Your body and wellbeing after giving birth to your baby.
As soon as your baby is born your body will start to return to normal but this won’t happen overnight. You are likely to experience a number of postnatal discomforts in the weeks after the birth and it’s important to seek medical help if you are concerned.
How you will look after giving birth
Despite having lost the combined weight of the baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid you will be heavier than you were before you became pregnant.
Your uterus takes a while to shrink down so you may still look pregnant, while slack muscles and stretched skin can make your tummy feel a bit like jelly.
You will probably lose some weight quite quickly in the first days after the birth as the excess water you carried in late pregnancy is expelled from your body, and your uterus gets smaller, but then you are likely to find that any weight loss slows down.
It’s worth remembering that it takes nine months to make a baby and it can take around the same amount of time to get your body back into shape afterwards.
You can help yourself by eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing some gentle postnatal exercise such as walking with the pram. Do remember that your body needs time to recover, so take things gently until you have had your postnatal check.
How you will feel after giving birth
Some women are happy and elated after giving birth; others have a sense of anticlimax and may even feel slightly depressed and guilty about not being as happy as they expected to be.
Having a baby changes your life so it’s perfectly normal to experience a mixture of emotions at this time. Any negative feelings you have may be caused by the ‘baby blues’, which often affect women three to five days after giving birth.
You may find yourself feeling weepy and emotional, even miserable, for no apparent reason. This is partly due to your hormone levels lowering and often coincides with your breast milk coming in.
Usually these feelings only last for a short time but should you find your low mood persists or worsens, it’s important to talk to your GP or health visitor who will be able to assess whether you are suffering from postnatal depression (PND).
Bleeding after giving birth
As your uterus heals, you will experience a discharge, this can last for as long as six weeks. Known as lochia, it starts as bright red and can be heavier than a period for a few days before gradually changing to a brownish colour as it eases off.
Your maternity pad should be changed frequently and you should wash your hands before and after changing the pads.
If you notice the discharge getting heavier rather than lighter, you pass any large clots, you develop tummy pains or it becomes smelly or you start to feel feverish and unwell, contact your midwife or GP immediately.
Will I need stitches after having my baby?
If you’ve had stitches after tearing or an episiotomy you will probably find sitting uncomfortable and it may sting when you go to the loo.
Drink plenty of water to dilute your urine and pouring cool water between your legs when you pass urine will help to reduce any stinging.
Painkillers will make you more comfortable, but make sure you check that they are all right to take if you are breastfeeding. You may want to consider using a special cushion or a cooling gel pack.
The area needs to be kept clean so have a warm bath every day and then make sure that you dry yourself thoroughly with a soft towel.
Stitches usually dissolve within a couple of weeks and you may notice little stitch knots on your maternity pads, but if the pain becomes worse or you feel unwell contact your midwife or GP.
Although you may not feel like doing them, pelvic floor exercises will help to reduce swelling and speed up healing around your perineum. Do these by tightening up the back passage as if stopping yourself passing wind, then bring the contraction round to the front as if stopping yourself from passing urine – you should be able to feel the muscles tighten and lift. Build up to holding each squeeze for the count of 10 and repeat 10 times, three to four times a day.
If you’re rhesus negative and your baby is rhesus positive you will be given an anti-D immunoglobulin injection within 72 hours of birth.
Group A Strep bacteria can cause serious genital tract infection in postnatal women. To avoid the risk of this type of infection you need to pay particular attention to personal hygiene and make sure that you always wash your hands before and after going to the toilet and after changing maternity pads. If you develop a sore throat, fever lower abdominal pain or feel generally unwell seek urgent advice from your GP.
You may feel cramp-like pains, a bit like mild contractions, as your uterus gradually returns to its normal size.
These pains often become stronger when you are breastfeeding as this helps to stimulate the uterus to contract. These pains are likely to be more uncomfortable if you are a second-time mum.
These often occur after delivery, but disappear within a few days without causing any real problem.
It’s important not to push or strain when you go to the loo because this can make piles worse, so make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and whole grains to avoid constipation.
Leaking small amounts of urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze is very common after having a baby. This is because the pelvic floor muscles, which support your uterus, bladder and bowel, become stretched during pregnancy and birth. This form of incontinence may last for a few weeks or even months, rarely it can become a long-term problem.
You can regain bladder control by doing pelvic floor exercises. If you are still experiencing leaks at your postnatal check be sure to tell your GP, midwife or health visitor who will be able to suggest ways of overcoming the problem.
Your postnatal check
Six-eight weeks after having your baby you will be offered a postnatal appointment.
Don’t miss this – it’s important, as it is a check to make sure that you are physically and emotionally well. It is a great opportunity to review your pregnancy and birth and to discuss any problems you may have had. Some conditions that occur during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, require follow up checks so these can be organized now. This is also a good opportunity for you to discuss contraception if you haven’t already done so.
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