. Breast-feeding your baby will help decrease the tenderness. Any swelling in your hands, feet, or face during pregnancy may also take time to diminish.
4. You’re tired. For many new mothers, blood loss during birth and nonstop caring for baby contribute to exhaustion. Nap when you can, limit visits from family and friends, and eat healthy to stay strong.
5. You’re having bathroom issues. After childbirth, you may experience incontinence. Ask your doctor about Kegel exercises to strengthen your bladder muscles. You may also feel constipated or develop hemorrhoids after birth, so drink plenty of water, eat high fiber foods, avoid straining during bowel movements, and ask your health care provider about over-the-counter creams to ease discomfort.
6. You’re feeling sad. If you feel down in the dumps in the days following delivery, that’s normal. But if these feelings last more than a few weeks, it’s vital to seek care from your doctor immediately. You may have postpartum depression.
7. You’re experiencing other changes. After birth, you may notice other bodily changes, such as thinning hair or stretch marks. Although every woman is different, these are natural occurrences, so don’t hesitate to discuss them with your health care provider.
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