Everyone is so focused on the bodily changes they go through during their pregnancy, that they don't realise there will be even more changes occurring after you give birth other than the obvious belly-deflation and the need to exercise to get rid of any extra weigh gained.
Your uterus will shrink
By the time Baby is evicted out of your womb, your uterus is about 15 times as heavy as it would've been prior to your getting pregnant. That does not include its contents, mind you! Its capacity will be at least 500 times greater than before you conceived.
That being said, within a few minutes after Baby pops out, there'll be more contractions rocking your uterus that will cause it to shrink. Imagine the contractions as being the reproductive system's equivalent of a fist. This will cause its crisscrossed fibres to tighten in the same way they do during labour. These contractions will allow the placenta to detach itself from your uterine wall and be ejected.
It doesn't stop there! Once the placenta is out, more shrinkage occurs as the uterus closes off open blood vessels in the area where the placenta was attached. These cramps are known as afterpains.
Oh, and besides from shrinking, your uterus will also be moving back into its original location since it would have ballooned up and filled in an area in your abdominal cavity where it usually shouldn't be. This whole process is called "involution".
This cramping process starts a few minutes after Baby is out, yes, however it can take six weeks or more to bugger off. Oh joy! More pain! I suppose it is the body's way of reminding us that we have quite a bit of PMSing to catch up on.
The cramps will be quite intense during the first day or two after giving birth, and start lessening on the third day or so and carry on for the following weeks until the involution is complete.
You will still look pregnant for a few weeks even after the involution is over and done with, and your uterus is back in its original place. Your abdominal muscles get stretched out during pregnancy, therefore it will take several stomach crunches and some time to lose the rotund belly.
There is a fair bit to be said about the wonderful bags of delight commonly known as Breasts. I've already touched the subject - ha. touched. - in this previous blog. The focus was mainly on changes occurring throughout the pregnancy itself, with just a brief mention of the aftermath.
Well... the obvious place to start would be Breastfeeding - To Boob or Not to Boob? That is the question! I won't delve into the whole topic as of yet as I am still undecided on how to proceed myself. I tend to like having facts and figures in order to make an informed decision, as you might have guessed by now. Alas, when it comes to Breastfeeding, the facts and figures tend to be tainted heavily by bias - either from a pro, or a con point of view. I don't want other people telling me "This is bad, this is good" purely because they say so. I have brains, thank you very much. I like using them.
One thing to know about Breastfeeding is this - your boobs won't stop increasing in volume until you stop Breastfeeding. When your milk comes in, usually a few days after delivery, your breasts will become swollen, tender, hard, and uncomfortably full. This is called engorgement - and when it comes to finding out how long it will last, you tend to come across a lot of "maybe"s and "should"s. A good way to help ease the pain [yep. MORE FRIGGIN PAIN.] is to refrigerate a couple of cabbage leaves and stick them in your bra. Allowing your Baby to breastfeed regularly and/or pump the milk out can also help - if you're opting for breastfeeding.
To tie in with the previously mentioned Uterine Shrinkage, Breastfeeding can bring on them cramps or make them more intense. This is caused by the oxytocin that is released by Baby's sucking. The release of this hormone causes contractions. The only upside there is to it is that the crampy contractions help reduce postpartum blood loss... which means it is your body's way of preventing you from bleeding excessively.
You will lose quite a bit of weight immediately after giving birth! Let's do the math...
Let us say that Baby is of average weight.... so 3 - 3.7kg [7 to 8 pounds-ish]
Placenta would approximately weight another... 0.5 - 1kg [1 - 2 pounds]
Blood and amniotic fluid would be about another.... 1 kg? [2 pounds]
That brings us to the grand total of 4.5 - 5.7kg [10 - 12 pounds]
To me, that means more than half the weight I have gained so far. Sweet!
It doesn't stop there either! All the extra water that your cells retained during pregnancy, along with fluid from the extra blood you had in your pregnant body, will want to ooze its way out. This means that you'll be peeing more often - if that is even possible - in the days following birth — almost 3 litres of piss a day!!
You might sweat a lot as well. This means that by the end of the first week, you'll lose close to another 2 kilos [4 pounds] of water weight. The amount varies of course depending on how much water retention occurred throughout your pregnancy.
As to be expected, things down below will be a bit..... eh, how should I put this? It won't be nice, to put it in simple non-graphic terms..
If you go for a vaginal birth, it will cause your vag to remain a little larger than usual. Straight after birthing, it will remain stretched open and may be swollen or bruised. Ouch! It will take a few days for any swelling you may have to start going down... Slowly slowly, your ladybits will start to regain their muscle tone, and within a few weeks, it will mean that your vag will gradually get smaller. Doing Kegel exercises regularly helps restore muscle tone.
*cue mental images of a Body Builder Vag.*
Sorry about that!
If you were unlucky enough to have to have an episiotomy or a tear, your perineum needs time to heal. This means you'll have to wait for the thumbs up to be given by your doctor during your Postnatal Check-up before you can get jiggy with it. Even once you get the go-ahead, you might still be tender and sore, so it is best to wait until you're ready.
On a side note, it seems like Will Smith's dance moves are more effective than I was aware or.... having the tune play in another tab is still making me pause from typing to dance whenever the chorus kicks in. Sad, I know. It is fun though! I dare you try and resist the urge to do the same!!
So yeah - Use the forced break to figure out what contraception you'd like to go for. I'm told by a good friend of mine that in spite of being happy to have gotten pregnant with her 3rd child only 4 months after giving birth, she's sick and tired of being pregnant - 2 years of more or less constant pregnancy takes its toll!
Once it is time to get your freak on again, take it easy. Things might be somewhat different now. You may find that you are lacking a bit in the vaginal lubrication department in comparison to what it would have been like throughout your pregnancy. This is due to lower levels of oestrogen. Breastfeeding will only make it worse as it tends to keep oestrogen levels down. Invest in a good water-based lubricant. water-based lubricant, particularly Oil-based lubricants can lead to condoms to break or diaphragms to get ruined as they tend to weaken latex.
Taking the piss are we?
Alas, nope! Guess what? Even peeing will be a challenge!
It might come to pass that you won't be able to feel the need to pee for the first few days - especially if you've had a prolonged labour, or a forceps or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery, - or more commonly, an epidural. All of these scenarios cause your bladder to temporarily become less sensitive.
Recall the constant peeing I mentioned earlier in relation to weight loss? Remind yourself to try and pee whenever you can as you will most likely need to, even though you don't feel the urge. If you don't, you'll end up pissing your pants. Sad, but true.
Besides from wetting yourself, you're likely to face other issues. For example - your bladder might over-distend itself and therefore lead to urinary problems, besides from making it harder for your uterus to contract, leading to more afterpains and bleeding.
If you can't pee within a few hours after giving birth, a catheter will be put in your bladder to drain the urine. (If you deliver by c-section, you'll have a urinary catheter for the surgery and the following 12 hours or so.)
It must be a tough life being a nurse... you get to deal with peeing issues woman might face after giving birth too!
Tell your nurse about any difficulties you may be facing when it comes to peeing - be it an actual difficulty to pee, or merely producing just a tiny amount of pee every time you have to tinkle. If your bladder gets too full, it can actually prevent you from being able to urinate.
Moody McMoody is still in town!
Thing is, once you give birth, your hormones need time to get back to pre-pregnancy mode. This means mood swings will still be around - very much like that irritating house guest who just does not know when it is time to sod off!
Besides from hormonal issues, you'll also be dealing with discomfort you may still be experiencing from labour and birth, sleep deprivation and the other demands of caring for a new baby, as well as the emotional adjustment to motherhood. It is extremely common to feel somewhat down in the dumps, or even overwhelmed. Just make sure to keep an eye on it. If the moodiness lasts longer than a couple of weeks, speak to your doctor as there may be more to it.
Some women experience a spurt of hair growth during pregnancy, only to find it falls out in handfuls once they give birth for the first few months. It's ok though - you won't go bald.
What may have seemed like a hair growth spurt is in fact a delay in hair loss caused by high oestrogen levels. Once the oestrogen levels drop once more, so will your hair.
By your child's first birthday, your hair should return back to its old self.
On the up side, if you became excessively hairy throughout the pregnancy [think hairy nipples, pronounced pleasure trail on your belly, gorilla legs etc] - you'll go back to your old self within 3 - 6 months.
What about the Skin?
Hormonal changes can cause, or get rid of acne. Some pregnant women get all pimply throughout their pregnancy whilst others get that 'glow' everyone keeps going on and on about. The tables might turn once you give birth. Everything will return back to normal in due course though.
If you have chloasma (darkened patches of skin on your lips, nose, cheeks, or forehead), it'll begin to fade in the months after giving birth and probably go away completely, as long as you protect your skin from the sun.
To conclude - you're probably going to encounter the most dreaded post-pregnancy side effects of them all.
Unfortunately there is no way to know how badly you'll be affected by said stretchmarks. There are numerous claims for miracle cures out there. Different people swear by different remedies. To me, your best bet is to eat healthily and drink plenty of water. This will keep your skin hydrated and less likely to encounter really bad stretchmarks. If you're the kind of person who bothers with these things, perhaps massaging the afflicted area whilst using some sort of unscented cream - maybe containing Aloe Vera or Shea Butter - or even just making your own Avocado Pulp may help.
I'm sure there will be more changes you will face that I can't think of right now. I'll keep you updated as to what happens once I'm in that particular situation!