It’s easy to get the wrong idea about how long it takes to bounce back from pregnancy. For many women, it takes longer than they may think.
Your body spent months preparing to give birth, and you’ve gone through a lot of physical and emotional stress during both pregnancy and delivery. It makes sense that after your baby’s arrival, your body needs time to heal and recover.
How long it takes for your body to go back to normal may take 6 months to a year, or even longer depending on your health and whether there were any complications during delivery.
What to Expect After Childbirth
Studies have shown that hormonal changes involved in pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation may cause some women to experience delayed recovery. You may also need to regain strength in certain areas:
Your pelvis may be more unstable and prone to aches and pains.
Your shoulders may become more rounded and hunch forward due to holding and caring for the baby.
You may have lost core strength and pelvic floor muscles.
On top of that, high levels of exhaustion, back pain, urinary incontinence, sexual problems, and perineal pain may continue even at 6-7 months after giving birth. These physical problems may increase the risk of depression in new mothers.
Remember that healing doesn’t happen overnight. Give yourself enough time and space to make this initial adjustment. And focusing too much on losing weight or getting back to your old exercise routine may do more harm than good. Being patient and gentle with yourself can help take the pressure off.
If you feel like it’s taking longer to get back to normalcy, don’t feel that you have failed some mythical maternity test.
What Physical Changes Occur After Delivery?
After the baby arrives, you may notice physical changes including the following:
Your breasts may be painfully engorged for several days and your nipples may be sore.
Bowel movements may take a few days after delivery, and haemorrhoids, surgical stitches, and sore muscles can make it painful. If your perineum (the area of skin between the vagina and the anus) was cut or torn during delivery, the stitches may make it painful to sit or walk. It may also be painful when coughing or sneezing while the area heals.
Your body's adjustment to new hormones and blood flow levels can affect your internal thermostat, causing hot and cold flashes. The stretching of your muscles during delivery can cause you to pee when coughing, laughing, or straining or may make it difficult to control bowel movements, especially if labour was long before a vaginal delivery.
After giving birth, your uterus will continue to have contractions for a few days. These are most noticeable when the baby nurses or if you’re taking medication to reduce bleeding. Vaginal discharge may be initially heavier than your periods and often contains clots. Vaginal discharge gradually fades to white or yellow and stops after several weeks. Your body weight will probably be about 12-13 pounds (the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid) less than your full-term weight before additional water weight drops within the first week as your body regains its balance.
What Emotional Changes Can you Expect After Childbirth?
You may also notice emotional changes as well:
Many new moms experience irritability, sadness, crying, or anxiety in the first several days after delivery. These “baby blues” are quite common and may be related to physical changes (including hormonal shifts, exhaustion, and unexpected birth experiences) and the emotional transition as you adjust to your changing role and your new baby. These symptoms usually go away within 1-2 weeks.
More serious signs of the baby blues include severe mood swings, anxiety, guilt, and persistent sadness. Depression may be diagnosed up to a year after giving birth, and it's more common in women with a history of depression, multiple life stressors, and a family history of depression.
Decreased sex drive
Your relationship with your partner may change after childbirth as well. It will take time for a new sense of balance to emerge in your family. During this transition period, your interest in sex may not match up with your partner’s. And that’s fine. Talk openly about expectations and what you’re experiencing to make things less confusing.
What Exercises Can You Do to Get Back in Shape After Having a Baby?
Getting back in shape after a baby doesn’t have to be stressful. Exercising can make you feel good too. However, make sure to ask for your doctor’s advice regarding what exercises you can perform. Helpful exercises may include:
Kegels and pelvic tilts
Cardio (you can also spice up your cardio by adding some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or short bursts of higher-intensity drills to work the glutes, hamstrings, and quads)
In addition to exercising, breastfeeding your baby can help your breasts regain their normal shape and size.