What you need to know about your postpartum body

During pregnancy, much of the focus is around preparing to give birth and care for a newborn. All for good reason, of course. But, what about preparing to care for yourself after your baby's arrival? Just like during pregnancy, your postpartum body will undergo some significant changes in pretty rapid time. Knowing ahead of time what to expect from your postpartum body week by week is the best way to support your healing.

"Your body went through many changes to grow a baby and will continue to change in the postpartum period," says Nicole Rankins, MD, MPH, a board certified OB/GYN who is a member of the Lansinoh Clinical Advisory Network. Dr. Rankins explains it's common to experience physical changes to your breasts, vagina, perineum and abdomen during the postpartum stage. "Most of these things will get better by six weeks, but for some it takes longer."

Like pregnancy, birth and motherhood itself, postpartum body changes will be unique for every mama—and even for every mama's pregnancies. "It's important to take your time, get help if needed and give yourself grace as you adjust to your new post-baby body," Dr. Rankins says. Although every experience will vary, there are a few common postpartum body changes that are wise to anticipate.

There will be soreness

Giving birth is hard work and calls for recovery afterward. A common part of this is managing some aches and discomfort, whether you have a vaginal or cesarean birth.

A cesarean birth involves major surgery, so you should be prepared to take it as easy as possible while your body recovers. Be delicate with the incision site, limit physical exertion and be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

One common cause of soreness following vaginal delivery is perineal tearing. As the space between the vagina and the rectum, the perineum may tear or be cut (called an episiotomy) during vaginal delivery. Depending on the degree of tearing, the perineum may require stitches. This may cause some discomfort in the coming days and weeks, but the soreness is often possible to alleviate at home with advice from your healthcare provider.

As part of the Birth Prep & Recovery line by Lansinoh, the Hot and Cold Postpartum Therapy Pack can provide long-lasting relief to tender regions of the postpartum body when used as directed by your healthcare provider. With a slim, flexible fit and disposable sleeves, the therapy pack can soothe your body during postpartum recovery.

Your breasts will enlarge

There's a reason your breasts have likely grown during pregnancy: They are working to produce milk. Right after your baby's birth, those milk-producing abilities will shift into high gear, which will result in even more enlarged breasts. During the first days and weeks postpartum, some women experience the feeling of breast engorgement—whether they elect to breastfeed or not.

To relieve heavy, swollen breasts, it may help to use a cold compress, hand express milk and try to keep your baby awake through feedings so the breast may be drained. For moms who are not nursing or pumping, applying cold compresses can help alleviate engorgement within a few days postpartum. It takes a bit longer for milk supply to regulate for nursing or pumping moms, but the engorgement should subside by the second week postpartum.

You will experience vaginal bleeding

After your baby arrives, your postpartum body will get to work on shedding the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus during pregnancy. That means regardless of whether you have a vaginal or cesarean birth, you should expect vaginal bleeding during the first weeks postpartum. The discharge should taper off after the first week, but may continue for several weeks afterward.

One important thing to know about managing postpartum discharge is that you should use pads, not tampons. The discharge may also cause some cramping and tenderness, especially because your uterus is working on contracting at the same time. With an upside-down design and angled spout, the Lansinoh Postpartum Wash Bottle can help clean and rinse the vaginal area without the need for wiping.

Explore the Birth Prep & Recovery line by Lansinoh to find solutions to support your body during and after pregnancy.

This article was sponsored by Lansinoh. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.