What to Expect After Your Pregnancy
A good way to look at pregnancy is to think of it as a marathon. You trained for it, and the actual event was hard – as you well know. Afterwards, there will be a recovery time. There are even doctors who counsel that it was nine months up, and it’s going to be nine more months to get back to normal.
Setting aside the massive hormonal changes for a bit, we’ll begin with the physical changes that occur after pregnancy. Think of your uterus. It went from the size of your fist to large enough to wrap around a baby. It’s now going to shrink and it's going to bleed. This post-partum bleeding is called lochia. For the first few weeks, it will be like a heavy period. You may even experience some menstrual-like cramping, particularly during breastfeeding. If you have any unusual pain or bleeding, see your health care providers and let them check it out.
There are two things to remember when it comes to this process. First, breastfeeding will speed up this process and if your flow changes from brown or dark red to bright red, you’re doing too much too soon. Slow down and you should feel better. And, on a sanitary note, hold off if you regularly use tampons. There’s too much of a chance of introducing bacteria – stick to pads and shields only.
Another issue is constipation. You should expect your first bowel movement a few days after the birth, which could be a painful process if you had an episiotomy. Your doctor has likely prescribed a stool softener to assist in the process, but you can help that along by adding more fiber and drinking additional water.
If you had an episiotomy, you’ll need wound care instructions, which should be provided by the hospital. The big thing to watch out for is an infection at the wound, which will be marked by redness, swelling and tenderness to the touch. The follow up appointments with your health care provider will be the best way to see that this is healing correctly. Ask them about the advisability of soaking to relieve some of the soreness. Obviously, don’t insert anything into the vagina or engage in any kind of sexual activity involving your genitals until your doctor has cleared you to resume sexual activity.
As to the breasts – if you aren’t breastfeeding, you may face some engorgement. Get a good, supportive, tight-fitting bra and be ready to wear it all the time. Try to avoid nipple stimulation, warm compresses or expressing milk. All of these will stimulate the future milk production you want to avoid. Ice packs and over the counter analgesics should get you through the two to three day period before your body stops making milk.
But frankly, there’s a lot of variation in recovery and what you’ll experience may be different from what’s described above. Your doctor can give you more specific details that will aid your recovery and alleviate your problems.