After the Birth: Physical and Emotional Changes

Here is some of what you might experience in the weeks following your baby's birth.

  • Changes in your body
  • Emotional changes
  • Warning signs your caregiver may need to evaluate

Your Body
This is a general guide to the changes a new mother may experience.

After the strenuous effort of labor and a few nights without adequate sleep, severe fatigue is normal. It's essential to have help from family and friends. Take advantage of daytime opportunities for rest.

Afterbirth contractions often can't be felt after the first birth; they become increasingly severe with later births. These contractions indicate the uterus is shrinking to normal size.

Your body will shed the uterine lining over a period of about four to six weeks. It will initially be bloody, then thinner, pinkish and eventually yellow. It should not have an unpleasant odor.

During pregnancy, your hair was more luxuriant because hair-follicle growth became synchronized. Now your hair may temporarily appear thinner as this extra growth falls out. Increased perspiration is also common as the body loses some of its extra fluid, even though temperature of mother and environment may be normal.

Breast enlargement and milk production take place. Breast engorgement sometimes occurs three to four days after the birth. Breastfeeding mothers can ease the discomfort by wearing a supportive bra, feeding the infant on demand and using acetaminophen. Bottle-feeding mothers should also wear a well-fitting, snug bra but use cold compresses.

Soreness of the vaginal area is to be expected after stretching or being incised or torn, then stitched, during delivery. It will be especially obvious while urinating or having a bowel movement. The healing process normally results in a return to comfort within a few days.

Your vagina and vulva may feel dry and tender for weeks after any stitches heal, due to normally low levels of estrogen during milk production. Water-soluble sterile lubricants (not petroleum jelly) or spermicides can sometimes make sexual intercourse more comfortable.

About ten pounds of weight gain will be lost quickly within the first day or so. The remaining weight will be lost gradually, about 15 pounds in the next six or more weeks.

After months of roundness, it's nice to have a waistline again. Exercise will hasten this process and add to a sense of well-being.

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