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While plenty of books (and strangers on the street) are ready to tell you all of the (sometimes horrifying) details of what you can expect before or during childbirth, there are seldom to fill you in on some of the strange (and sometimes exciting) things you can expect after labor. Here are seven realities for better or worse that you may face after giving birth.
Don’t pack your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans for the post-delivery room. Just because the birth is over, doesn’t mean you’ll be back to your normal size. It took 9 months to put that weight on, and it’ll take time to take it off. In the first few weeks after giving birth, your skin and your stomach muscles are still stretched out, and your uterus is still likely the size of a cantaloupe. A good general rule of thumb is to pack clothes that fit you when you were about five to six months pregnant to wear after delivery.
During the last nine months, you probably noticed something vital when it comes to your hair (and your nails, and skin for that matter!) Odds are, during pregnancy, your hair was one word: awesome. It was thick and full. Your skin was glowing, your nails were growing, faster than you could keep up with manicuring. A few weeks after giving birth? Not so much. Don’t be surprised if your hair starts falling out in startling large chunks in the shower. Your nails won’t be as thick, either. Those rich, cell-growing nutrients carried by your body as you grow a baby have gotten off at Labor Street.
Your moods change dramatically after giving birth. Let’s face it, you still have a tremendous amount of drastic hormonal changes occurring in your body, and you will for awhile. Among other things, this can mean whatever you thought pre-labor about your preference for visitors after the baby was born could change. You may not be in the mood to see anyone. Or a rush of emotions could send you into a lonely desire for everyone to make an appearance. It’s important to keep in mind that meeting your needs emotionally while not overwhelming yourself or baby is what matters most. Take space if you need it, and pace yourself if you want company. Rest should come first, and the mood swings will pass. If you think you are experiencing postpartum depression, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away.
Not all of the labor aftermath is depressing, some of it is down-right worthy of a “Happy Mom Hooray!” For instance, the swelling that can often occur in the feet of bursting end-of-term pregnant women often decreases within just a week or two after giving birth. Granted, your feet can often first get larger in the hours directly after labor, when built up fluid causes the natural occurrence of edema in postpartum mothers. (Bring extra large slippers to the hospital!) But that swelling is temporary. What this means for a new mom is- they can fit comfortably in their shoes again not terribly long after baby is born. Depending on the change of lifestyle pace for the new mom, however, their pre-pregnancy shoes may be a whole lot less practical. It’s not easy to stroll with baby in tow while sporting stilettos over sneakers.
For many women, labor doesn’t mean the contractions come to an end. Most moms will continue to have small to medium contractions for the first few days after birth. The muscle cramps are the body's way of stopping excess blood loss. These can actually increase and get stronger the more children you have. First moms may barely notice it, but by the second or third child, the cramping grows.
You’ll need to stock up on maxi-pads after labor. Tampons are a big no-no for six weeks after birth, and you’ll likely be bleeding that entire time. Along with the postpartum bleeding, don’t be surprised if you lose the ability to adequately hold urine. While the incontinence that can occur after labor is annoying and inconvenient, rest assured that it is both normal and temporary.
This is probably one lots of people have already expressed, (and what has gotten you through from start to finish) but it’s still true. The best part of all the postpartum hoopla is, the last nine months have finally paid off! You have a wonderful new addition to your family and no matter what comes your way post labor, all that truly matters is that you can handle it with the support of friends, family, your health care providers and the comforting beauty and delight of your new child. Congratulations!
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