Why is there such a mystery surrounding what happens in the days and weeks after giving birth?
Everyone solemnly warns you or gleefully tells you about how you’ll be super super tired, which of course, goes without saying, because this isn’t the kind of tired that you feel after partying all night, or pulling an all-nighter studying. This kind of tired makes you feel like you’re made of lead. There will also be heaps of talk about the baby – what to expect, what to look out for etc. But there are a few things about what happens to you, that people don’t seem to discuss so freely and many new mums can feel isolated or worried that what’s happening to them may not be normal, but usually, it is totally normal & these 7 issues will happen to every recently post-partum woman.
- You will be super sore – whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, you will feel incredibly sore. You will usually be offered pain killers. If the soreness persists for longer than a week or so, please talk to your midwife or GP. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to check you out. If you are breastfeeding, you may also experience mild uterine cramps as you feed, again, this is normal and it is to do with the hormone oxytocin, but if in doubt, do ask.
- You will bleeeeeed – this blood, called lochia, can be alarming to first time mums. You will usually bleed for up to 6 weeks, and it will get lighter as the weeks progress. Use maternity pads and then sanitary towels, frequently changed, to help to deal with it. Remember not to use tampons, as they may increase your risk of infection. If you experience any large clots (bigger than a 50p coin) or your bleeding becomes heavier, you should check in with your health care professional.
- You will develop a new appreciation for using the toilet – if you had any vaginal tearing or an episiotomy, the area that has stitches will burn when urine touches it. Leaning forwards, or holding toilet tissue against the area whilst weeing will help to prevent the sting. Whether you had a csection or a vaginal birth, pooping will be your new milestone of freedom. Most hospitals will want to know that you have managed to wee and poo before leaving. If you see any prunes at the breakfast bar, eat them! The more high fibre and poo friendly foods you can eat, the better – these will make your poos softer and easier to pass. You won’t want to be constipated and pushing out poo whilst you have a sore tummy or vagina. You may be offered a laxative if you are having trouble.
- You will have a really soft tummy – you’ll be amazed by how soft and squashy your tummy feels now it is empty. If you have had a c-section, you will have a very tender area at the bottom of your new soft tummy. This will subside in the next few weeks and months, as your tummy begins to shrink, heal and change. Keeping really well hydrated and eating good sources of protein will help your skin (and your insides) to heal faster.
- You will find yourself crying then laughing then crying then laughing – your body will be absolutely rammed full of hormones, all shaken up into a cocktail that will have you full of love one minute, then crying and sad the next. This is totally normal and, whilst it might feel a bit strange, it will pass within a week or so. However, if you do begin to feel the blues for longer, or if you worry that you are feeling detached from your baby, or your life, please seek help from family, friends or your health visitor or GP. No one will judge you, and there are so many ways that you can be supported until you feel more in control.
- Your hair will fall out faster than a dog in the summer – this is such a weird one. Remember how beautiful, thick, full and shiny your hair became during pregnancy?! Sorry, nature would like that back. As alarming as handfuls of hair in the shower, in your brush, on your pillow will look, it absolutely happens to us all and you won’t end up bald! If you are breastfeeding, your extra hormones might let you keep your lustrous pregnancy hair for slightly longer.
- Your boobs will do strange things – after giving birth, your body experiences a sudden drop in progesterone, which, in combination with other hormones – namely prolactin – encourages the production of milk. Whether you have chosen to breastfeed or not, your body gets going. First off, your nipples will leak a golden yellow creamy substance, called colostrum – this is super high in fat and nutrients and is produced in very small amounts. A couple of days post birth, you may develop a slight fever, often called milk fever and this is when the milk arrives and your boobs will rival those of the plastic glamour models of the Naughties’ Page 3 era. They’ll be quite hard and uncomfortable. Cold compresses, loose fitting bras or no bra and apparently cold cabbage leaves (I say apparently, I went with a cool flannel!) will soothe them. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, this stage will pass and your breasts will soon return to some normality. If they don’t, and if your fever persists, you should talk with a healthcare professional.
With all of this going on with your body, you’ll need to take care of yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself or your new body. Some new mums will want to jump right back in to their normal routines and some may want to curl up in a blanket for a month. There is no right or wrong way to go about your postpartum time, but the key is to listen to your body.
When returning to exercise after birth, it is so important to ease in gently, even if you were very active prior to and during pregnancy. Your body has been through a lot and it needs time to recover and mend.
If you choose to work with a fitness professional after having a baby, you should make sure that they are aware that your are recently postpartum and ensure that they are suitably qualified to work with you. They should carry out an assessment before you start any training or classes to make sure your body is ready to take part in the program. Don’t take any chances with your body at this pivotal moment in your life.
You can be sure that if you train with me at any stage of your pregnancy or postpartum journey, that I will properly assess you and prescribe only the correct exercises for your body and abilities. My “New Mum” short course is perfect for you.
As always, if you have any questions, let me know!