5 Ways my body changed after labor & delivery that totally shocked me
A woman's body after going through labor and delivery is kind of like the site of a natural disaster--a wreck, but repairable. Going into the experience, I prepared myself for the worst: I read tons of labor stories and everything I could find about what kind of condition my body would be in when it was all said done. It was scary, but I'm glad I did it. Thankfully, my situation was nowhere near as bad as most of what I had read, but there was still a lot to deal with. Here are five things you should expect from your body post-delivery and some tips on dealing with them:
1. Swelling. Your vagina and the surrounding area are likely to be very swollen. The first thing you should do is resist the urge to look. You don't need to see what is going on down there. In fact, it's best if you don't. If you give your body the rest it needs and follow the nurses' suggestions, the swelling will be minimal or even completely gone by the time you head home. I got baby diapers packed with ice to stick in my undies for the first 24 hours and it was glorious. Your hospital will likely do something similar--take advantage of it.
2. Stitches. If this is your first child, chances are, you'll have stitches. They could be from a tear, an episiotomy, or surgery, but regardless of how you got them, the area will need to heal. Be nice to your nurses and they will hook you up with lots of tricks to make you more comfortable. If you deliver vaginally, one of those tricks is to sit in a sitz bath and soak your crotch in hot water a few times a day. Do it diligently and you will heal much quicker.
3. Tenderness. I don't know what exactly I was expecting, but I definitely didn't realize I would be so sore after delivery. Sitting, walking, and going up and down stairs was literally a pain for at least a week. This is totally normal and nothing to be concerned about. If you have a caesarean section, obviously the area around the incision will also be very tender. Just take things slowly for a couple of weeks and take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen if you need to. Let other people do things for you and only engage in as much activity as you feel comfortable with.
4. Jelly belly. You may have heard that you will still look like you're about five months pregnant for a while after your baby is born. This is both true and untrue. You see, when you were five months pregnant, your belly was full of baby and amniotic fluid and all that junk, making it quite taut and firm, but after you deliver, that stuff is gone and you're left with a puffy belly that feels and looks a lot like jello. It's a little disturbing, but I have to admit that I was fascinated by it. Oh, and don't forget that if you developed stretch marks, they will now be more noticeable since your skin is no longer so stretched out, and the linea negra--that dark line that appeared about midway through your pregnancy--will probably still be there. Thankfully, the appearance of your tummy will continue to improve over the next year.
5. Strength. Considering that you will either have just pushed a medium-sized watermelon out of your vagina or had major abdominal surgery, your body will likely pull through extremely well. Women were designed for this work. I was shocked to discover that once my son was born I still had energy and I wasn't in nearly as much pain as I had anticipated. I took ibuprofen for cramping and tenderness for about a week, but that was it.
Image via Thinkstock