New mothers often aren’t prepared for the amount of time it will take for them to physically and emotionally recover from the strain of being pregnant. While there is a lot of information available on how to cope with the changes involved in pregnancy, women can be left in the dark about the healing process.
Physical recovery from the pregnancy and delivery of the baby itself can take up to six weeks, but is longer for women who deliver via a Caesarian section. Also, the emotional effects can last a little longer to due to the changing levels of hormones in the body.
The average woman loses around 12 to 13 pounds in the delivery process alone, but over the next few weeks she will find herself sweating and needing to urinate frequently. This is because the body’s cells retain a lot of water during pregnancy. After the baby is born, the body releases the water.
Your breasts will swell as the milk comes through and this may make them sore and tender. The nipples may also be sore. Read our breastfeeding article for more information on sore breasts and cracked nipples.
Post delivery contractions
Immediately after the baby is delivered, the uterus is around twenty five times bigger than its pre-pregnancy size. In the days and weeks following the birth, the uterus contracts back to its normal state. This usually happens within four weeks. The contractions do cause some pain, similar to that of period pains.
A reddish discharge is common for a few weeks after giving birth. This is due to the shedding of cells in the uterus that are damaged from pregnancy and are no longer needed. Over a few weeks, the discharge will get lighter and lighter before it stops entirely.
Many women don’t have a bowel movement until several days after the delivery and when they eventually have one, it can be very painful. This is especially true if the woman suffers with haemorrhoids or if she has stitches after delivering her baby.
The muscles stretch during pregnancy and delivery and can cause incontinence. The exercises your doctor and midwives give you will help with this over time.
Changes in hormonal imbalance
Levels of oestrogen and progesterone drop off dramatically after childbirth causing a number of side effects. You may experience emotional hormonal swings that affect the central nervous system. New mothers often feel overwhelmed, exhausted and weepy during the first few weeks after the birth. Around eighty per cent of women experience these symptoms, commonly known as baby blues.
∏ On no account should prescribed medication be discontinued, except under a doctor’s supervision.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a doctor before taking any medicines.