When I thought body discomfort with getting pregnant, my first (and only) thought was labor, right?
Like I know labor is painful.
Well, I also learned that pregnancy was no vacation either, but NO ONE told me about the torture boot camp that is post-partum (probably because no one wants to talk about it or remember 😳).
The point of this isn’t to scare you but to inform and prepare you so that you don’t feel more overwhelmed in those first few weeks.
Here are 11 things that can happen with your post-pregnancy body (vaginal birth EDITION), and my tips on coping with them:
**Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to replace professional inquiry or advice and is only based on experience and third-party instruction. Talk to your doctor if you experience anything out of the normal and/or are concerned about something you’re experiencing.**
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1. Peeing hurts!
I hope you didn’t expect to deliver a little human through your lady parts without any damage along the way.
Some are blessed to not tear as much, but others, ✊🏻 your strength inspires us!
It doesn’t matter whether you get stitches or not, it still stings!
So, here is what helped me…
Here is a list of things I used, per my nurse’s advice.
These were all supplied to me by the hospital so ask in advance before spending any of your own money.
Drink lots and lots of water!
The more water you drink, the less acidic your urine.
Also, read up on which foods can reduce the acidity of your urine.
Less acidic, less sting.
As a bonus, I also wanted to add this.
This was my routine when it came to post-partum vaginal recovery and repair.
Fill your peri bottle with luke-warm water and then rinse down the vaginal area.
I would do this while I would pee and afterward.
Spray some Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray directly at the vaginal area as much as needed to alleviate pain.
2. ..and so do bowel movements!!
Going #2 is even more of a challenge, especially if you were like me and pushing for 2 hours.
It is honestly worse than going #1.
I’m sure you can guess why after straining those muscles for such an extended period of time, I don’t have to say any more than that.
Here’s how I coped…
At this point, eating foods with fiber is essential since you’ll probably feel very constipated.
I was prescribed stool softeners at the hospital, so I definitely used those when the going got tough!
You should try to avoid foods that make it harder to use the restroom.
This would include foods on the BRAT (bananas, rice, apples, toast) diet (I know because I had to eat only these when I had the stomach flu and my bowels were way too fluid!).
3. Sitting is painful.
This one is self-explanatory considering the previous two (additionally, some even get hemorrhoids!), but a huge issue since of your time post-partum is spent on your bum (especially if you’re nursing).
Here are some things that helped me…
Just as with the constipation medication, you will have the option to have pain medication prescribed.
Be aware that some medications can cross into breast milk, so ask your doctor if you will be breastfeeding.
I cannot stress enough how much both the TUCKS witch hazel pads and the Dermoplast anesthetic spray helped sooth and cool all the burning pain.
I don’t know how I would have survived those first few weeks without them!
You want to try to avoid applying any unnecessary pressure on your lady parts, as much as possible.
You could lay down instead or sit with knees propped up (if you can).
Before giving birth my breasts had grown a little bit, but, once I delivered, the girls surprised me with how quickly they inflated!
Just don’t get too carried away being these melons got a mind of their own and they require extra care and attention… especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Here are just a few tips in regards to preventing mastitis (this is what happens when you don’t empty out your milk and your breasts become like rocks and extremely painful to the touch, so watch out!!), keeping your supply, and preventing leaky and cracked nipples (PS I will have more detailed posts on breastfeeding specifically, in the future, so be on the lookout for those!)…
As soon as you can and as often as you can (especially when your breasts ever feel hard to the touch!).
Also, pumping helps increase your milk supply… more on pumping soon to come!
Try to use nipple cream after every feeding for the first month or until latching is established.
You’re better off being safe than sorry!
Also, avoid lanolin-based creams as they’re more prone to cause thrush.
While nipple creams help, damage still occurs.
That is where nipple shields and (my favorite!) Lansinoh Soothies come in handy. Nursing pads are also essential in that they help protect your precious clothes against milk stains when you leak.
Getting this right with your little one will make a difference of night and day for your nipples (and for your success in breastfeeding).
It isn’t always an immediate and natural success and you will have to put in a lot of effort into helping your baby learn this technique (especially if they are tongue or lip tied).
5. I thought I was done having contractions!?
Yes, I am sorry to say that sadly contractions don’t immediately disappear after you deliver your baby.
Your uterus still has to get back into its original form as soon as possible and the way it does so is with contractions.
These typically occur when you breastfeed or pump and they hurt!
However, they quickly go away once your uterus has completely shrunk.
Here are the things that helped me…
More specifically, get comfortable while breastfeeding or pumping.
At least this is what helped me a little.
At the hospital, they offer heat packs to help ease the pain of uterine contractions.
These helped as well!
This is where pain medications also come in.
Again, make sure to talk to your doctor first, if you plan on breastfeeding!
6. Your core is out of whack.
I noticed this once after getting out of bed and walking a few steps.
Since your uterus is still contracting back to its normal size and since your abs might have shifted due to pregnancy (a condition known as Diastasis Recti), it really feels like gravity is pulling down on your insides!
Here are things I did you help ease the discomfort and improve my core…
So the waist belt I had carelessly purchased turned out to be one of the greatest savers in my misery.
The moment I put it on I felt my stomach get somewhat back into some normal form.
It does take time and commitment, though, and I really struggled with putting on my belts after 2 months.
Eating a healthy diet will also help get your core looking and feeling as close to how it was as possible.
Additionally, it will help prevent any additional abdominal discomfort (so avoid heavy fried foods as much as possible).
This is one of those that will require that you first get the ok from your doctor at your 6-week postpartum checkup (just to be safe).
If you have Diastasis Recti then there are certain exercises that could actually cause more harm to your core (like crunches), so definitely ask your doctor to find out if you fall into that category.
7. Stretch marks aren’t only reserved for during pregnancy.
By some miracle, the only place I got any stretch marks was my breasts.
I was relieved since they didn’t look too bad, that is until I delivered and then the bulk growth and stretching occurred.
I was horrified! I didn’t realize that would happen and really wish I knew in advance so that I could somewhat prevent it from getting as bad as it did.
Here is what I wish I had done…
Pumping is painful and it stretches your breasts, which can cause stretch marks, so slathering on something like coconut oil BEFORE pumping can really make the difference.
Another thing that would have helped it to actually continue using stretch mark preventative oils/creams.
At the end of the day, though, it’s important to understand that stretch marks are a NORMAL coping mechanism in response to rapid growth, and EVERYONE is prone to them one way or another (some skin types more so than others).
So don’t worry too much like I did, those, girlfriend, are your momma stripes and you earned them so don’t be ashamed of them!
They are our solidarity ✊🏻!
8. Weight loss takes time.
I went through pregnancy with everyone telling me to not worry about weight because “you’ll lose it all anyway!”
But once you deliver and you start questioning the same people about “losing it”, they all of a sudden start saying things like, “well not all lose their baby weight” and “it might take years”.
Thought you said it would be fast, especially since I’m exclusively breastfeeding.
Well, sort of.
See, this is what I misunderstood so listen carefully before you make the mistakes I did.
The reason you lose weight is that you consume fewer calories than is burned with breastfeeding, that is an extra 500 calories on top of your normal calorie count.
Sounds like a lot, but remember, you will also be very hungry because of breastfeeding.
In my case, I ended up staying at 20 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight for the first 6 weeks, frustrated because I wasn’t moving (long story for another day, I was told I needed to eat fatter food to produce fatter milk… not necessarily true, but some swear by it, so as a consequence I easily overate my calorie count!).
Once I changed my habit, while still eating (you still need calories to produce milk), I dropped 5 pounds in a week!
Overall, it takes time, so patience is key!
In the meantime, here’s what you can do to spread things up…
This is definitely number one, what you eat has a tremendous effect on the amount of time it takes to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, so avoid fast foods (which are super tempting since you’ll have zero to no time to actually cook).
Also, try to eat a healthy and filling breakfast as it will keep you going without overeating later on in the day (eating after 8PM has a HUGE impact on weight gain, at least that is something very true in my case, probably due to underestimating my calorie intake).
Snacking wisely is also a big one because you will be munching on little things a lot so make sure they aren’t sugary or salty empty calories!
Drink lots of water!
Not only will this help with your breast milk supply, but it will also get you to check if you are actually hungry.
Breastfeeding makes you extremely thirsty, and it is easy to confuse that feeling with being hungry (I’m not even over-exaggerating).
Again, first get the ok from your doctor before you start.
Once you do, it might be difficult to get some off to go to the gym, so turn caring for baby into a workout.
You could squat or do lunges while you carry the baby, do glute squeezing exercises while you nurse or just put the baby in a stroller and go for a power walk.
The possibilities are endless!
Try to get as much rest as possible (I know it sounds impossible but you might have to do the whole “baby sleeps, mommy sleeps”, if you can, and forget about housework just until baby starts sleeping better at night).
Lack of sleep could result in excessive eating.
9. Perspiration is REAL.
I didn’t know much about this one, but it is quite common.
According to a study, 29% of women experienced hot flashes post-delivery.
I noticed a considerable amount of perspiration immediately once I started to exclusively breastfeed.
I didn’t know if it was the close contact with baby, but I was sweating lots!
Turns out that there is a reasonable explanation for this.
After delivery, the hormones in your body adjust to you not being pregnant anymore.
It is the low levels of estrogen throughout this period that contribute to changes in body temperature resulting in perspiration.
Additionally, post-partum sweating facilitates the loss of fluid accumulated during pregnancy.
In other words, you are sweating (in addition to peeing) out all the excess water you retained throughout pregnancy. (source)
Although there’s not much you can do to prevent this, you can make it a little more bearable.
Typical suggestions are (source)…
Try to create a cooler environment for your body by running a fan or AC or opening a window.
Drinking water will not only help prevent dehydration as your body loses fluid, but it will also help get your body to recover quicker.
If you’re already prone to sweating try to wear looser, more breathable and natural clothing.
Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester.
Try to stay away from spicy or hot food, caffeine and alcohol as they can contribute to symptoms.
Although, you should already avoid caffeine and alcohol if you’re breastfeeding.
Try to relax, eat well and exercise, as self-care also helps with recovery.
Shower often will also help you feel a little more refreshed, but since newborn care is a 24-hour commitment, even a simple wash of the underarms will do the trick.
Well, this one needs no explanation.
Just use deodorant, if it really bothers you.
10. You bleed and bleed… and bleed.
After birth, one thing you can expect is a bloodbath down below.
Sometimes it lasts less than 6 weeks and sometimes more.
For me, sadly it went up until 11 weeks on and off 😩.
Oh and also, your first period is the worst with pain (at least in my case) and heaviness!
But it gets better, promise!
Here is what you can do to help deal and heal…
So I know mesh underwear aren’t very cute, but they protect more against leakage than pads (especially if you’ll be moving around frequently like I was).
If they still gross you out, bring out the heavy pads because you’ll still need something.
Try not to physically overwhelm yourself with household chores or heavy lifting, limit excessive exertion.
Even running up a flight of stairs care cause you to bleed more heavily or prolong your recovery.
As with any type of healing, rest is essential.
Don’t worry about housework, all you have to focus on is baby and momma, everything else will be there when you’re ready for it again.
11. Your hair falls out?!
This little disclaimer doesn’t manifest itself until about 1-5 months post-partum.
For some women, it is more extreme than for others.
It’s all the consequence of hormones and very normal, but that doesn’t mean that that makes it feel any better.
It is called telogen effluvium, or excessive hair loss post-delivery.
Normally there is a 90/10 ratio of hair growing and resting, in other words, about 90% of your hair is growing while the other 10% is in a state called the resting phase.
Within 2-3 months, resting phase hair falls out.
However, throughout pregnancy more hairs go into a resting phase (up to 60% more!) and an increase in hormones keeps those hairs from falling out.
Maybe you noticed thicker and more luscious hair during pregnancy?
Well, that’s why.
Now after you deliver, your body starts getting back to normal and hormones are a big part of that.
Once your hormones regulate, the normal cycle restarts but now you’re not just losing the regular 10% but all (up to 60%) the hair you should have lost throughout pregnancy.
All at once!
Which is why it’s so overwhelming! (Source)
Your hair will regrow, don’t worry!
Usually, by 6-12 months, everything gets back to normal.
Until then, here are some things the American Pregnancy Association recommends you do to help and cope along the way…
Since your hair will be a lot more sensitive during this phase you can use more sensitive and natural hair friendly products to minimize the amount of hair that falls out.
Using a silica and biotin shampoo is recommended.
Furthermore, limiting unnecessary damage to your hair can also help.
Things that dry out your hair like heat treatment and excessive showers should be limited as much as possible.
When drying your hair use the cool setting instead.
Also, avoid brushing your wet hair with a fine tooth comb as it is very fragile.
Try to avoid causing unnecessary strain to your hair.
Stay clear of pigtails, weaves, braids, and cornrows which all tend to pull on your hair.
Keep a diet high in fruits and vegetables as they contain flavonoids and antioxidants that both protect your hair follicles and promote hair growth!
Now before you take ANY supplement, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider FIRST. The APA recommends taking a combination of Vitamin B complex, Biotin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc, in appropriate doses and methods, to help with hair rejuvenation.
- Ride it out.
Hair loss is NORMAL.
Remember, it will grow back, so don’t add to your stress as having a newborn is quite stressful already.
Expect to lose a good amount of hair.
However, if you feel it’s excessive or lasts past 6 months, you might want to talk to your doctor!
Sometimes hair loss can be attributed to nutrient or mineral deficiency or hormonal imbalance.
Expect a lot of body changes once you deliver.
Your body has just gone through the trauma that is childbirth and you need some time before things get back to normal.
Knowing what to expect will definitely help you feel more prepared and less overwhelmed.
Something I regret is not reading more as my first month postpartum was emotionally and physically draining because every bodily change came as an unexpected wave!
As a final note, know that you’re not alone momma.
We all go through this!
It honestly isn’t all that bad, and even if it is, it’s worth it!!
Especially when you see your precious baby being the gift that comes out of all of this mess!
Maybe I missed something?
Let me know in the comment section below!
Please share your own tips and coping strategies, the more we know the better