When you're expecting, you'll likely receive plenty of updates about how your body will be changing, but what in the weeks after you give birth?
Pregnancy and childbirth is an incredible transition for a human body to go through and since it is a journey that takes about 40 weeks, recovery is a slow and steady road to navigate. Early postpartum is the beginning of the recovery as your body transitions and heals. During this phase, your body transforms to provide nutrients for nursing and develops energy stores to help you acclimate and keep up with the baby care in the days and weeks ahead.
Professionals have nicknamed this period as the "fourth trimester" for a reason.
Similar to the changes you experience during pregnancy, the postpartum body is ever evolving. These changes are both physiological and emotional and are significantly impacted by hormonal spikes and drops. This is not unlike pregnancy and just as your body harnessed the power of your hormones to accommodate your growing baby, it uses similar hormones to bring you back to an "upgraded" version of your pre-baby state. After birth, your body flushes oxytocin to encourage the uterus to contract and begin to shrink down in size.
It can take as much as six weeks for your uterus to contract back down to it's pre-pregnancy size. After delivery, your uterus can weigh nearly two pounds or more and by the end of six weeks, this organ will have shrunk to a petite 2 ounces!
As you're recovering from birth, the healing process comes with it's share of obstacles. Back pain is common as your body gets used to adjusting your posture now that you've lost a whole baby's amount of weight. Birth is traumatic on the pelvic floor and can continue to be uncomfortable for several weeks postpartum. Many new moms use ice packs and cold compresses to relieve tenderness.
Not every change you experience during this recovery is uncomfortable! Many women report increases in energy levels and even improvements in skin tone and texture. If you experienced breakouts, acne or skin rashes during your pregnancy, the hormone changes during your postpartum recovery play an important role in clearing up your skin.
Unexpected Postpartum Changes
With hormone boosts like relaxin, ligaments and tendons relax and that's not exclusive to abdominal muscles! Some women even report that their shoe size increases a 1/2 size as the arch of their foot is slightly relaxed after baby. Breasts are expected to get larger, but sometimes they even get smaller! Especially for breastfeeding mothers, breast size will often decrease and shape will change as well. Some new mothers report drops in sex drive while others are surprised with a spike of sexual energy even before their 6 week checkup arrives! Maybe it's hormones or maybe it's just the way your partner gets up at 3am to change the diaper so you can sleep. You be the judge!
The moral of the story?
Bodily changes don't stop at birth!