If you’re like most new mothers, you may wonder how long it will take to get your body back to what it was before baby. Will the effects of pregnancy be long-lasting or just temporary?
Well, things won’t change much before your six-week checkup. Whether you are able to get back into shape soon after your checkup or if your body takes longer will depend on many factors, from your unique pregnancy to genetics. Here’s a general list of what to expect:
Your Body after Giving Birth
After you’ve delivered your baby, you’ll have a discharge of blood (lochia), and this happens because the lining of your uterus is shed. This discharge will continue, and eventually will turn from red to pinkish-color to brownish, and may finally fade to yellow before stopping completely. It will likely stop completely by the time of your six-week doctor’s visit.
Vaginal changes. Will your female parts be the same now that your vagina has been stretched to allow for the baby’s passage through the birth canal? Will your labia be the same? Will your parts work as well as they did before? According to Mayo Clinic certified midwife Mary M. Murry, R.N., you may even be among the women whose sexual response is greater following pregnancy and birth.
Whether you had a regular vaginal delivery or a C-section, the pressure from the baby on your pelvis caused a few changes—some of which may end up being permanent. For example, you may discover that you dribble a bit of urine when you can’t get to a bathroom quickly enough, or when you sneeze or cough. Practicing Kegel exercises daily, even after giving birth, will help improve this situation.
A Different Shape
Breast changes. When your milk comes in, your breasts become enlarged. If you’re breastfeeding, your larger cup size will remain for as long as you continue to nurse. You’ll need to make sure you’re nursing often and regularly to avoid getting engorged with milk—a painful experience. Here’s a tip: Bring a portable breast pump with you to express the milk if you’ll be away from your baby for many hours. (And be certain to pump enough milk ahead of time so you can leave it at home on the day you plan to be out—so the baby will have plenty while you’re away.)
You may also have some leakage. Don’t be surprised if you sometimes find milk dripping down your shirt! Wear breast pads until your milk flow is established.
Extra fat and flab. In addition to your larger breasts, another part of your body that may have temporarily enlarged is your rear end. In contrast, your previously rounded belly may now be flatter, but withered and flabby.
Chances are you can get back in shape within a reasonable time-frame by working out at home or at the gym. Be patient with yourself. Your body won't change magically in a few weeks, though media coverage of several Hollywood moms might make you think otherwise. With regular exercise, your body could start transforming in just a few months—or it could take the same length of time as your pregnancy, or longer.
Metabolism boosts. You may notice an increase in energy and weight loss while you’re nursing. This is because nursing burns more calories and you’re likely eating a variety of healthy foods to replace the nutrients used in breastfeeding. By including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy in your daily diet, you’ll be on your way to a a healthier, slimmer you. (Check the USDA 2013 food pyramid for details.)