I’ve Made It Through Labor: What’s Next?
Expectant mothers often spend lots of time researching what to expect during their pregnancy, but what about after the baby is born? After delivery, a new mom’s body can seem just as mysterious and strange to her as it did in the early days of pregnancy. Anticipating these changes eases the transition into parenthood.
Physical Changes Begin Immediately
Just as early pregnancy cause many rapid changes, so does delivery. As soon as labor is over, your body begins to return to its pre-pregnancy state:
- The uterus begins to contract and return to its normal size. These contractions sometimes continue for up to a week after the birth, and can cause some abdominal discomfort. Many women find that a warm compress or heating pad soothe the pain.
- Hormone levels adjust. In the matter of a few days, progesterone and estrogen levels can vary by up to 90%. These drastic fluctuations may cause mood swings or sadness. If these feelings last more than a short time, contact your physician.
- If the skin developed blotches or other discoloration, these usually go away relatively soon after delivery. Other differences in complexion also usually disappear as hormones level out.
Labor Brings Its Own Changes
Meanwhile some body changes may occur as a result of the delivery itself. Knowing what to expect can help new mothers prepare for the physical changes:
- Starting during labor, the uterus will begin to shed its lining, called lochia. The entire process should be complete by the six-week postpartum checkup. The lochia will lighten in color and volume as time passes.
- Delivery causes aches and pains throughout the body, but especially in the back.
- Breasts may continue to enlarge. After birth, they will secrete colostrum, a thick, yellow milk that’s filled with nutrients for the newborn. Breasts may feel sore, but a supportive bra and cold compresses can help.
- Women who breastfeed will note a marked increase in appetite. It’s important to eat nutrient-rich foods that are not high in fat or sugar. On average, breastfeeding mothers need about 500 extra calories per day.
- The baby tummy often takes four to five months to go away, depending on the rate at which the uterus shrinks and the state of abdominal muscles pre-pregnancy. It can be tempting to jump right on the treadmill, but consult a doctor before starting any postpartum workout routine.
A qualified obstetrician can help you prepare for delivery and the physical changes that come with every stage of motherhood. If you’d like more information about pregnancy, call Consult-a-Nurse® at 1-800-382-3522 to speak with a registered nurse for free, or get a free physician referral.