Your Post-Baby Body: What to Expect After You're Expecting

Monday, April 22, 2013

African American Woman Looking at Her Baby

Your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy, and some women experience some surprises about their body after pregnancy. Check out these 5 things you might not expect after you have your baby:

  • OMG! I’m leaking!

A lot of women experience incontinence (bladder leaking) during pregnancy and after childbirth. After childbirth, you may experience some numbness “down there,” so you may not know when you need to go—and the muscles in your bladder may not be able to hold it in. It can be frustrating and embarrassing. The good news is that for most women, this goes away after a few days or a few weeks. In the meantime, use a sanitary pad and go to the bathroom frequently, even if you don’t feel like you have to go. Also, try to limit caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and sodas. If incontinence lasts longer than a few weeks, talk to your doctor.

  • “Aunt Flo” is over staying her welcome. 

After nine months without having your period, your body is making up for lost time—sort of. In the first few days after birth, you may experience some bleeding that looks like your period as your body sheds what it was storing up to nourish your baby while he or she grew inside you. After a few days, what started as red, heavier bleeding becomes pinkish. And it keeps coming—sometimes for 5–6 weeks. If your bleeding is really heavy or if you start to feel weak, contact your doctor at once. If you find that intense exercise increases your bleeding, try some lighter forms of activity for a few weeks.

  • What’s going on with my breasts?!

    After having your baby, your milk comes in, and you may find that your breasts feel fuller, heavier, and maybe even harder. If you are breastfeeding, try to get your baby to breastfeed for 10–20 minutes per breast, and alternate breasts across feedings so you’re not always feeding your baby from the same breast. If you are not breastfeeding, try using warm compresses, and resist the urge to empty your breasts. This signals your body that you’re breastfeeding and will make the discomfort last longer. Talk to your doctor if discomfort continues for more than a few days.

  • Why does my belly still look like THIS?

    If you were planning to walk out of the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans, you were probably disappointed. Many women are surprised to find that they are still in maternity clothes weeks, even months, following the birth of their baby. It takes several weeks for your uterus to shrink—it had to grow almost 500 times its normal size to carry your baby! It also takes time—9–12 months—to lose “baby weight” and for your stomach muscles to get back to “normal.” Learn to love your post-baby body. 

  • Ugh. My back is killing me!

    Lower back and hip pain are very common during and after pregnancy. Hormones have loosened the ligaments and joints around your lower back and hips, and the strains of labor may have used muscles you don’t usually use. Getting your body moving can help. Try walking and doing some gentle stretching. And talk to your doctor about when you can add some strength training activities in. Remember to listen to your body. If it feels painful, stop and ease off.

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