new mom and baby

It takes nine months for the female body to grow and nurture a baby. As you prepare for the arrival of your newborn, you may begin to wonder about the hours and days after giving birth and what you can expect after labor.

How does the body change from carrying a child to birthing one and back again? Prepping for these changes to your body can make your transition to motherhood a little bit easier.

For more information about Labor and Delivery at UPMC, visit UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital or call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433).

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What Can You Expect After Giving Birth? Changes to the Body

Baby Belly . . . Still

New moms often still look pregnant immediately after delivering their new baby. Women lose between 6 – 13 pounds immediately after labor, but the body needs time to lose the remaining weight and regain its pre-baby shape. You may experience swelling in your hands and feet or suffer from night sweats; both indicators of water retention. Don’t focus on celebrities who look perfectly coiffed and camera-ready immediately following labor. Most women still look “pregnant” for a week or two after giving birth.

Contractions After Giving Birth

You may have thought contractions were only during labor. One way the body returns to pre-pregnancy shape is with contractions, especially while breastfeeding. The uterus is roughly 2 1/2 pounds after delivery. The March of Dimes indicates the body uses contractions, and time, to reduce the uterus back to about 2 ounces by six weeks following birth.

Soreness After Labor

If you had a vaginal birth, your vagina stretches to accommodate the birth. More so, you may have had an episiotomy, when the doctor cuts the perineum, the opening between your vagina and anus, to help the baby come out.

If this was the case, you also needed stitches. To help the area heal, use a water bottle to squirt warm water on it to keep the area clean. Use ice packs to ease pain and sit on a pillow for extra comfort.

If you underwent a C-section, you may experience serious pain in your lower abdomen from the incision. Make sure to adjust your routine post-delivery to accommodate healing. Don’t lift anything heavier than the baby.

RELATED: What Is Considered Advanced Maternal Age?

Breast Engorgement

Your breasts may also become very sore, or engorged, as milk starts to come in during the first few days after labor. Warm compresses and showers can help with breast pain. Make sure to wear breast pads to soak up milk leakage.

Nipple pain and cracking are also common. This happens as the nipples adjust to the rigors of breastfeeding. Use nipple ointment to soothe the cracking and let your breasts air dry after showers.

Bleeding After Labor

The Office on Women’s Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warns women will experience discharge after delivery known as lochia. Lochia is the shedding of blood and tissue that lined the uterus during pregnancy. After delivery, the body expels it. It can be rather heavy, lightening over time, and may last a few weeks.

Exhaustion in New Moms

Giving birth is quite a feat: It can exhaust you from the sheer effort. More so, you lose a lot of blood during delivery and in the first 24 hours after giving birth, which will cause the body to experience fatigue. Make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Hormone Changes

Despite the many hormone changes and mood swings you may have experienced during pregnancy, many women are surprised to experience mood swings after delivery. A woman’s body will go through many hormone dips and spikes, which can affect her mood. Remember, these mood swings are natural.

However, many women will also experience postpartum depression, or feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. Pay attention for the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Sleeping too much
  • Undereating
  • Overeating
  • Trouble focusing
  • No interest in the baby
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

If you think you may have postpartum depression, consult your doctor. Many women benefit from therapy or medication.

For New Moms, Focus on Rest

Remember, many changes happen to the body after giving birth. Focus on getting as much rest as possible and drinking plenty of fluids. Take it easy whenever possible and if in doubt about any symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Most of all, be kind to yourself as you move to this new and exciting life phase.

For more information about Labor and Delivery at UPMC, visit UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital or call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433).

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.