Get A Glimpse Of What To Expect!

You've spent the last nine months getting used to all the dramatic physical changes that accompany pregnancy. (How's that for an understatement?) But now that you've had your baby, your body has another noteworthy metamorphosis ahead of it as it begins the process of returning to a non-pregnant state. Here's what to expect from your body during the early weeks after the birth.
Ann Douglas

Your uterus: Since the most dramatic physical changes that you'll experience will affect your uterus -- your baby's home for the past nine months -- I figure we might was well give your uterus star billing as we embark on the postpartum body tour. During the postpartum period, your uterus will begin to shrink down to its pre-pregnancy size (a process that is known as "involution"). While this is happening, you'll shed the lining of your uterus -- something that results in the postpartum bleeding known as lochia.

A lot of women are surprised to discover just how heavy this bleeding can be initially and how long this bleeding can last. Recent studies have suggested that most women experience lochia for at least a month after the delivery, and some for as long as six weeks. (The lochia typically tapers down from a bright red flow to a lighter pinkish discharge around the third to 10th day postpartum to an almost colorless, odorless discharge sometime after the 10th day postpartum. So don't worry that you're destined to experience period-like bleeding for the full six weeks. That's not the norm.)

Your belly: You can expect to look approximately five months pregnant about a week after the birth -- great news, if no longer being nine months pregnant leaves you feeling wonderfully svelte, but bad news if you were counting on having supermodel-like abs by now. (Hey, cut yourself some slack: Even the supermodels have pot bellies at this stage of the game.)

And while you're checking out your belly, you may notice a few stretch marks on the underside of your belly or on your upper thighs. While your stretch marks are likely to be crayon red at this stage of the game, they'll eventually fade to silver and will hardly be noticeable at all. (If they don't fade as much as you'd like, you can talk to a dermatologist about ways of reducing their appearance. Or you can simply choose to look at them in an entirely different way and treat them as pregnancy souvenirs!)

Your breasts: While we're talking major bodily changes, let's zero in on some of the changes you may be noticing in the breast department. If you gave birth in the past few days, you may be experiencing a period of temporary engorgement when your breasts become flushed, swollen, and full of breastmilk. This typically happens approximately one to two days after the birth and eases up once baby gets into the swing of nursing. In the meantime, you can ease your discomfort by expressing small amounts of milk (either manually or using a breast pump). Note: You don't want to express too much milk or you'll end up stimulating your breasts to produce even more milk -- something that will only add to your engorgement woes.

Your perineum: If you gave birth vaginally, you're likely to experience some perineal tenderness -- the result of bruising, tearing, or the need for an episiotomy (a surgical incision which increases the size of the vaginal opening to make it easier for the baby to be born). This can make it difficult to find a comfortable sitting position, and it can make urinating downright painful. While you're waiting for the stitches from your tear or your episiotomy to heal, you can minimize your discomfort by getting in the habit of squeezing your buttocks together as you sit down and by applying heat or cold to your perineum. (You may have to experiment a little to find out which provides the greatest relief).

Your urinary system: You may find that you have difficulty urinating during the early days after the birth. This can be caused by a low fluid intake prior to and during labor; an excessive loss of fluids during labour; bruising to the bladder or the urethra during the delivery; the effects of drugs and anesthesia during the delivery; perineal pain that can cause reflex spasms in the urethra; and a fear of urinating on your oh-so-tender perineum. (Ouch!)

The best way to deal with the problem is to up your fluid intake, to alternately release and contract your pelvic floor muscles as you sit on the toilet, or to pour water across your perineum while you urinate (use a squirt bottle or a bowl). Some women have difficulty with constipation as well -- the result of both the lack of food during labor and temporarily decreased muscle tone in your intestines. Increasing your intake of fiber and water and trying to work some physical activity into your daily routine will usually take care of the problem.

Tags: body

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