My dear, every woman’s body changes during and after pregnancy, and these changes occur in the physical body structure as well as in the internal structures. This statement often gives me goosebumps whenever I visit my matron during pregnancy. Then, she will try to keep me calm by saying while there are very few changes that cause worries, there are largely expected normal changes that every woman should anticipate and not worry about. She would sometimes say that changes in the body after pregnancy varies from individual to individual depending on one’s body chemistry. Whilst some women may experience all of the body changes in severe cases, some may experience few and in mild cases.
Having said all this, my anxiety goes away. Now that I am a mother of two healthy boys and have gone through two different modes of delivery (cesarean section and vaginal delivery) I will like to take you through the body changes you should expect after birth, what to do and when to consult your midwife, health visitor or hospital.
- Protruded stomach
Virtually every woman will have a protruding tummy which looks like they are still pregnant after birth. This is so largely because the muscles have stretched during pregnancy and it will take time and perhaps frequent exercises before it will return to the way it was before pregnancy. However, certain measures can be adopted to help fast track the reduction of the tummy.
- Exclusive breastfeeding of the baby can help the mother reduce her tummy as it burns calories and also causes contractions that shrink the stretched womb during pregnancy and birth
- Engaging in postnatal exercise can also help to firm up the pelvic floor and muscles which have been stretched during pregnancy and birth
- More importantly, eating fruits and healthy balanced diet meals helps a lot.
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However, in a case where your tummy muscles become separated while pregnant and do not return to normal while the baby is around eight weeks old, it is important to speak to your GP in order to be referred to a physiotherapist.
- Bloody Discharge
Either you give birth by caesarean section or vaginally, it is normal for every woman to experience bloody discharge from the vagina after birth. This discharge is called lochia and it typically lasts for about 24 to 36 days after birth. The blood is red and heavy like a period flow for the first 10 days after birth and later becomes brownish and further yellowish. A breastfeeding mother will experience redder and heavier blood discharge because the womb contracts quickly while breastfeeding.
As I said, bloody discharge is a normal experience after birth and need not create any unnecessary panic or anxiety. Indeed, taking enough rest will help lighter the lochia
- Pains and contractions after birth
These pains are commonly referred to as after pains and they are normal. After birth, the hormone oxytocin which caused your uterus to cramp and begin labour will be working to help your uterus become firm. When this contraction is happening, the mother feels pain in the lower abdomen.
After pains are usually strongest in the first few days after birth and last for about a week. It is important to note that these pains are mild during the first birth and become stronger with subsequent births, multiple births, and of course larger babies. This is because the uterus may have become more stretched with subsequent pregnancies and so the hormone oxytocin is working harder to make the uterus firm and shrink back to its normal size before pregnancy.
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A good thing to realize is that these pains can be managed by applying the following processes.
- Try to lay your stomach on a soft pillow if you have a vagina delivery. If you on the other went through a caesarean section, it is more comfortable lying on your side.
- Also, drinking and releasing more fluid will help because cramping becomes worse with a full bladder.
- Take enough rest when the baby is asleep or not disturbing
- Use pain medications preferably ibuprofen.
If, however, any of these measures do not provide enough relief, please do consult your health giver for better prescriptions.
- Leaking wee
The pelvic floor which supports the pelvic organs (womb, bladder, vagina and bowels) becomes stretched during pregnancy and birth as a result of the weight of the baby as well as pressure from efforts of the labor. Thus, if not properly managed, a weakened or damaged pelvic floor may result in leaking wee after birth.
Basically, engaging in pelvic floor exercise more often (daily is recommended) will help you to regain control over your bladder and bowel after birth and thus provide more comfort in urinating and pooing.
- Menstruation after birth
If the mother is breastfeeding, the regular monthly blood flows do not usually return for about 24 weeks or six months after birth. Although ovulation is unusual before the 20th week after birth, about 2 percent of lactating women ovulate before this time and pregnancy rarely occur during this time. However, if you are one of the modern mothers who do not breastfeed for more than three months, you will be at greater risk of pregnancy as your menstruation and ovulation will have begun earlier after birth.
However, if you experience early menstrual period after birth, do not panic you are in my group. It does not necessarily determine your vulnerability to pregnancy.
- Sexual relationships after birth
A woman’s desire to engage in any sexual activity after birth is subject to a number of factors. While some women have potentially reduced sexual desire in the process of adjusting to parenthood just like me, some due to painful episiotomy scar or vaginally irritation have lost desire or arousal in sexual intercourse
However, sexual intercourse can be resumed whenever the woman feels comfortable with sex and she finds it pleasurable
- The breast
After birth, the mother’s breast will be fairly soft and at first produce what is known as colostrums (first milk). Colostrums are thick, sticky, and yellowish. It is highly concentrated in nutrients and antibodies that help to protect your baby from infection.
The production of colostrums from your breast only lasts for about two to three days after birth, and afterward, your breasts will begin to produce milk and thus may become engorged and tender. The engorgement of the breast is a result of more blood flow to your breast adding to the fullness of the breast that sometimes your nipples may stretch flat.
These changes in the breast are perfectly normal as it is a sign of reassuring that you are producing enough milk for the feeding of your baby. The fullness usually eases for as long much as your baby is feeding well so you have nothing to worry about. However, if your nipples are hard, hot, and painfully tight, this is not normal. This occurs as a result of not been able to breastfeed your baby in the first two to three days or the baby breastfeed less often, having extra fluid in your breasts or just because your breasts were usually swollen and painful before pregnancy.
The only way to ease your engorged breasts is to reduce the quantity of milk in your breasts through breastfeeding. If, however, your breasts stay engorged despite the measure, consult your midwife or health visitor as soon as you can for expressing your breast as well as feeding.
Indeed, other changes may occur in the body after pregnancy that is not identified in the listing above. Mothers in the house, I am certain some of you might have experienced what slightly differs from the ones highlighted, so we would be glad to share and learn from your experiences as well.
Thank you for reading.