Everyone talks about puberty as a time when your body goes through a lot of changes. As every mother knows, though, puberty can't hold a candle to pregnancy and childbirth.
While your body is constantly changing during pregnancy to develop a healthy baby, this doesn't stop after you give birth. Your post-pregnancy body also makes a serious transition as it tries to get back to its natural state while also healing and learning to breastfeed.
Here's a peek into what you can expect.
Post-Pregnancy Body Changes After Any Birth
Vaginal births and c-sections are very different birth processes, and each come with their own healing challenges. Whichever route your birth takes, you can expect to see these changes.
As you probably experience during your periods, cramps happen when your uterus contracts. There may be no time in your life when your uterus contracts more than after you give birth.
At this time, your uterus is trying to shrink back to its normal size. It's going from around sixteen inches long to the size of your fist. This creates abdominal cramps, also called afterbirth pains.
It takes around six weeks for your uterus to get back to its usual size. However, most of the cramping happens in the first few days.
Soon after you give birth, your body knows to start producing milk. Within a few days, you may be producing enough that your breasts are becoming engorged.
As the breast milk builds up, your breasts may feel sore. This happens because of the extra pressure the milk creates.
You can keep soreness to a minimum by breastfeeding or pumping on a regular schedule. If your breasts still feel engorged after you feed or pump, a warm towel can help the milk flow more smoothly.
If you aren't breastfeeding, your body will pick up on it and will stop producing milk after a few days. When this happens, the soreness should subside.
Your nipples aren't used to a lot of friction. Whether your baby is sucking on them or you're using a breast pump, this is more attention than they're used to.
As a result, your nipples are likely to get sore. In some cases, the skin may crack. Thankfully, there are specialized nipple creams that are made with your sore skin in mind.
Your uterus is a functioning home for your baby for nine months. That takes a variety of extra tissues and fluids.
After you give birth, your uterus releases everything that remains inside. This process is called lochia.
For the most part, lochia looks and feels like a long menstrual period. It consists largely of blood and you may see some blood clots as well.
Lochia begins soon after birth. It will get lighter as time goes on, but it often lasts several weeks to a month.
A common complication that happens after pregnancy is post-birth hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in and around the rectum. They're caused by excess pressure in the area.
Some women get hemorrhoids during pregnancy because their baby is putting pressure on the area. However, hemorrhoids can also happen after birth as a result of the strain and trauma from giving birth.
While hemorrhoids are more common after vaginal births, they can happen to women who have had c-sections too.
Hemorrhoids will heal on their own, so the key is to reduce the discomfort and prevent them from getting worse.
You can do this by making your bowel movements as gentle as possible. Drink plenty of water and eat a lot of fiber. This may not be the best time to try a new diet like the keto diet.
Avoid straining when you use the restroom. For the discomfort, over-the-counter creams work well.
Changes After a Vaginal Birth
A vaginal birth may be the more natural way to give birth, but that doesn't mean it's easy. After childbirth, you'll notice the changes above in addition to another key difference.
Your Perineum is Healing
Your perineum is the area between your vagina and your rectum. It may be underappreciated but it goes through some serious strain during childbirth.
In some women, the area tears or your doctor may make an incision in it to prevent tearing. This incision is called an episiotomy.
As your perineum heals from the birth or an episiotomy, you have two key focuses: reducing discomfort and preventing an infection.
For the discomfort, cold packs will go a long way. Many women sit on a donut cushion too to keep pressure off their perineum when they sit.
As the area heals, be careful to keep it clean and to wipe from front to back when you use the restroom.
Changes After a C-Section
As much strain as your body is under with a vaginal birth, a c-section is not any milder. It's a major surgery that would be difficult to heal from under any circumstances, let alone while your body is going through other post-birth changes and you're caring for a newborn.
During a c-section, your doctor makes an incision through the various tissues of your abdomen until they reach the uterus. This means that all these levels of tissue need to heal.
It's normal to have some soreness as you heal. Follow your doctor's instructions about what activities you can and can't do, like lifting heavy objects.
While you heal, be careful to prevent an infection too. Keep the incision clean by following your doctor's instructions. If you see any signs of an infection, get medical care right away.
Your Body Doing Its Job
When you think about it, it's truly spectacular that your body knows exactly how to develop a baby and how to be everything that baby needs.
Still, the wonders of nature don't make your post-pregnancy body any easier to deal with. By knowing what changes to expect, you'll be able to prepare and to know which symptoms are normal and which could be cause for concern.
For more health tips every mother and woman should know, check out more articles on our blog for women.