Baby’s here at last!
Although the little person has now made an appearance, your post pregnancy body will take a few months to settle back to normal.
You can expect a number of physical changes as your body recovers from pregnancy and birth and starts to provide breast milk for your baby.
The shrinking uterus
Your uterus has been stretched like a balloon and will take a few weeks to go back to its usual size. As your uterus contracts, you may feel cramping a bit like period pain.
For the first 2 to 4 weeks after birth, you’ll have vaginal bleeding called lochia - it’s not a true period. This will happen whether you gave birth vaginally or via caesarean. The bleeding will be fairly heavy for the first 12 to 24 hours after birth, but should turn pinky-brown after a few days and eventually white.
If you breastfeed, you probably won’t get a period until you stop breastfeeding. If you don’t breastfeed, you’ll probably get a period 4 weeks after the birth.
It’s quite common to get haemorrhoids after giving birth, but they usually disappear within a few days. Avoid getting constipated by eating plenty of fibre-rich foods like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, and drinking lots of water. You can get medication for haemorrhoids from your doctor or pharmacist if you need relief.
To help avoid bladder leakage, continue doing your pelvic floor exercises every day
Weak pelvic floor muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles have had a work out over the last few months and they may be a bit weak. To help avoid bladder leakage, continue doing your pelvic floor exercises every day.
For a few days after birth, your breasts will produce colostrum, a high-protein liquid packed with important nutrients and antibodies for your new arrival. Breast milk usually kicks in 2 or 3 days after giving birth. If you breastfeed, you’ll produce about 300–500ml of milk a day in the first week, increasing to about 600–700ml depending on your baby’s needs.
Healthcare professionals recommend breastfeeding if you can. It offers a number of benefits for both you and your baby.
Important notice: Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use this product consult your doctor or health worker for advice.
Breastfeeding is good for you because it:
- helps you bond with your baby
- helps you return to your pre-pregnancy body
- can help you relax by taking time out of your busy day to breastfeed.
Breast milk is good for your baby because it:
- contains important nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop
- provides protection against a lot of common health problems
- offers a cheap and convenient food supply.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends at www.health.govt.nz that babies are fed exclusively on breast milk for the first 6 months. However, it’s a decision you should make based on your own circumstances and medical advice.
After 4 weeks, your baby should settle into a fairly regular feeding pattern and you can set up a daily routine around the feeds
Every baby has a different feeding pattern, so it’s a case of finding what works for you.
In the first few weeks, a breastfed baby may feed 8 to 12 times over a 24-hour period. Bottle-fed babies will feed a little less often, about 8 times a day at first.
After about 4 weeks, your baby should settle into a fairly regular feeding pattern and you can set up a daily routine around the feeds.
If you’re breastfeeding, it can take time to get the technique right. If you’re having problems, ask your midwife or breastfeeding specialist for help, or contact the Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor Programme, run by the Le Leche League, anytime on 04 471 0690 or by email at email@example.com
If you’re not going to be around at feeding time, breast milk can be expressed with a breast pump and stored for use later.
Having sex again
It’s normal to not feel like you’re ready for sex in the weeks or months after giving birth. Your physical recovery can take time and you may feel very tired, making sex the last thing on your mind. If you’re ready to have sex again, you can try once the bleeding has stopped. If you’ve had stitches, it may take longer for it to be comfortable.
A word about contraception
Use an appropriate form of contraception if it’s important you don’t fall pregnant again straight away. It’s a common misunderstanding that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. Some women do ovulate during this time. Chat to your doctor about the options available to you.
Take care of your emotional wellbeing
It’s quite common to feel sad and weepy 3 to 4 days after birth. Hormones and tiredness are conspiring against you! However, if the feelings worsen and you find it hard to manage, speak to your doctor or midwife.
More tips on being a new mum
Do you feel you understand your post pregnancy body better now? Would you like to know what else to expect in the first precious months of motherhood? Visit our nutrition page for advice on your diet and jump onto our lifestyle page for tips to manage the challenges of a new parent.