After childbirth you will notice changes to your body's shape and size. You may also have stretch marks or scars from a Caesarean section or episiotomy.
You will have gained some weight during pregnancy, but your body needs it to feed the baby during your pregnancy and for breastfeeding. You’ll usually lose the weight naturally, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
If you want to lose weight, do regular exercise and eat less fatty and sugary food. Your diet is important for your health and your baby. Extreme diets aren’t a good idea as they may cut your energy levels and you’ll need that energy.
If you are breastfeeding, dieting may affect your breast milk.If you do a lot of exercise, that may affect your breast milk too. Talk to your Plunket nurse or health professional if you plan to diet or exercise a lot while you’re breastfeeding.
It can be hard to eat well when you’re busy with your baby or other children. It’s important to look after yourself by eating regular meals, and drinking plenty of water.
Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, uterus and bowel. They often become weaker during pregnancy and childbirth, so some women wet their pants when they sneeze, cough or exercise.
To help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles:
Squeeze and tighten your buttocks, vagina and bladder (imagine you’re stopping yourself from passing urine).
Squeeze and hold for a few seconds
Relax and then repeat about five times
Try to do this several times a day.
Talk to your midwife or doctor if you keep having problems.
Your stomach muscles may have become a bit loose after the pregnancy, but they can improve with time and exercise. Your stretch marks will fade but they won’t go away completely.
It’s easy to hurt your back when you’re lifting, especially in the first three months after the birth of your baby. Try to always lift by bending your knees instead of your back.
It’s normal for vaginal bleeding to continue for around 6 weeks or longer, after the birth of your baby. But if bleeding changes to a bright red colour or is smelly, talk to your midwife or doctor.
If you’re breastfeeding, your period may return to its usual pattern anytime from the first couple of months to when you stop breastfeeding. If you’re feeding your baby with formula, you’ll probably get your period in the first 1 to 3 months.
The first periods you get after the birth are often irregular, and heavier or lighter than usual. This is because your hormone levels are still settling. It’s important to keep having a regular cervical smear test. Your doctor will tell you when that’s due.
Many women don’t enjoy or feel like sex for several months after the birth of their baby. This is normal. They may feel tired and sore, or don’t have time or energy.
Talk to your partner about how you feel and find other ways to share your love, such as cuddling or a massage.
When you do have sex, it may be uncomfortable at first, especially if you have had stitches. Using lubricating jelly or a different position may help. If sex is still painful, talk to your doctor.
Some women find that their milk leaks from their breasts when they’re having sex. This is normal, so keep a towel handy.
It is possible to become pregnant even before you have had a period after childbirth. Breastfeeding can delay fertility, but it is not a reliable method of avoiding pregnancy. You can discuss contraceptives with your doctor or Plunket nurse.
If you plan on becoming pregnant again, you need to have the right levels of vitamin supplements. Your normal diet is not likely to have enough folic acid so you may need to:
Take a B vitamin that can prevent spina bifida (a serious birth deformity of the spine)
Take folic acid supplement
Eat foods high in folic acid (soaked and cooked dried beans, fruit, vegetables, bread, and cereals).