What your body can expect after having a baby

Pregnancy brings tremendous change to your life, but those changes do not stop after delivery. Your body continues to change in the first weeks and months after you give birth. Here are some things you can expect.

Abdomen  Your abdomen (belly) may still look pregnant for a few weeks. In the first few days, you may have cramping as your uterus (womb) returns to its normal size.

Vagina  You will have vaginal bleeding, like a heavy period, for about 4 to 5 days after you give birth. The bleeding usually goes away after 2 to 3 weeks, but you may have some vaginal bleeding or spotting for up to 8 weeks after giving birth.

Legs  It is common for both legs to swell up to 10 days after delivery. Prop them up when sitting or sleeping. If you notice one leg is more swollen than the other, seek immediate attention.

Breasts  Your milk will come in about 2 to 5 days after giving birth. Your breasts will feel full and tender as they begin to fill with milk. This is called engorgement. Wearing a tight bra can help ease the aching. Your nipples may also be sore as they become used to having your baby suckle them. If your baby is latching properly, the pain will go away after the first few minutes of breastfeeding. Do not pump or express milk to make the engorgement go away.

Bowel and Bladder  You may experience some gas pain during the first few weeks after giving birth. You may be constipated, especially if you are breastfeeding. You can prevent constipation by drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. In the first few months postpartum, some women leak urine when coughing, sneezing or picking up anything heavy. You can start doing pelvic muscle exercises right away to strengthen the muscles that control and support your bladder.

Cesarean Incision  If you had a cesarean birth, it will take a few extra weeks before you are completely healed from surgery. Take pain medication, as needed, and rest when you can. The outside of your incision should heal after 2 to 3 weeks. You may have soreness or numbness at the incision site for several months.

Sex  Your body needs time to heal after giving birth. While your hormones adjust, you may have less desire for sex, vaginal dryness, and/or tenderness in your vagina or perineum. It is important to refrain from sex until you speak with your OB/GYN, or about 6-8 weeks after birth.

Weight  It can take up to six months to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. Because a healthy diet is important for breastfeeding, do not engage in extreme dieting. Gentle exercise, such as walking, can help you lose weight until you can start doing more strength-building forms of exercise.

Pay attention to your body after giving birth. Pain could mean something is wrong. Call your doctor if you are concerned about how you are healing or click here to learn how to schedule an appointment with a Legacy Community Health provider.