Giving birth to a baby brings about a whole slew of changes to your life, especially your body. So, how does your body change after delivery? Here are five ways, to name a few.
During pregnancy and postpartum, there seems to be no limit to the number of weird things you can experience. With all the changes, it is hard to know what is expected and when to worry.
You could spend an entire week searching google about your symptoms, only to discover that you may lose an appendage or your vagina will likely implode.
At least in pregnancy, you have the opportunity to see your doctor every few weeks giving you a chance to ask an expert. Postpartum? You are on your own, and not to mention, there aren’t a whole lot of reliable resources out there to help you navigate this transition.
5 “weird” ways your body changes after birth
1. You still look pregnant after birth
You still look pregnant for a couple of weeks after birth. As if looking pregnant for five to six months wasn’t enough. Most people will continue to look about 20-24 weeks pregnant after birth for two main reasons.
First, the uterus remains enlarged for several weeks after birth. After birth, the top of your uterus will be about the level of your belly button. The uterus doesn’t return to its normal position and size until approximately six weeks postpartum.
Second, your abdominal wall muscles have relaxed and separated to accommodate the growth of the uterus throughout pregnancy. Unfortunately, muscles are unlike rubber bands, so they don’t bounce back immediately after being stretched and separated.
This abdominal wall relaxation allows the enlarged uterus to fall forward and “poke” out of the abdomen, resulting in the continued bump you see in the postpartum period.
2. Your body continues contracting
Most people are surprised when they continue to feel contractions 24-48 hours after delivery. Frequently, my patients say that their contractions 24 hours after birth were just as bad – if not worse – than labor.
Many people will experience contractions after birth, especially during and after breastfeeding.
This occurs because during breastfeeding, your body produces a hormone in the brain called oxytocin that tells your breast to release milk, but oxytocin also acts on the uterus, telling it to contract. This evolutionary win for humans helps keep the uterus from bleeding excessively after birth.
3. You have night sweats
Yes, you may wake up with soaked sheets and clothes the first one to two weeks after birth. I know, gross. It’s like a little glimpse of peri-menopause hot flashes.
Almost immediately after the placenta delivery, the estrogen and progesterone levels drop. We believe estrogen plays a part in the thermoregulatory center of our brain (internal thermostat).
So, a drastic change in estrogen results in the dis-regulation of our “thermostat,” resulting in “hot flashes.” Most people will experience these at night while sleeping.
4. Your breasts grow even bigger (and harder)
About three to five days after birth, many people will experience enlargement in their breasts (yes, they often get larger) and hardening of the breast tissue. This can be pretty uncomfortable to downright painful.
This experience results from the transitional milk (thinner, clearer, higher volume breast milk) produced and collected in the breast tissue. This process often results in an inflammatory response within the breast tissue, causing swelling and pain. This is called breast engorgement.
5. And then they start to leak
Many people will, at some point, experience breast milk leaking from their breasts. Awkward.
Leaking can happen at the most inopportune times, like while having sex, uncomfortable, or all dressed up in a formal dress for a wedding, and a baby cries, awkward, or at work, and you glance at your photo of your baby on your desk, awkward.
While all of these can feel incredibly embarrassing, leaking is normal. Breast milk leaks occur because all those incidences result in oxytocin release in the brain. Oxytocin tells your breast to release milk (i.e., “milk let down”), and you start to leak.
You may get a tingling sensation in your nipples/breasts just before it happens.
Other changes that occur to your body after birth
The five changes listed above are just the tip of the iceberg regarding changes after delivering a baby. Some other bodily changes you can expect after birth included:
- Changes in your sex drive
- Postpartum hair loss
- Larger feet
- All-over swelling
- New skin conditions
- Mood swings
Final thoughts on your changing postpartum body
While all of the bodily changes listed above are normal, some occurrences are not normal. You must keep the communication lines open with your physician or midwife.
If you are experiencing some changes that don’t seem right or feel concerning, reach out to your doctor or midwife. They will be glad to educate you and further evaluate you when necessary. Your care team is there for you.
Alternatively, if you feel like your concerns are not being addressed, continue asking until they are or find another doctor or midwife.
Dr. Megan Gray is a board-certified practicing obstetrician/gynecologist physician with over 15 years of clinical experience. She is also the author of "The Forgotten Trimester." After experiencing the fourth trimester herself, Dr. Gray realized how under-supported women are during the weeks to months after delivery. Her work is featured in publications such as PopSugar, HealthLine, VeryWell Family, and Shape.