For nine months, you have experienced changes to your body while your baby grows. With prenatal vitamins your hair and nails likely grew like crazy. Food cravings and changes in appetite are common too and so is morning sickness. You likely also experienced more than physical changes. Emotional and psychological changes happen as well.
Your mentality likely shifted as your due date loomed. Nesting and preparing for the baby is a common occurrence for mothers-to-be. A lot of these changes you likely expect. Your doctor talks to you about many of them in your increasingly frequent appointments. A birth plan is often discussed so you know what to expect for delivery.
What many women are left in the dark on is what happens after pregnancy. Other moms don’t talk about it as much. And your doctor’s appointments drop off dramatically after birth. Likely you’ll come back for a check up six weeks postpartum, and that is it. There’s a lot that happens to be aware of though.
People sometimes refer to this timeframe as the fourth trimester. There are many physical, emotional, and psychological changes that occur after birth, but it shouldn’t be a secret. Keep reading for essential insights on things you might not know happen after pregnancy.
1. Post-Birth Bleeding
Many women don’t realize the amount of bleeding and how long you will likely bleed after you have the baby. Think about your worst period and multiply that. This is called lochia, and it’s often heavy and will continue for about six weeks. Maxi pads are needed — if the hospital gives you their special delivery pads, take as many as you can. You won’t be able to use tampons yet due to soreness and to prevent infection.
You will experience soreness, if you had a vaginal birth, around your perineum — the space between your vagina and anus. Cramping is also common during this time. Your uterus expanded to accommodate a baby and now it must shrink back to its normal size. Tucks pads with witch hazel, underwear ice packs, and pain reliever can help give you relief. Those who had a C-section should take it easy, with limited activity, as the incision will be sore until healed.
2. Birth Control
After delivering your baby, probably the last thing on your mind is becoming sexually active again. However, it can be unclear how soon you can become pregnant post-birth. Some people think you can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t started again. This simply is not true. You can actually conceive as soon as three weeks after having a baby.
Start your normal birth control again at least one week before you are sexually active. You should wait six weeks to fully heal before getting back into this form of intimacy. This is important for a couple of reasons. One, you might not want to become pregnant again so quickly. And two, it really is better to wait 18 months before getting pregnant again so your body has time to fully heal and recover. You want to be healthy to support your next pregnancy.
Whether or not to breastfeed is a hot topic for new parents. While some say “breast is best,” however you’re able to safely feed your baby is just fine. Try not to feel shame if you decide to breastfeed, use formula, or do a combination of both. Caring for your child’s nutrition is what is most important as is making sure they have enough to eat.
Your breasts will become full and sore as your milk comes in. It happens at slightly different times for different moms. If you’re breastfeeding, they will feel engorged and sore between feedings — feeding the baby lets the milk out and helps relieve that feeling. Your nipples can become sore and even bleed, but there are creams to help with that.
If you’re not breastfeeding, you’ll need to allow your milk to come and then dry up your milk supply. It can be very painful and surprising how large and heavy your breasts become. Wear a compression bra and even ice pads to help. The process can take a couple weeks. You may leak milk during this time, but there are pads you can put in your bra for this.
4. Skin and Hair
During your pregnancy, your prenatal vitamins can make your hair and nails grow like crazy. You might even experience thicker hair than you’re used to. After you have your baby, you might notice brittle nails and thinning hair. You might also experience acne or dark spots. However, these should lighten or clear up over time.
These changes are because of the massive surges and drops of hormone levels during this time. Your hair thickness might change permanently but, most likely, any excessive hair shedding will resolve in a few months to a year. If you’re concerned, reach out to your doctor for an appointment. There are some hair loss treatments available.
5. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Postpartum depression and anxiety is a challenging topic for many women. It’s an area that can be hard to talk about. Because many don’t talk about it, it can feel isolating to experience it. Sometimes this is referred to as the “baby blues,” and it can involve mood changes, crying, and anxiety. Your massive hormone changes, exhaustion, and the stress of caring for a new baby all contribute to this.
Talk to your partner, loved ones, and doctor about your feelings. In some cases what you’re experiencing can be mild though hard. In other more severe cases, medication might be helpful for you. If you’re having trouble feeling like you’re bonding with your baby, reach out. If you’re having dark thoughts, tell someone immediately.
Adjusting to Your New Life
Life has changed in a major way for you and your little family. It’s easy to have this perfect picture in your head of the newborn photoshoot you’ve seen so many times. Things don’t have to be perfect. Being a new mom is messy, chaotic, exhausting, wonderful, and so full of love. Give yourself time and grace to adjust to your new normal.
It can be easy to make this season all about the baby. But you’ve just gone through a massive health event and identity shift as well. Be kind to yourself. Care for yourself. And let others care for you too. A healthy momma can do so much more for her baby.