The postpartum period comes with many emotions, challenges, and experiences for the new mother. For many post-birth individuals, they can feel a little overwhelmed with the life-long responsibility of their beautiful human. Don't get me wrong, it IS amazing, but it is also weird and a little terrifying. So while you are trying to keep it together with your new bundle of joy and poop (lots of poop), remember that you are not alone.
We are blessed with so much information on the prenatal experience: How to treat our growing bodies, keep ourselves in shape, and what to expect when the little human makes their entrance by way of your body. However, the postpartum education we receive can be less in-depth and focus mainly on how to care for your new baby. For some, this can leave them with a sense of confusion and ‘Am I the only one?’ syndrome. So to combat those feelings and stand with you in long-distance solidarity, I have compiled a list of 12 common things you MIGHT expect during the immediate postpartum period.
PP Hair Loss:
Your hair normally grows and sheds in cycles, but during pregnancy your hormones stops that shedding from happening, which can create long, luscious locks where you never expected. When your postpartum body begins regulating those hormones, it catches up and you begin to shed again. This can lead to some dramatic hair loss around postpartum month 3. It isn’t forever, though. Your hair will start to grow back around month 6 as your cycle balances out. Until then, take it easy on your scalp. Moisturize and help that new hair come in smooth and silky.
That Milk Smell:
Have you ever noticed that your breast milk smells sweet and delicious like honey, maple syrup, even a whole bakery? It is a little technique that your body uses to attract your baby to the breast and help you to enjoy breastfeeding a little more. But it might just be you and your baby that think you smell delicious, so don’t feel bad if no one else wants to nuzzle up to the boob. It isn’t theirs anyway.
These are especially common in the first few nights after having baby, particularly if you received IV fluids during labor. Wear some light clothing and blankets to regulate that temperature. This too shall pass.
Contractions When You Pee:
“I thought the contractions were done!” I know. But your uterus is still shrinking back to its normal size and relieving that bladder can cause some unwelcome cramping. Take some deep breaths and pee often to alleviate some of that discomfort.
Oh, Wombyn. When that first poop comes around Day 3-4, you might feel like you are having another baby. Rest assured it's just all of that backed up poop. Some people experience constipation from pain meds during and after birth, sometimes it just comes from the fear of pushing and popping stitches (if you received any). Dip into those comfort measures: Turn off the lights, turn on some warm water, and breathe deep. Some people can benefit from stool softeners (NOT laxatives), but talk to your care provider before making that trip to the drug store.
The more you move, the more you bleed. Light postpartum bleeding is very common; although most providers will tell you that if you soak a pad in less than 2 hours to let them know ASAP. Take it easy on your body.
Thinking you are ready to go back to the gym, but you feel that funky separation down the center of your abs? That is called Diastasis Recti and it doesn’t get better by doing crunches. Some people consider belly binding after baby helpful in pulling those abdominal muscles back together. If you do go back to working out make sure that you consult a personal trainer and your provider to help you modify your exercises so that they support your core and allow your body to get stronger the right way.
YES, it is normal to cry for no understandable reason, even late into the postpartum period. The change of having a baby is hard. Your body is different, your heart is different, and your hormones are WAY different. It gets better, but if it doesn’t…
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety:
Please don’t feel shy or embarrassed about reaching out to your care provider, your partner, friend, mom, doula, therapist if you feel like you might be experiencing emotions and feelings out of the ordinary. You are not alone. PPD affects 1 in 9 women and even though it is common, seeking out your care provider and a counselor is imperative to your health and it is NOT something you should try to handle alone.
Sometimes, especially with breastfeeding, you can experience dramatic weight loss after birth OR you can hold onto that weight even after regulating your diet and exercise. This is one of those times where your hormones can dictate what your body does and as baby grows and everything regulates back to normal, you can experience a better balance of your weight management.
Being Super Horny:
You just had a baby and you want to make MORE? RIGHT THIS MINUTE?! Yeah, that happens. Biology is weird like that. That rush of oxytocin after baby can get those sexy feelings going faster than a back massage and dark chocolate. But let your body HEAL before having sex again, please. As my midwife, Susan Taylor, LM, CPM said to me, “Anytime you think about having sex again before you get the all-clear, just remember: UTERINE INFECTION.” Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Never Wanting to Have Sex Again. EVER. AS LONG AS YOU LIVE:
So maybe you aren’t riding the love boat like above. You don’t feel like yourself, let alone your sexy self. Maybe you are exhausted, or you are finding it a delicate balance being a mom and being a "super bangin' beautiful goddess" (My personal definition, but please substitute with whatever works for you). That is alright, too. Finding time to be centered and intimate with yourself or your partner in very basic ways before you get to intercourse is just fine and perfectly normal. Get back to the basics and the rest will follow. If you ever feel like you are “letting your partner down”, it is a great lesson in communication to let them know how you are feeling. Maybe they are feeling the same way and want to better support you. If you are a partner reading this make sure you are going above and beyond to be honest about how you feel so that everyone is on the same page. It makes you a better couple and it makes you better parents.
If you are feeling like you are experiencing any of these things, normal or not, please consult with your provider for the best tips on how to care for yourself. And please, take it easy! You spent 9 months getting to this point, you need at least 9 months to get back to 'normal'.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. This information comes from personal experience, the experiences of my clients, evidence-based research, and anecdotal evidence. If, at any point during your pregnancy or postpartum period you have a question or concern, please contact your care provider for medical support.