Your body after birth: Expectations vs Reality
Let’s get real here. You have grown a baby for the past 9 months, given birth, and now you expect your body to go back to normal straight away, am I right? I know I definitely did and got faced with the harsh reality that it wasn’t that simple, or at least for me. What I saw on Instagram of these postpartum bodies bouncing back so fast vs what I was seeing in the mirror was completely different and so as I reflect on this expectation I had back then, I wondered if there were other women out there just like me, underprepared and had their expectations crushed. So, why not prepare now and find out what does happen to your body after giving birth and what can you do to help it repair and get the bounce back you’re hoping for.
What to expect after you’re expecting
So, we’ve all heard of the saying “what to expect when you’re expecting” but what about what to expect after you’re expecting….It is not like we give birth and then boom, everything goes back to where it should, after all we just grew a human inside our body. So, what is it that we should expect to notice physically once we have given birth and the reason why they occur, some my surprise you!
That’s right, its real! And all due to hormones. We typically lose 100 strands of hair a day, but not during pregnancy. This is because our hormones prevent it, but as they say, nothing lasts forever and once your hormones get back to normal those strands of hair will fall out and it can get a bit clumpy (sorry ladies!). How long will it last? Around 4 - 6 months post birth.
Swollen and bruised vagina
If you’ve had a vaginal birth this one is a killer. Depending on if you had a perineal tear or not, you can expect to feel a bit of discomfort for about 6 weeks, but you got this Mumma! During this time it may be a little tough to sneeze or sit down without the pain heightening, but each passing day the pain will gradually disappear and my tip for the day would be to invest in the perineal ice packs and putting it in your pants every 20 minutes. It is the greatest sense of relief trust me. You will also typically bleed during this period of time as your body works to get rid of the blood and tissue inside your uterus, so stock up on those maternity pads!
Once you have birthed your child your hormones begin to let your breasts know to start producing milk. Prior to this moment it has been producing colostrum. So as your blood flow increases, you will begin to feel quite full, tender and hard in the breasts which can be quite uncomfortable and sometimes painful. This is common in the first week (especially the first 5 days) so have your remedial ice packs ready in your hospital bag because you are going to need them.
If you’ve had a c-section delivery then you can expect to have some scarring below the bikini line. This is due to a procedure of reuniting layers of muscle back together after an incision around 4-6 inches that welcomes your baby into the world. Please do not worry about the scar, it has brought your child into the world safely and you will barely notice it once it is healed. If you want to help reduce it’s appearance you can always use a scar serum to aid in the healing process but please speak to your midwife before you apply anything and make sure it is safe to do so.
Poor posture and back pain can remain post birth due to physiological changes during your pregnancy. Not to mention that you also now will be doing additional tasks like breastfeeding, carrying, pushing and holding your baby with and without equipment, and multitasking non-stop. This leads to physical imbalances and pains which can cause a new mum posture. Below we have some guidance on how to help.
Stomach pooch / saggy
Your tummy will not be flat once you've delivered your baby. It will take up to six weeks for your uterus to go back to it’s original size, so you can expect to see some sagginess in your tummy region during this time. This is a gradual process in your tummy region shrinking back down. You may or may not also see a dark line on your stomach which is known as the Linea Nigra. This is a skin pigmentation caused by the muscles stretching and separating to accommodate for your baby’s growth.
As to be expected, stretch marks are caused by the stretching of your fast-growing body. This can occur on your stomach as well as your thighs and breasts and don’t be alarmed with their colour, purple or white are completely normal to experience and some will naturally fade away over time. If you would like to help protect your skin and support your skin elasticity to prevent stretch marks from forming you can always start using stretch mark oil from trimester two right through into your postpartum period.
Naturally, your body will remove weight from the removal of amniotic fluid, placenta and the weight of your baby before you leave the hospital, (thank goodness!). The extra weight will be fat that has been gained from the pregnancy and can take up to 6 months to lose. Studies do show that some women can hold around an extra 5kg for up to 1 year post birth, so don’t be alarmed if the weight is not coming off fast enough.
What you can do to help your postpartum body bounce back
You have been through a challenging experience, regardless of what pregnancy symptoms you had or not, your body has gone through a trauma, and while all your focus is on your newborn, you do really need to focus on your postpartum recovery. You cannot put a time frame on your recovery and what your body will do naturally will take its course, however there are some things you can do to really support your body’s post pregnancy recovery and some of these are listed below.
Breastfeeding to burn calories
For those ladies who can breastfeed you’re in luck. Breastfeeding can burn up to an extra 500 calories a day while producing breast milk, which can lead to faster weight loss post birth. Not only does it help with burning calories but also assists in helping your uterus contract down by the release of oxytocin.
Exercises for recovery
Kegals are you best friend when it comes to getting your vagina back into shape. It is recommended you do three sets of 20 everyday once you have been cleared by the midwife to start and do so. Another one to help assist with your new mum posture is the Scapular Wall Slides. This exercise is simple and effective to correcting it.
Exercises for fitness
Getting your fitness back and losing the extra weight requires a progressive process and one again to be cleared by your midwife. It is recommended that the first exercises you do are around improving your strength, stability, and coordination again. This entails basic breathing exercises to start with. There are so many great programs out there to get started with at home and one I highly recommend is the KICBUMP Postnatal Program.
The food you eat is so important post birth because it not only will provide you energy you require but also the fuel you need for your new daily activities, like caring for a newborn and breastfeeding. Even though weight loss may be on your mind I cannot stress enough the amount of energy you are going to need at this crucial time. During this postpartum period, focus on filling up on health sources of protein, fruit, vegetables, fibre rich carbohydrates and fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds. And remember, if you are breastfeeding you will require to consume around 2,500 calories per day appose to a non-breastfeeding Mumma of 2,000.
Expectations vs reality
As a new Mumma myself, I had expectations of being snuggled up with my newborn baby, blissfully glowing. Let me tell you that these moment do definitely exist and to be treasured, but they are not what your entire postpartum experience will look and feel like. There will be exhaustion, there will be anxiety, there will be confronting moments and there most certainly will be a whole lot of sleep deprivation, all while you are trying to adapt to your new life as a Mumma and recover at the same time. How do you do it, might you ask… My key learning from this experience has been to “be kind to yourself”. Give yourself time, be as flexible as you need, and have a plan to create a new plan without judging yourself or being disappointed. Don’t be looking at other people and their experiences and measuring up to them. Everyone’s recovery is different just like the birth experience and the pregnancy. You got this Mumma, and we got you too!
Image by @babymoriuk
Thank you for reading the Something for Mumma blog! Do have a topic you’d like us to address or a story you'd like to share? Email us, we’d love to hear from you! And if you’re looking for beautiful, self-care essentials for your postpartum recovery head to our collection today