Well, what doesn’t happen in all honesty? I went to classes, I was given leaflets and books, I went to talks and had so much information thrown at me that I was fully prepped on what to expect during labour and what would happen to my body. What I was not prepared for was what happens to your body after giving birth. So, I thought that I would put together a little guide so that you know what to expect.
The other reason for wanting to write this is because about 3 years ago (sorry, just checked – it was actually February 2020. Lockdown, amirite?) the Oscars BANNED a Postpartum advert for being too graphic. It actually makes me quite angry. Recovery after childbirth isn’t pretty but it’s natural, it’s real-life and a part of pregnancy and childbirth. So, I just wanted to do my little part to help normalise the postpartum body. It is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
For any pregnant mamas out there reading this, I don’t mean for this guide to scare you! I just want you to be prepared. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. FYI, It’s going to get personal. Like, really personal.
Read on to learn what happens to your body after giving birth. Enjoy!
Just to let you know, rather than putting pictures of what to expect, I have put pictures of cute little babies instead to remind you that it’s all worth it.
1. Everything Swells
This was a shock! This is what actually made me want to write this post in the first place!
A few days after giving birth I was struck down with the most massive feet and ankles. I was lucky when I was pregnant, my feet and legs didn’t swell in the slightest, so why was this happening now? And why was I not told about this??
Side note – did you know that for some women, if their feet grew during pregnancy, they won’t return to their normal size after? And actually, I wouldn’t have minded too much, I’ve only got size 4 feet.
Anyway, it’s not just the legs that swell. Other ‘areas’ can also swell up. Not surprising really, when you consider what your body has just been through but just one to be aware of!
I used to get ‘The Fear’. I would dread having to go for a number 2 after giving birth. It was a scary time for me. I was scared that if I pushed too hard that I would pop my stitches. Oh, the joys of having an episiotomy!
So I did everything I could to help ‘move things along’. If this is a worry of yours too, I have listed below what I tried. I am by no means a medical expert but these are the things that I found to be helpful:
- Taking lactulose or laxido*
- Drinking prune juice (I heard if you drank it warm in the morning that it would help 🤢)
- Making sure that I ate the right foods that were high in fibre
- Drank lots and LOTS of water.
- Taking my time
*This was prescribed by the doctor and pharmacist. If you experience any issues, please go to the doctors or the pharmacy. They will be able to recommend the right product for you and your needs.
Also, if you’re taking lactulose, please double-check the amount of you need to take. Do NOT take more if it’s not working as it takes a few days to get into your system. Yes, I am talking from experience.
I’m just going to say it – I couldn’t control my wind after giving birth! I would just fart and there was nothing I could do to stop it! This eased up after a few weeks, thank goodness. And something good did come out of this issue actually – I can now fart in front of my husband. He’s thrilled, as you can imagine!
On a serious note though, some women do suffer from incontinence of the bladder or bowels (also called Postpartum Fecal Incontinence) after giving birth. Make sure that you’re doing your pelvic exercises (Kegel’s ladies, do your Kegel’s!) and please, please go to the doctors if you’re struggling! Don’t let it carry on for weeks or months. It’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Just because you are a mum now, doesn’t mean that your needs get pushed to the side.
4. Your Milk Coming In
Now, I don’t actually remember my milk coming in, I just remember breastfeeding Little J one day and having lots of milk.
Even if you choose not to breastfeed your breasts will still fill with milk. They may feel tender, swollen, tight, hard to the touch and you may experience some pain for a week or so after giving birth where your milk comes in. If you choose not to breastfeed the milk will dry up eventually.
Urgh! They might decide to stick around for a good few weeks. They might clear up then decide to make a comeback, so be warned! I suggest that you invest in a good cream and don’t strain when you need to poop. If they’re stubborn little fuckers you might need to go to the doctors for a super cream. Don’t worry, they won’t ask to look at them. Probably.
6. Postpartum Hairloss
I don’t think mine has stopped, to be honest. I actually thought that I had gotten away with it because my hair didn’t start falling out until 3 months postpartum. It will seem like a lot of hair coming out of your head, but it’s only because your pregnancy body kept hold of a lot of hair when you were pregnant!
7. Raging Hormones
It’s going to take a while for those pesky hormones to go back to normal. Having a baby makes everything go haywire. You’ll be happy/sad/angry/completely fine, all in the space of 5 minutes. Don’t expect to feel normal straight away.
HOWEVER, if you are feeling sad/down/low/not yourself please make sure that you take the right steps to reduce the chances of falling into Postnatal Depression. I wrote a post on the Baby Blues with help from the lovely Always Crafty Mum. I definitely recommend having a read so you can know what is normal and what isn’t. Like I said above, just because you’re a mum now doesn’t mean that your needs get pushed to the side!
8. Postpartum Bleeding
This will be different to a normal period so make sure that you get maternity pads and not normal pads as they’re specifically designed for this! Bleeding can last anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks.
You can get disposable underwear, but make sure that they’re good ones! I just got some cheap ones and they were not comfortable at all! I did get some amazing HUGE great big black pants from Primark that were super comfy. These were bought specially for after giving birth as they were super large. Just for the weeks after giving birth. Only for a little while. Won’t be forever…..
9. Night Sweats
I didn’t suffer too horrendously but you might end up sweating. A LOT. Tie your hair up, get your shorty PJs out (make sure they’re cotton!), sleep on a towel and be prepared to wake up in a puddle of sweat each morning. It should ease off after a few weeks but make that you keep hydrated!
10. Skin Changes
The obvious one is stretch marks! I didn’t get stretch marks until I hit week 38 of pregnancy, which I was a bit upset with at first but I’m quite proud of them now.
I found a lovely quote regarding stretch marks:
A woman must look perfect, stretch marks are yikes! But they don’t know, you’re just a tigress, who earned her golden stripes.Tanvi Verma via Wise Sayings
You will probably find that you lose your lovely pregnancy glow and you may end up with spots, just whilst your hormones sort themselves out.
Another skin change to be aware of is hyperpigmentation. You may develop some darker patches of skin when pregnant. These may lighten after giving birth but not always!
11. Your Stomach Will Not Go Back Down Straight Away
I didn’t expect my stomach to go down straight away. But it was only after looking back on photos that I realised how ‘big’ (not the correct word to use but I couldn’t think of a better one) my stomach still was. It can take a few days to stop looking pregnant.
I do remember that I kept poking my belly for a few days after giving birth due to the fact that it was soft and squidgy after Little J finally came out! And I also remember how lovely it was to finally be able to bend and put my own shoes and socks on again! Quite strange to begin with though!
I had an episiotomy and forceps so a lot happened ‘down there!’ It took a good few weeks start feeling normal again. I actually wrote a post on what happens when things don’t heal quite right if you want to have a read.
Going for a wee can be extremely uncomfortable for some woman. One recommendation to make things feel a bit better when peeing is to pour water over your poor battered private’s when you go. It’s meant to be quite soothing.
These are in the words of Suzanne, a lovely mum who shared her story with us in Focus on You.
‘The thing that surprised me the most though was the complete lack of core strength to the point where I slept sat up for months because if I laid down, I physically didn’t have the strength to get myself up…maybe an indication of my lack of pre-baby exercise as well 😊
Also, I didn’t realise just how annoying the itching of the c-section incision would be and because of the numbness around it, scratching makes no difference! I still have numbness around my scar even now & it’s 4 years down the line.‘
There is a whole massive HEAP of advice for recovering from childbirth, but this isn’t what this post is for! For all the best advice on recovery head over to the NHS website.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been running a series called Focus On You. I’ve been collecting advice from all of the lovely mummies that I’ve spoken to for advice for new mums after giving birth.
Here are their words of wisdom:
Take time for you to adjust. Don’t feel you need to have every visitor under the sun come round straight away. The first 2 weeks for us, we may as well of had a revolving front door! It was exhausting! I now wish we had taken a little bit of time, just us. I would also say, tell your guests that they need to take care of themselves when visiting – make their own drinks etc – you should not be playing host!
Ask for help! My mother in law didn’t want to ask if I needed help but it was clear to my husband that I needed some support for the first few days. Just having her here with me for those few days meant I felt more confident to deal with things on my own! It’s not a sign of weakness but over the years, even dealing with one child, I have learnt the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child.
Take your time. No matter how you give birth your body won’t feel like your own for a while and there is no rush to try and be everything to everyone. Do not feel like you’re not doing a good job if you need to ask for help with something, but equally have the strength to ask for space for your new little family if you want it.
Wear crappy old clothes for a few weeks, adult nappies really help and don’t use your nice bed linen.
Take it easy!!! Take the help offered. Having a baby is hard work, that’s why it’s called labour. No one is expecting you to get up and run straight away. Allow your body time to rest and recuperate and use the time to sit in bed and cuddle that beautiful baby!
And this is what happens to your body after giving birth. Obviously, not everyone will experience all of these after giving birth but I just wanted to give you a general idea! Also, just to clarify, I didn’t experience ALL of these (just most of them!) I know it seems like a lot and honestly……it is. But you get over it. Because us women are awesome and we are strong.
Is there anything on this list that surprised you? Let me know if you experienced something not mentioned above!
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