Are you pregnant and nearing your due date? You’re probably psyching yourself up for the birth. Have you thought about what happens after baby is born?
What?! There is more come after baby is born?
Let’s simplify it by saying that once baby is out, your body is going to go through a lot of changes, very quickly. The reality is, you will be feeling like a hot mess.
The first 24 hours after baby is born, will be a whirlwind. Quite frankly, your body will throw everything at you. However, if you know what to expect, it won’t be such a big shock when it happens. Keep reading to find out common things that happen after birth that new moms don’t expect.
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What to Prepare For After Birth
1. The Placenta
Once your baby is out, you’ll need to deliver the placenta (or afterbirth). This is known as the third stage of labour.
You may be offered an injection of hormones to encourage your placenta to deliver quickly. This will also help to control heavy bleeding and prevent you from losing too much blood (haemorrhaging).
A lot of first-time moms think the placenta delivers with the baby, but this rarely happens. It can take anything from a few minutes to an hour for the placenta to come out.
You’ll feel a full sensation in your vagina. A gentle push will help the placenta deliver. Your caregiver may use a gently pulling technique known as controlled cord traction. Most women don’t find this painful, more like a feeling of relief.
Occasionally the placenta will become ‘stuck’ to the inside of the womb. This is known as a retained placenta. If this happens, you’ll need to have the placenta removed in a hospital theatre by medical staff.
The thought of bleeding after baby is born can be really scary. Your body will actually prepare you for this when you are pregnant. By the time you delivery you’ll have 50% more blood in your system. This means that your body will cope better with any bleeding after baby is born.
If you are at higher risk of losing a lot of blood after birth, your caregiver will be well prepared. Haemorrhages are handled very quickly by birth professionals, as they deal with them all the time.
You will continue to bleed for 2-6 weeks after your baby is born. This will happen even if you have a caesarean section. It’s similar to a period and caused by your womb returning to normal size.
It’s important to monitor your blood loss until it settles. You may be losing too much, have leftover parts of placenta or an infection. This is why it’s important to wear sanitary towels so you, and your caregivers can see your blood loss.
3. Getting Stitches
Once your placenta is out, your caregiver will want to inspect your vagina for any damage. This may be a tear, or if they performed an episiotomy (cut) before baby was born.
There are lots of different areas you can tear from. That means they will need a good look, to ensure you don’t need any stitches.
Some tears may heal on their own without any stitches. Deep tears may need you to go to theatre to be repaired. This often needs done quickly as it can be the main cause of heavy blood loss.
We have two excellent guides for stitches: how to prevent them and how to look after them. Go check them out (or pin for later).
- Tearing During Birth – What Other Moms Won’t Tell You
- Vaginal Stitches after Birth – Ultimate Care Guide
4. Uncontrollable Shaking
This one may take you by surprise. After your baby is born your body can start to shake uncontrollably. This doesn’t cause any harm other than giving you a fright. You may be scared to hold your baby for fear you will drop them. Make sure your birth parent is close by to offer physical support.
A sudden change in hormones is the main cause. Plus you’ll have a big drop in body temperature as your baby delivers.
It won’t last long, however, can continue for a few minutes. As long as your vital signs are normal, it’s best just to make sure that you are warm enough. Keep yourself wrapped in a blanket and skin-to skin with baby will really help.
If you have IV fluids or ongoing pain relief, such as an epidural, this can cause issues with lowering your body temperature or blood pressure. Your health care provider may be able to adjust these to make you more comfortable.
Remember we discussed your womb returning to its normal size? When you aren’t pregnant your womb is tucked inside your hip bones. After you have your baby it will sit just above your belly button.
Your body needs to work hard to get it back down to its regular size. It’s a process call ‘involution’.
Your body will continue to make your womb contact until its back to normal. These contractions give a cramping sensation known as after pains.
For first time moms they are usually really mild, and most don’t notice them. If you’ve had a baby before, these pains are a lot more noticeable. In fact, moms often compare them to the contractions you’ll feel during labor. This is because your womb loses more tone with each baby to have.
You’ll also notice them more if you are breastfeeding your baby. That’s because a suckling baby will release oxytocin (yep that again!) which aids contractions.
Although after pains totally suck, they are your body’s way of controlling any bleeding. Your womb is usually back to normal within a week after birth.
We recommend dealing with them the same way you would with period pains. Using heat pads, gentle massage or mild painkillers will give you relief.
6. First Breast Milk
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, your body will produce breast milk. Straight after birth the first type of milk is known as colostrum.
This won’t look like the white, watery milk you are used to. It’s thick, sticky and cream or yellow coloured. You may produce a lot or very little, and leak milk inbetween feeds. It’s always best to be prepared with some nursing pads.
Most moms don’t notice colostrum as it’s made in very small volumes. This means your breast will still feel soft to touch. Some moms find hand expressing a good technique to learn, and it helps you see your milk.
Even if you don’t plan to breastfeed, consider giving colostrum until your ‘mature milk’ come in around 3 – 4 days after birth. Colostrum is jam-packed with antibodies. These will protect your vulnerable baby from infection before their immune system gets stronger.
If you are still undecided about breastfeeding, check out this awesome list of benefits by Expressing Mama.
7. The First Pee
You’ll probably be nervous about your first pee after baby is born. More so if you’ve had stitches. After a vaginal delivery, everything is swollen and sore.
A lot of moms are scared to pee, so they drink less. This makes urine more concentrated, and the more it stings. It’s a vicious cycle. Keeping hydrated will make your urine really weak and prevent stinging.
A great way to ease the sting is to pour water over your vagina as you pee. You can use a jug or a peri-bottle to target specific areas. This will also help to keep the area clean and prevent infection in stitches or a UTI.
Your pelvic floor muscles are put through paces in pregnancy and labour. C-section Mamas this includes you, as a catheter can cause bladder control issues. You may notice small dribbles of urine when you laugh, sneeze or cough.
It’s really important to start doing your Kegels as soon as you feel ready. This will prevent any future issues with incontinence.
8. The First Poo
Similar to doing a pee, the thought of your first poo probably fills you with dread. The good news is that it usually takes about 3 days to happen.
It’s best not to over think it. You may feel like you’re going to poo shards of glass, or your inside will fall out. Again, keep hydrated and maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and fiber.
You may want to consider using a stool softener to put you at ease. Your healthcare provider can prescribe you some, especially if you have stitches.
If you’ve developed haemorrhoids from pushing, you should use a topical treatment. This will reduce the swelling and pain from that area and make it easier for you to go.
Our top tip is to wait until you feel the urge. Using a maternity pad, hold it against your vagina and gently push up, to give you a feeling of support. Don’t strain, just take your time. The more you relax the quicker it will happen.
Once you get past the hurdle of the first one, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of relief.
This is one of those postpartum issues that no-one ever tells you about. As long as you don’t have a fever or feel unwell, it’s completely normal to sweat a lot after birth.
When you are pregnant, you gain a lot of fluid (remember to cope with bleeding at delivery). Once baby is born your body needs to lose this fluid. The easiest way to get rid of the fluid is by peeing and sweating it out.
You may actually get really swollen. Don’t cut back on your fluids. Your kidneys are working really hard to get your body ‘back to normal’. Making yourself dehydrated just stresses them more.
Wear lightweight, breathable fabrics to keep your body cool and aired. The sweating often gets worse at night. We also highly recommend getting a bed pad to protect your mattress from sweat stains (and bleeding).
It can take around 8 weeks for the sweating to slow down. If you don’t notice any signs of improvement, your doctor may want to assess you for a hormone imbalance.
10. Still Looking Pregnant
Regardless of your pre-pregnancy size, you will still look pregnant after your baby is born. Forget how quickly the celebrities snap back to a size 0, this isn’t typical. I remember going to a store a few days after my second child was born and the cashier asking when I was due. Cue a hormonal mess as I explained I just had by baby.
Straight after birth, your tummy will feel really weird. It will be soft a squishy. Plus you’ll weirdly miss all those kicks, and rib jabs that gave you sleepless nights.
Remember, your womb needs to go back down to size. Plus you still have extra weight and fluid you’ve gained over 9 months of pregnancy. Don’t be harsh on yourself and expect it to disappear quickly.
Breastfeeding is a great way to burn up extra calories as well as eating a healthy diet. Once you feel ready add some gentle activity into your daily routine, such as walking with your new baby.
It’s common to feel really queasy after delivery. This is more likely to happen if you received an injection to deliver your placenta, you’ve had an epidural or a c-section.
A change in your blood pressure or hormones is the main cause.
If all your vitals are normal, and you’re not bleeding, your caregiver won’t be concerned. They will be able to give you some medicine to prevent the sickness for a few hours.
If you continue to feel sick after any medication has worn off, this is a greater cause for concern. You need to report any sudden onset of vomiting to your caregiver as it can be a sign you have an infection.
Everyone talks about how amazing it is to see their baby for the first time. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel an overwhelming sense of joy and happiness at delivery.
Having a baby is hugely overwhelming. The reality you are now responsible for a tiny bundle can leave you feeling a bit emotionally paralysed. Coupled with the sheer mental and physical exhaustion of giving birth.
This can often leave moms worried they won’t bond with their baby. The truth is most moms are like ‘WTF just happened?!’ after their baby is born. It passes quickly.
Once you’ve had something to eat and a nap, you’ll feel like a new woman. You’ll soon be cooing over your little ones every breath. If you feel concerned or overwhelmed about your feelings, talk to someone you trust. It’s important to have support in place if your mood continues to be low.