You’re all set for labour but what happens straight after your baby comes?
Even though you've given birth to a bouncing baby, your body may still look like it's hiding another one! Don't worry, it's normal. "For the first few days you could still look pregnant because your uterus has grown so much," says Julie Edgcumbe, midwife at Clacton hospital. "And it'll probably take a few weeks for it to completely contract back to its pre-pregnancy size. "You may also look bigger because your body stores fat around your hips, bottom and tummy as a breastfeeding reserve, which may last up to six months."
Your regular eating patterns may have been disrupted while going through labour, and you probably cleared your bowels out before too, so it's likely that you won't need to poo until 2-3 days after the birth. Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet, containing lots of fibre to make sure that the first poo (when it comes) is nice and soft to stop it hurting. "If you've had stitches the idea is a bit scary as you're really aware of them because they're so close to your bottom, but they won't be affected," says Julie. "It's actually the first wee that tends to hurt more - it can sting because a lot has been going on down there and this can happen even if you haven't had stitches as there might be some grazing," says Julie.
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"It takes a few days for your hormones to register that you've had a baby, and when they do, your breasts react by producing lots of milk," says Julie. "This could make them become engorged and leak." To ease the discomfort, try putting cool savoy cabbage leaves in your bra (we kid you not, they really work) and use warm or cool flannels to ease the pain. Stock up on nipple shells too. The leaking will ease within a month.
Some mums need stitches in the perineal area (the bit between your vagina and your bottom) after labour. But don't get yourself too worked up. By this point you'll have your baby so you'll be happy and easily distracted. "From 34-36 weeks daily perineal massage will prepare the area," says Julie. "Insert your thumb 2-3cm into the vagina and apply pressure on the perineum for about a minute, stretching and massaging it with olive oil." Your stitches may be checked before you leave hospital and during your midwife's home visits, but there shouldn't be any long-lasting effects.
It's likely you'll have some heavy bleeding for the first few days after the birth but this will gradually tail off after 1-2 weeks. Then look out for some watery brown or pink loss until it completely stops at around 6 weeks. "It's completely normal and happens because there's lots of debris to come out while the uterus contracts back to its normal state," says Julie. "But if you have any clots that are bigger than a 50-pence piece speak to your midwife," she says.
You've just brought home the most beautiful thing in the world so why are you sobbing? "Some women have a sense of anti-climax," says Julie. "You've had nine months of waiting and then it's over and you have to get on with it. Tiredness and anxiety also contribute. In the first few days these feelings are normal, but if you still feel like it after two weeks speak to your midwife."
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