Postpartum Surprises: The Stuff No One Talks About

There is a great deal of information available about the changes your body goes through during pregnancy, however your body continues to experience many changes postpartum as well. Here are five things women frequently experience during the early postpartum period. Despite that these are completely normal and common symptoms, women are often surprised by them or even concerned. Knowing what to expect might help you better prepare for your postpartum care and have the necessary supplies/materials available.

1. After Pains
Many women are surprised to discover contractions continue after birth. I know I was! These postpartum contractions are called After Pains. They caused by the shrinking of your uterus. Typically they are most intense during nursing and with subsequent pregnancies. They may last a couple weeks, but the first few days will be the most intense. You can take ibuprofen to help reduce discomfort from after pains. If you prefer to use alternative medicine you could use an herbal remedy called Cramp Bark. A heating pad or warm bath is another option to help alleviate pains.

2. Excessive Sweatiness
Your body goes through significant hormonal adjustments after giving birth and to produce milk. Those hormones can cause you to sweat excessively which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Remind yourself that it’s a normal part of having a baby and that many, many women experience sweating through their clothing, especially during the night. Selecting lightweight, breathable fabrics can help you feel more comfortable. Using an extra strength deodorant might also be helpful in decreasing sweatiness. It may last a few months postpartum, but it will eventually subside. I ultimately started packing an extra Tshirt for myself in the diaper bag just in case my original one became too sweaty to wear comfortably in public.

3. Bleeding
A friend of mine who recently gave birth to her first baby expressed to me at 8 days postpartum she wished someone would have prepared her better for dealing with postbirth vaginal bleeding. She really had no idea that she would need to wear a maxi pad for several weeks following birth. Postpartum vaginal bleeding is simply the body expelling excess mucus, placental tissue, and blood and is usually not cause for concern. Initially the bleeding may be heavy enough to consider wearing Depends disposable underwear. You might even pass a few decent sized clots. A certain amount of bleeding is normal, however if you experience excessive bleeding (commonly described as soaking through a maxi pad in an hour or less or a clot larger than a golf ball) you’ll want to contact your health care provider.

4. Vaginal Discomfort
Depending on the circumstances of your birth, the degree of postpartum vaginal discomfort will vary as well as duration. If you experienced a tear or had an episiotomy you will probably experience more discomfort and take a longer time to heal. Comfort measures include sitz bathswitch hazel pads, warm peri bottles, limited activity, kegel exercises and ice packs.

5. Sore Breasts
Breastmilk is likely to “come in” about day 3 postpartum for a first time mom; although can take a little longer. With subsequent pregnancies it can happen even sooner than day 3. If someone asks you “has your milk come in?” and you respond with “I don’t know” then the answer is no…because you WILL know. You will be very engorged and leaking milk when it happens and there will be no uncertainty about it. It’s actually a very exciting time to know your body is producing milk to nourish your baby, but it can also lead to discomfort. There are several comfort measures you can utilize with engorged breasts. Taking a warm shower or bath can help relieve engorgement. Gentle breast compression or massaging the breast tissue can help. Another common suggestion is to put cabbage leaves over your breasts. Cold compressions are also useful in relieving engorgement. Typically engorgement only last a short period; less than 48 hours. If you are unable to find comfort or engorgement continues, you might consider seeking the support of a lactation consultant.

What surprises did you experience postpartum? What did you wish someone would have told you ahead of time?

Looking for a yummy treat to bring a new mommy? Check out tomorrow’s post with a recipe for Lactation Bars!

-Sarah

Tags: afterpains, engorgement, lactation consultant, postpartum

2 Responses to “Postpartum Surprises: The Stuff No One Talks About”

  1. Jessica H says:

    I knew it was coming, I mentally prepared myself. But I was totally overwhelmed by the hair loss that followed my third child. After 10 months of glorious, shiny hair I was devastated to feel it coming out in large amounts. Every shower was like a funeral for my follicles .

    • Sarah says:

      Oh yeah…I remember hair loss with my first. I was very surprised to discover how common that was for women after having a baby.