Ah, new motherhood. You’ve been pregnant for 10 months, and you’ve gone through the pain and discomfort of childbirth. Now you have a new baby to take care of, and though that’s obviously amazing, you’re also ready to feel more like yourself again. You may also be anxious to get your post-baby body looking more like your pre-baby body. Remember that?
Take it from veteran moms—and veteran obstetricians: Don’t be in too much of a hurry. There are lots of changes coming your way—most of them awesome ones. When you understand every step of the process, you’ll be that much less stressed along the way.
Right After Childbirth
Without baby, and the weight of the placenta and other fluids, you’re 9 to 12 pounds lighter! You’re probably pretty tired, too. Now’s the time to get all the rest you can, and ask for all the help you need.
2 to 3 Days
Up to 80 percent of women experience baby blues—feelings of loneliness, sadness, and fear of not doing, or being, good enough. While this is normal, keep track of how long this goes on. If your blues don’t go away, or if they get worse, talk to your doctor. You could be experiencing postpartum depression, a serious condition that requires treatment.
3 to 4 Days
If you’re breastfeeding, this is when your breast milk will likely begin to increase. If you’re not breastfeeding, your breasts will begin feeling less full, and you should stop producing milk in about a week.
On the subject of breastfeeding, there are persistent rumors out there that breastfeeding will help mom take the pregnancy weight off. You should understand that your breastfeeding baby needs you to keep eating for two—and that while you may not see immediate benefits in terms of weight loss, there are still a lot of reasons to recommend breastfeeding, for both you and your baby.
Your lochia, the discharge of excess blood and tissue from your uterus, began soon after childbirth. Ten days out, it should begin to lighten in both amount and color.
Your muscles are starting to regain their tone. If you had a complication-free vaginal delivery, and exercised prior to pregnancy, you should be able to ease into a light workout routine—but be sure to check with your doctor, too.
4 to 6 Weeks
After growing to around the size of a watermelon during pregnancy, your uterus should by now have returned to lemon-like dimensions. Decreasing estrogen levels may have caused your hair to thin during this time, but this is temporary. In a couple of months, it should grow and thicken.
If you feel like having sex, it should be safe to start, but be sure to discuss any concerns with your ob-gyn at your six-week checkup. If you feel the urge, use protection since you can ovulate and thus possibly conceive by this point. (Breastfeeding moms should avoid estrogen-containing hormonal contraception.)
On the other hand, if you’re too sleep-deprived to be interested in more than a kiss or a cuddle, this is perfectly normal. Like your body, sex will have changed as well, at least for a while. But realize that none of these changes are forever.
At your postpartum checkup, your ob-gyn will examine your vagina and abdomen to make sure you’ve recovered from birth. Barring any complications, she’ll also give you permission to start exercising again. Make sure to discuss how you’re feeling emotionally, as well as any contraception options you may want. Be honest, and make sure you feel you’ve covered all your questions and concerns.
6 to 8 Weeks
Almost all new parents are sleep deprived, but if you feel beyond worn out day after day or see any of the other common symptoms, ask your doctor to check for anemia. Another condition that can cause fatigue is an autoimmune postpartum thyroid disorder, which affects up to 10 percent of mothers.
Postpartum vaginal bleeding should end by around this point, though bleeding that tapers over 12 weeks is not unheard of. If it continues, let your doctor know.
After three months, your hormones should have returned to pre-pregnancy levels. This means your menstrual cycle should start again, any excess hair developed during pregnancy should go away, and any mood swings should let up. Note that for breastfeeding moms, this stabilizing might be delayed another month or so. And it may not happen completely until after you stop nursing.
Any stretch marks you have should start to fade now. To help the process along, stay well hydrated. There are other treatments that have shown some medical benefit, but check with your doctor as some are not safe to use while breast feeding.
7 Months and Beyond
Any mom will tell you that after baby, your life will not be the same. But there’s a whole lot of awesome that comes along with those life changes. As far as your body, beyond 7 months, you should be able to feel pretty much like yourself again, or be trying to get there. But realize that there’s a lot about being a mom that will continue to surprise you—in every way you can imagine.