It seems like everybody warns soon-to-be moms what they can expect to happen to their bodies while they’re pregnant, but what about after giving birth?
There are some physical changes – and new situations – new moms might notice post-pregnancy that are completely normal, says Dr. Jay Fisher, a Beaumont-affiliated OB-GYN with Modern Obstetrics and Gynecology in West Bloomfield.
“I think in terms of the normal occurrences, a lot of things are still in the range of normal,” he says. “Even with the post-partum blues, sometimes that’s very normal and very common – and just to hear that’s not abnormal, that’s enough to reassure patients that they are doing everything all right.”
While post-partum depression is pretty common in new moms, it’s definitely something to see your doctor about. “One in 8 women will experience significant depression after delivery,” he says, which he stresses is treatable. “If you are having symptoms of mood changes or anxiety or depression, we want to know,” Fisher says. “If moms are not bonding with their baby, if they’re not feeling connected to their baby, certainly if they feel like they’re concerned about doing the baby harm or not being able to care for the baby, that’s something we want to hear about right away.”
Physical pain, changes
Physically, expect things to vary depending on your situation. “If we’re talking right after delivery, the recovery period depends on if it was a C-section or vaginal delivery,” he says.
Something some people don’t always account for is the pain associated with a C-section, but that is typically controlled with pain medication for a few days to a few weeks.
And just because you’ve given birth doesn’t mean all of those physical issues and changes you had during pregnancy will resolve. “It’s not like a switch goes off,” he says. “The (hormone) changes that can occur in the body can take six months sometimes to resolve and stabilize, that can be especially true for moms who are breast-feeding.”
The reduced estrogen may slow or stop periods, and can also cause vaginal atrophy, or the thinning of the vaginal walls, which can cause pain with intercourse. It may take up to 6 months for this to resolve, though you shouldn’t be having sex for 6 to 8 weeks after delivery, Fisher says.
He notes pain during sex is a topic of common concern for new moms, but there are solutions. Try using lubricants and finding positions that are more comfortable, or talk to your doctor about other hormone treatments.
And as far as returning to your old figure? “That can take several weeks if not months to occur,” he says. Same goes for the “resumptions of normal periods” – but contraception is still important. Just because there isn’t a regular period doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant during this time.
Other physical changes could include stretch marks, hair loss, clogged milk ducts and vaginal pain, Beaumont notes.
Possible infections, complications
“Any type of increased pain could be a sign of infection or the wound not healing properly,” Fisher says. Don’t wait for your first check-up after birth if you’re experiencing abdominal pain that won’t resolve, fevers or abnormal bleeding.
Make sure you see the doctor as soon as possible if bleeding saturates a pad every hour, you experience flu-like symptoms, there’s any sign of infection at the site of a C-section incision, pain and swelling in one or both of your legs, pain while urinating or high fever (over 100.5 F), Beaumont advises.
Call 911 in the event of heavy blood loss, severe headache, or you experience manic behavior or have thoughts of harming your baby or yourself.
Staying in touch
Some of the biggest adjustments for new moms are in regards to breast-feeding, Fisher notes. Questions about how to nurse and how to know if you’re nursing effectively can be answered with the help of the nursing staff and lactation consultants at the hospital. They’re a great resource for questions or concerns.
Throughout your recovery process, stay in good communication with your OB-GYN if you have questions, and unless there are any complications as noted above, expect to see the doc for a regular follow-up about two weeks following your C-section and about 6 weeks after vaginal delivery, Fisher says.
That said, he adds, “The norm is a wide range of normal. There are a lot of symptoms and complaints and problems that people would have that are still in the ‘normal’ range, but moms still should see their doctor about.” Don’t wait to call if you’re truly worried about one or more of the symptoms you’re experiencing.
To learn more about giving birth at a Beaumont hospital, visit beaumont.edu/obstetrics. For a referral to a Beaumont OB-GYN, visit beaumont.org or call 800-633-7377.