While the media seems to focus on how quickly celebrity moms bounce back after pregnancy, we are covering the more realistic way your body goes back to its pre-pregnancy state (hint: it’s not a matter of days, or even a few weeks!) and what you can expect in terms of physical changes after meeting your little one. If you’ve recently delivered, here’s what you can expect will happen next.
- Your uterus getting back down to size. It takes about six weeks for your uterus to go back to the size it was before you were pregnant. Most moms are surprised to see that they still look pregnant when they go home from the hospital after having a baby, but this is normal! It took 40 weeks for your uterus to grow, so it definitely takes some time to shrink again.
- Your milk to come in. A new mom’s milk usually comes in a few days after birth. This can be a little quicker for moms who’ve nursed before, and a little longer for first-time moms or moms who deliver by C-section, for example. If it has been a week and you don’t feel like you’ve transitioned from making colostrum to a full milk supply, be sure you’ve checked in with your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.
- Your blood levels to go back to normal. To prepare for delivery, a pregnant woman will increase her blood volume by about 30 percent, or about an extra 1.5 liters. This drops quickly after delivery because of bleeding associated with birth, and by eight weeks postpartum these levels are back to normal.
- How long you will need to eat extra calories. Eating a bit extra for your health and that of your baby is important when you are pregnant, and if you are breastfeeding you’re in luck that this recommendation continues! In general, nursing moms should eat about an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding to give their bodies the energy they need to make milk for their babies. Try to space those calories out over mostly nutritious foods … and not all ice cream.
- When it stops hurting … down there. After delivering a baby the size of a watermelon vaginally, it should not be expected that you’ll feel 100 percent down there immediately. Most women are sore for a couple of weeks, but this might be shorter if you didn’t have any vaginal tearing or need any stitches.
- How long to heal from a C-section. Women who deliver by C-section are often told to give their body six weeks to recover. This means no sex and no heavy lifting until that time. However, when it comes to fully recovering most women will tell you it takes them longer — usually a matter of months — before they feel that they are completely healed up. Taking into account that you are caring for a newborn and are sleep deprived during this healing time makes a longer recovery perfectly reasonable. If you feel like you are struggling with getting back to what you are used to doing, mention this to your doctor. They may recommend some additional therapy such as yoga, core exercise programs, or physical therapy.
- When you’ll feel in the mood again. While most new moms are told to wait about six weeks after delivering to have sex to allow things to heal up properly, it does not mean that is when you will be in the mood again! When you’ll feel ready is based on many factors: how much rest you are getting and the state of your relationship are just a couple. Rest assured that sex is the furthest thing from many new parents’ minds, but there are some tips you can follow for getting back in the saddle.
- Your mind to stop feeling so emotional. Baby blues are feelings of sadness and mood swings that are usually mild and affect up to 80 percent of new moms. Postpartum depression is more severe and tends to peak a few weeks after birth, but can be diagnosed any time in the first year of your baby’s life. Overall, most women will see their emotions balance out after the first few weeks of their baby’s life, but if they are severe or continuing, be sure to let your doctor or midwife know so they can screen you for postpartum depression/anxiety and get you the help you need.
- For breastfeeding to not hurt. New moms, remember this: breastfeeding should never hurt for an entire feed. If this is the case — even in the first week or two of nursing — you should get help immediately. This continuous pain is often the result of a poor latch or infection. It can be normal, however, to have some nipple pain and sensitivity right when your baby latches for the first few weeks of nursing. You may even notice your nipples are uncomfortable even with water running over your breasts in the shower. This goes away after a few weeks, but again, don’t ever hesitate to call your lactation consultant to be evaluated if pain is severe or ongoing.
- When you can get pregnant again. It’s safe to assume you can get pregnant right away, so if you don’t want to, have a birth control plan in place! In reality, ovulation (when your body releases an egg) happens about seven to nine weeks after delivery for women who aren’t breastfeeding, but moms who nurse may not ovulate for up to six months.
Reviewed by Dr. Diana Huang, May 2020
- Many changes in your body take weeks or months to happen after giving birth.
- It takes about six weeks for your uterus to go back to the size it was before you were pregnant.
- Nipple sensitivity is normal in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, but pain should not be continuous or severe.
- Most non-nursing moms will ovulate about seven to nine weeks postpartum.