5 Weird Things That Happen to Your Body After Birth
Your vagina and perineum will be swollen and achy. It’ll hurt to pee and poop. There will be bleeding and discharge. Your breasts will swell with milk. Most moms-to-be are prepared for these typical postpartum body changes. Or scratch that, most moms-to-be are aware of these changes. After all, nothing can totally prepare you for what childbirth will be like...or the recovery. But there are other postpartum body changes—like the period-like cramps or the full-body shivers—that can really take a new parent by surprise...and even freak you out! We don’t want you to freak out! So read on for the intel on the weird postpartum body changes no one is talking about.
Unexpected Postpartum Body Change #1: Afterbirth Pains
Before your uterus transformed into a womb, it was about the size of a pear and weighed just 2 ounces. By the time you deliver, it’s the size of a watermelon and weighs 2.5 pounds. That hefty watermelon then needs to shrink back to a pear...and your body wastes no time starting the process—which you can really feel! Most of these afterbirth pains will be dull, but some can be jarring and sharp. You’ll likely feel these crampy/contraction-like pains for about two to three days, but the shrinkage continues for six weeks. Since breastfeeding stimulates uterine contractions, these aches kick up a notch when you're nursing. For many, applying gentle heat, like a wrapped hot water bottle, to the area can help.
Unexpected Postpartum Body Change #2: The Lingering Bump
Once your baby, placenta, and so many fluids exit your body, you’d think your baby bump would deflate after birth. It will not. Remember, while your uterus is working hard to shrink, it’s still baby-sized. Plus, you’re swollen, especially if you were induced, had a c-section, or were given IV fluids. And you may be constipated, too, which further distends tummies. And there may be another reason for a still-pregnant-looking belly after birth: Up to 68% of those who’ve had a baby experience what’s called diastasis recti, which is when your growing uterus pushes your rectus abdominis (or your would-be six-pack muscles), making them longer and weaker. These tired, stretched-out muscles partially or completely separate, causing a bulge in the middle of your tummy. The good news: Separation usually goes back to normal by the time your little one is 8 weeks old. If it hasn’t, get a referral for a physical therapist, who will offer specific exercises that’ll help. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it: Doing so may up your risk for back problems, constipation, and urine leaking.
Unexpected Postpartum Body Change #3: The Sweats
Oddly enough, the postpartum period can feel a lot like menopause. University of Pittsburgh researchers found that about 29% of new moms experience hot flashes, including night sweats, after delivery. Just like with menopause, the culprit is hormones. When you’re pregnant, a whole lot of progesterone and estrogen course through your body—and then suddenly plummet after your baby and placenta are delivered. This hormone nosedive mucks with your ability to regulate your body's temperature. At the same time, your postpartum body is churning out the hormone prolactin to prepare for breastfeeding, which can also turn up the heat. According to the study above, postpartum hot flashes tend to be the worst two weeks after birth, after which they often decline. But if your sweating is accompanied by a fever (no matter when), this may be a sign of infection and you should call your healthcare provider ASAP.
Unexpected Postpartum Body Change #4: The Shakes
During the first hour following birth, whether vaginal or c-section, between 32% and 44% of new moms experience head-to-toe shivers, complete with chattering teeth. It’s thought that post-baby shakes may be due to a combo of hormonal changes, the adrenaline rush from giving birth, and fluid shifts that occur during delivery. Go ahead and bundle up to keep warm, but don’t try to control your shivering, especially if you’ve had a cesarean. Doing so may strain your incision and cause it to tear. Typically, whole-body shakes kick in immediately post-birth (or even during delivery) and stop within the hour. But if you’re shivering and chattering continues or you have a fever, you may have an infection and should reach out to your doctor.
Unexpected Postpartum Body Change #5: Shedding
Ah, pregnancy hair, all thick and shiny and full...that was nice, wasn’t it? The high levels of hormones flowing through your body during pregnancy actually made you lose far less hair than you normally would. However, after your wee one is born, those once luxurious locks often thin out—and may even fall out—thanks to the sudden hormone dip. It’ll take roughly six months before your hair stops the great postpartum shed. It’ll take about six more months for your hair’s normal bouncy, fullness to be restored. To help get there, eat lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and be gentle with your hair by using the cool setting on your hairdryer and putting your hair up in only loose ponytails.
It’s widely recommended that all new moms receive a postpartum checkup within the first six weeks after birth. But if you suspect anything is amiss before then, never hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. And know this: Rather than a single doc visit, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all new moms should have contact with a care provider within the first three weeks postpartum. This way, you can easily check in and ask questions about any of the above body-after-baby issues...or anything else!
For more postpartum need-to-know info, check out these stories:
- Postpartum Depression: The Top Triggers
- 9 Postpartum and Lactation Resources for New Moms
- 13 Ways to Show Yourself Some TLC Postpartum
- Your First Period Post-Baby—What to Expect
- Sex After Birth—a Doctor Answers the Questions You Were Afraid to Ask
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.