What Happens to Your Body After You Have a Baby
Odds are, you already know having a baby can be a challenge. First, there’s the whole labor thing and then you’re thrown into mommyhood without an instruction manual. Oh, and then your body does all kinds of wacked-out stuff that our friends-with-babies conveniently forgot to mention. Don’t stress—we’ll fill you in. Here are the deets on all the secret (and sometimes seriously gross!) post-pregnancy changes your body undergoes, from Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland.
YOUR BREASTS WILL STAY HUGE... AND MAY HURT
No surprise, new mothers have gigantic knockers. That’s partially because they’re constantly filling up with milk, but also because they’re engorged from all the extra blood flow needed to transform your chest into a 24-7 dairy. What’s shocking is that sometimes, when you produce more milk than what you can expel, the excess milk and blood flow can cause serious discomfort. This shouldn’t last long, though—you’ll soon begin to make only as much milk as you need. As far as how long you’ll be producing milk—it’ll take about two weeks of no nursing for your breasts to dry out, so you’ll be making milk as long as you’re expelling milk.
YOU’LL STILL LOOK PREGNANT
Some women come to the delivery room with their skinny jeans in a bag, thinking that once birth is over, they’ll be back to their normal size 29, says Dr. Greenfield. The truth is that it usually takes weeks before your belly snaps back to the general shape it was before you were pregnant. In the first few weeks after giving birth, your skin and your stomach muscles are still stretched out, and your uterus is still likely the size of a cantaloupe. All that will make you look about six months pregnant for a couple of weeks (or even months) post-delivery.
YOU CAN’T HAVE SEX FOR SIX WEEKS—AT LEAST
New moms are told not to put anything in their vaginas—tampons, penises—for at least six weeks after giving birth. That applies to women who give birth vaginally and by Ceasarean. It has less to do with feeling sore down there than the fact that the cervix remains partially open for that long, and putting anything inside your vagina when the cervix is open puts you at risk for infection.
YOU’LL NEED EXTRA LUBE... FOR MONTHS
When a woman is breast-feeding, her hormone levels plunge to those of a woman who’s gone through menopause—usually resulting in serious trouble lubricating. Luckily, when you’re cleared to have sex again, you can get some quick help from the synthetic stuff. On top of that, some women report experiencing pain during sex for six months or so after giving birth. Dr. Greenfield says this scares a lot of new moms because they worry they’ll never enjoy intercourse again. The good news: It won’t last, and sex will go back to feeling awesome.
YOU’LL NEED TO STOCKPILE PERIOD PANTIES
It’s totally normal to have a bloody discharge for up to eight weeks after giving birth. It shouldn’t be painful, smell bad, or be particularly heavy—Dr. Greenfield compared it to the light, tail-end flow of your period.
YOU’LL LOSE YOUR HAIR
Most hair follicles have a natural life cycle and fall out after a certain amount of time. When you’re pregnant, the lifespan of the follicle is usually longer, meaning you lose a lot less hair than usual when you’ve got a bun in the oven. The flip side of this is that after you’ve pushed out a baby, many of your follicles will die all at once, so you’ll notice more hair on your brush and even a (temporary!) thin spot or bald patch on your scalp.
YOUR VADGE WILL BE A BIT MORE...OPEN
Yes, it is true, your vagina widens during delivery and generally does not return 100 percent to its pre-baby size. But it won’t be stretched out or lose its elasticity totally. Your pelvic muscles will get stronger and tighter over time, and you can help that along by doing Kegel exercises. What you can’t change is the more open appearance of your labia. Before childbirth, your lips tend to cover the vaginal opening, but afterward, they’ll be more parted.
IF YOU HAD A C-SECTION, YOU’LL BE IN SERIOUS PAIN
More women are electing to give birth by Ceasarean these days, but if you think it’s a way to avoid the pain of a regular delivery, you’re totally wrong, stresses Dr. Greenfield. A C-section is serious, major surgery the cuts your abdomen open. Recovering from a Cesarean is akin to recovering from a major invasive surgery, and it’ll take a lot longer to feel better than if you endured a vaginal childbirth.
More from MSN Health:
- What You Really Need for the Hospital
- Registry Must-Haves for New Parents
- Determining Your Baby’s Gender
- Bing: Find a Childbirth Class
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