A Childbirth Nurse's Guide to Your Postpartum Body: 7 Things You Need to Know
Hey Girl? Let’s talk about postpartum bodies.
I know that you take really great care of yourself most of the time. I’ve seen you trying to eat vegan whenever possible and do your pilates. I know you get your water in and try to limit your caffeine.
But I also know that you’re a little surprised at how big your body has grown during this pregnancy. Did you ever think your stomach and boobs could s t r e t c h like that? And how about those cankles? I’m sure you’re wondering if all of this will ever go back to it’s original place!
You know that saying,
Leave this world… a better place than you found it...?
That’s not exactly what happens to your body after a baby has made a home in it for 10 months. And don’t get me wrong here- you can (and should! ) love your post-baby body. But you're going to have to go through some stuff to get there.
You know I like to give you the information you need to have a smooth transition to motherhood. As a postpartum nurse, I’ve seen hundreds of women’s bodies after childbirth. And I’m here to tell ya, even though no two bodies are exactly alike, there are a lot of similarities after a woman gives birth.
Here are some things that your best girlfriend hasn't even warned you about your body right after you have a baby:
You’ll Still Look About 6 Months Pregnant.
After you push out your baby and placenta, you’ll still look pregnant. I know a lot of women are surprised by this, but think about it this way:
It took your uterus 9 months to get that big so it’s going to take some time for it to contract back to normal size.
You know how all the celebrities say they “lost the baby weight by breastfeeding”? Well, it’s true that breastfeeding does help contract the uterus back to normal faster, but it’s not magical. It takes time! Expect to be wearing those maternity jeans for at least another 6 weeks. And then you may just want to keep wearing them because- let's face it- maternity jeans are so comfortable!
Your Cankles, Hand Sausages and Double Chin Won’t Just Disappear as Soon as the Baby Comes Out.
This is especially true if you had swelling while you were pregnant and then you received IV fluids while you were in labour. If you waddled into the hospital on a couple of fluid-filled feet, you’re probably leaving with the same feet. So take your flip-flops and expect to wear them home. It even happens to some women if they weren't swollen at all in pregnancy, but received IV fluids during labour and delivery!
Your Boobs Are Going to Get Even Bigger.
If you’ve been waiting for your pregnant boobs to deflate and you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’re going to be disappointed. Plan to hit a bra store within the first few postpartum weeks so you can keep the girls supported. A properly fitted bra will go along way to keeping you more comfortable.
The Bleeding Never Seems to End...
You know when you’re strolling the feminine products aisle looking for tampons and you see those pads that look like a step-down from diapers? You’re gonna need those. Grab those. A lot of people will describe postpartum bleeding as “a really heavy period”, and that’s true after the first few days. But the reality is that you’re going to bleed more than you thought humanly possible right after the baby comes out. Don’t take your date-night panties to the hospital with you; go to the dollar store and buy some granny undies that you can just toss out when you’re finished bleeding.
A Swollen Vagina.
If I had a dollar for every swollen vagina I’ve treated…
Look, if you had an epidural, if you pushed for a long time, if you had a labour and delivery under 3 hours, if you had forceps or vacuum, if you tore or had to have an episiotomy: there’s a good chance your vagina is going to become swollen. And if you had IV fluids during labour, it’s going to take some time for the swelling to reduce. So, take the ice packs for the first 24 hours, drink lots of water to flush out your system and let your nurse know right away if you’re having a hard time going pee. Sometimes women can become so swollen that they need a catheter inserted to drain their bladder.
Pro Tip: Don’t look at your vagina right now. Look at it right before you’re discharged, but just not on the first day.
Your Stretch Marks Are a Map to Your Pregnancy That You’ll Have Forever.
There’s no way to reverse stretch marks, no matter how many creams marketers try to cram down your throat. They’ll fade over time, but my best advice for you is to LOVE them. Those are the marks of motherhood and you should be proud of them. So many women would do anything to experience stretch marks from pregnancy, but it’ll never happen for them.
Your Body Will Never be the Same. It Just Won't.
It's true- after pregnancy and birth, your body will never be exactly the same. You may have loose skin around your tummy, your breasts may sag a little and you may even find that your shoe size goes up. This is all normal.
But here’s the thing: Please, please DON’T stop wearing what you want, DON’T think you can no longer wear a bikini and STOP beating yourself up because you don’t look like Chrissy Teigen after your baby comes out. Even Chrissy Teigen doesn’t look like herself after 2 kids!
Embrace the changes your body is about to experience and be kind and gentle with yourself, Mama. Your body is going to give you the greatest gift you’ll ever be given. The least you can do is love yourself and marvel at how effing-amazing your body actually is. There’s a reason Beyoncé had those powerful postpartum pictures taken after her twins were born and I don’t think it was to show off her body- I honestly think she was feeling feminine and powerful after giving birth. In fact, she even talks about loving her FUPA!
The more women show each other that it’s ok to love themselves, the more power we give to ourselves. That's the kind of motherhood that I want to belong to.
**If you loved this post, I just know you'll really love this one:
and maybe even this one:
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!