So many women expect their bodies to bounce right back to normal after having a baby. I remember catching a glimpse of my belly in he mirror after my son was born, horrified that I still looked six months pregnant. It’s important for new moms to realize that their bodies changed over the period of almost ten months and it will not go back right away.
The first few days after delivery
Just as all pregnancies are different, the healing from pregnancies will be different too. From the moment of conception, a woman’s blood volume drastically increases and her hormones change significantly. The postpartum period will bring a period of adjustment that will last easily that long. Most women expect hormonal changes, but are caught off guard by the bodily changes that accompany the postpartum period.
Often coming as a surprise, women generally experience after birth pains for a few days. Most self-educated women expect these while delivering the placenta, but as the uterus starts to contract back down and often while nursing, she will experience cramping in her uterus. The uterus is rapidly shrinking back down to a normal size and this is done through contractions. They will be more like Braxton Hicks contractions than labor contractions, so there’s no need to be fearful. WishGarden Herbs’ After Ease Tincture contains uterine relaxants that dramatically ease afterbirth pains for most women.
Because her body is decreasing in blood volume so dramatically, swelling is often noticed during the first few days. Women who give birth while on an IV will notice they are even more swollen than they were before delivery, as the water leaves her body, that swelling will go down too. Drinking a lot of water and adding dandelion tea to the mix is very helpful with this. Women should not be surprised if they have to pee more often and sweat more initially as the body gets rid of extra fluid.
All women should expect a release of “lochia” or bloody discharge from the uterus. The length of this discharge will vary, but will certainly be present during the first few days. Sometimes when a woman over does things, she will bleed more. Many midwives will mention that this is your cue that you should still be resting. Severe bleeding should always be discussed with a midwife or doctor. The very best pad to use during this time is an over night cloth pad (preferably organic and dye free) because they are soft, cushioned and will keep chemicals away from the healing area.
Women who deliver vaginally often experience a swelling in their vaginal area during those first few days as well. I’d tell you not to even bother looking at it because it can be upsetting, but in reality, it’s pretty interesting to witness how dramatically your body can change in such a short time. Herbal Sitz Baths (available here) can dramatically decrease your healing time. Likewise a sitz bath will drastically help ease the pain of urination if the woman has even the most minor tears. Homeopathic arnica and belladonna will also help heal injured an labia and perineum. Be warned that as the swelling goes down, pain can increase as nerves start working again.
Hormone Changes Readying Milk Supply
Postpartum mothers can expect a sharp decrease in the amount of estrogen which will begin the feedback system telling the woman’s body to begin making milk. During the first few days, she will see that what comes from her breasts is not milk, but a rather clear fluid called colostrum. Milk usually comes in around the third or forth day and women will notice a feeling of engorgement as this happens. Frequent nursing will help eliminate this problem. Women who are not nursing because of choice, medical reasons or pregnancy loss can ask their lactation consultants about cabbage leaves instead of medication to dry up the milk supply.
These don’t linger around for too long, but are regularly a part of the postpartum phase. They are often caused by the pushing during delivery. Eating lots of vegetables and drinking lots of water will help these resolve themselves.
Already been there?
What caught you off guard? What remedies, tricks or tools did you use that you found tremendously helpful during those first few days?