You made it through morning sickness. You made it through pregnancy insomnia. Hey, you even found a way to relieve those swollen feet. But guess what? Your body isn’t done changing yet! After giving birth, you’ll experience a range of changes.
In this post, we’ll unpack all the surprising changes your body faces after giving birth, so you’ll feel prepared going into the fourth trimester.
1. Delivering the Placenta
Don’t think that you’re done with delivery once you birth that baby! In fact, you have another whole stage of labor to contend with. That’s right, the third stage of labor is all about delivering that placenta. And sometimes that birth organ can be stubborn and not want to come out!
- In a vaginal birth, the placenta is usually delivered within about 20 minutes after your baby is born. It’s important that it’s expelled in its entirety. Retained pieces of placenta can cause bleeding or even infection.
- If you have a c-section, the doctor will take the placenta out of your uterus before closing up the incision.
Most hospitals will consider your precious placenta as medical waste. But do know that you have the medical right to keep your placenta, and as unusual as it may sound, many moms benefit from consuming their placenta.
2. Shaking, Sweats, and Chills
This is one post-delivery change that actually starts during labor, usually during transition, right before you get the urge to push. As the pregnancy hormone levels in your blood drop, specifically estrogen, you may feel shaky and sweaty, followed by a pretty significant case of the chills.
All these symptoms are more extreme than during menopause, because your hormones are dropping rapidly in a short period of time. It can continue for several days, or weeks, while your hormones get back to their normal, non-pregnant levels.
3. Swelling and Vaginal Pain
You pushed, your perineum stretched (or maybe you had an episiotomy), and your vagina got more of a workout than it does at any other time in your life. Of course, you’ll feel some vaginal pain, and possibly experience swelling due to the trauma. To speed up the healing process and reduce the pain, make padsicles or try a sitz bath.
Maybe you expected to bleed after giving birth, but did you know it would be like having the longest period of your life? Lochia, or postpartum bleeding, happens when your uterus sheds all that extra padding it grew to support your growing placenta. In addition to blood, lochia can contain mucus, cells, placental tissue, and bacteria. Because of this, it can be a lot thicker and heavier than period blood.
While you’re still dealing with lochia, you’re going to need special underwear. You can buy special mesh underwear that looks and fits like an adult diaper. It’s not sexy, but it’ll do the job.
5. Constipation or Leaking
Lochia and vaginal swelling won’t be the only issues you face below the waist. Poop is going to take on great significance in your life as a new mother. You’ll carefully examine every diaper change to get clues about your baby’s health. But you might also have issues with your own poop after giving birth.
Because your entire body, but especially your abdominal, vaginal, and rectal area, underwent such intense activity during labor, your body usually slows down to heal. Combined with dehydration, huge hormonal swings, and any pain medication, many postpartum moms get constipated. Some moms also experience a mental block to pooping, fearing pain or more tearing.
It’s vital to stay ahead of the constipation and start taking measures immediately following birth to keep your stools soft and ample. (Trust me, hard, infrequent stool will only cause more pain post birth.) Here are some great tips to ease constipation.
In some cases, postpartum moms may experience the opposite condition: diarrhea. If the muscles in your rectum stretched and loosened during labor, they can leak both gas and poop when you laugh, cough, or otherwise place strain on them. Cut back on dairy and fatty foods that can cause diarrhea, and eat more foods that firm the stool like bananas, rice, apples, and tea. Talk to your doctor if it doesn’t go away after a few months.
If pooping isn’t an issue, peeing may become one. Pelvic floor muscles, nerves, and ligaments all work together to keep you from leaking urine. During labor, they’re strained and stretched, and after giving birth, a sneeze or a big laugh can lead to leaking in your undies.
If you want to speed up the healing process, try kegels and squats, which strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Wear a pad to protect your underwear, and empty your bladder fully every time you go to the bathroom.
After giving birth, you may have more than a gassy baby on your hands. That’s right: Get ready to fart… a lot. Whether a vaginal birth or a c-section, many mamas experience an increase in flatulence after giving birth. This is largely due to all the changes our bodies endure during pregnancy and delivery. The pelvic floor stretches and your intestines shift, which can cause a buildup of gas and less control over the muscles that control bowel movements.
Know that gas is normal after giving birth, but if it’s excessive, you can try eliminating foods that cause gas (i.e. beans, dairy, whole grains, and processed foods). Flatulence should resolve itself within a few days, but see your healthcare provider if it becomes an ongoing problem.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your anus and rectum. They itch, throb in pain, and sometimes cause blood in your stool. They may result from pushing during labor or straining to poop after giving birth.
Typically they’ll shrink and go away shortly after giving birth, but in the meantime, you’re going to want to be prepared to minimize the pain. Witch hazel pads offer great natural relief, which is why they’re on my list of postpartum recovery essentials. And make sure you’re following my tips to ease constipation, so that pooping becomes easier and your hemorrhoids can heal faster.
9. Breastfeeding Struggles
Breastfeeding, as wonderful as it is, can also be a source of stress for many new moms. They wonder if they’re doing it right, or if their baby is getting enough milk. And it can really hurt until your nipples toughen up.
If you’re struggling with it, try a couple different breastfeeding positions, check out the best breastfeeding videos for help, and try my DIY remedy for sore nipples. I promise, it gets better! But in the meantime, don’t give up—talk to a lactation consultant or join a moms group to find help and support.
10. Baby Blues
I’m not talking about postpartum depression, but the more subtle brain changes moms experience after giving birth. Symptoms include crying at the drop of a hat, mood swings, and an inability to sleep.
These feeling are all caused by intense hormonal changes that actually change the way a mom’s brain functions. (Read more about the baby blues in this post.) You should start to feel better after one to two weeks, but if that window closes and the baby blues haven’t subsided, talk to a professional to rule out postpartum depression. (And keep in mind, dads can experience postpartum blues too!)
11. Hair Loss
Have you noticed your brush and shower drain are full of hair?! Due to the increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy, your hair remained in place (giving you that voluminous, beautiful pregnancy hair!). But right around the three-month mark, many women notice that all that pregnancy hair begins to shed, and shed… and shed.
The official term for this experience, postpartum alopecia, may sound alarming, but don’t panic—you’re not going bald. It can take a few months, but the hair loss will stop. In the meantime, check out my Hair Rescue ebook. It includes all of my best, evidence-based protocols to prevent, reverse, and/or grow back postpartum hair loss.
Be Gentle With Yourself After Giving Birth
Your body worked hard to grow that perfect little human you gave birth to—it only makes sense that your body needs time to recover. Take care of yourself, ask for help, and take it slow while you heal. Check out our postpartum recovery checklist for ideas on how to nurture yourself, eat nutrient-dense meals, and spend lots of time snuggling skin-to-skin with your baby. Trust me: The to-do list can wait.
How About You?
Did you experience any of these changes after giving birth? What surprised you the most? And do you have any advice for first-time moms?