You and Your New Body After Childbirth
Breasts, belly, and body
You're no longer pregnant, but your body just isn't the same as it was. You've changed, and it takes time to get back into shape. For example, your breasts are still large (whether you intend to breast-feed or not) and you're probably still padded with a layer of extra fat that your body stored in case the baby needed emergency nutrition. Your pregnancy belly is gone, but it's still not flat. Be patient with the healing process and give your body and yourself some special pampering during the postnatal period.
Your breasts are definitely not the same as they were before you became pregnant. They are still much larger. If you plan to breast-feed, your breasts will stay enlarged for as long as you continue to nurse. Within three days after delivery, they will fill with milk and become hard, heavy, full, and maybe uncomfortable. This is the time to make sure you have a comfortable, supportive nursing bra. Your breast discomfort will be eased each time the baby sucks at the breast and relieves the pressure.
If you are not planning to breast-feed, there's no way to get the message to your body. Your breasts will still fill with milk and become hard, heavy, and full. It takes about 14 days for the glands to stop supplying milk; this is called the "drying up" period. During that time, your breasts might be painful.
Don't try to relieve the pressure by hand-expressing milk; this gives your body a signal to keep producing more, and it will be impossible for the milk supply to dry up. The discomfort is temporary, but you can make this time less distressing if you use cold compresses, wear a supportive bra 24 hours a day, and take ibuprofen pain relievers. Also, try to keep your breasts out of warm water as you shower or bathe; it stimulates more milk production. Unfortunately, there are no safe medications to dry up your milk supply. You will have to wait for Mother Nature to do the job.
Your pregnancy belly is gone—well, not quite gone, but it's certainly much smaller. Don't be disappointed if you can't zip up your jeans the morning after your delivery. It took nine months for your uterus to grow and expand; it will take about six weeks for it to return to its normal size. A post-pregnancy belly is especially common after the births of second and third children, or more. The muscles of the abdomen just don't bounce back like they used to.
If anyone asks, "When is the baby due?" after your baby is born, just smile and say, "Very soon." People who really need to know if you've had the baby already know and will also understand that this is your postpartum shape.
If your body weight after delivery is a bit heavier than your prepregnancy weight, don't get upset. Your breasts alone add extra weight; your uterus might now weigh two pounds instead of its usual two ounces. There's a bit of stored body fat that will quickly fall away now that the baby doesn't need it. Watch your diet and give yourself six weeks to return to your normal weight. (If you're breast-feeding, your body will hang on to pregnancy fat, but don't panic. This will disappear when breast-feeding ends. Those extra five pounds will melt away!)
If your body weight after delivery is much higher than your prepregnancy weight, that's a different story. You've added pounds that have nothing to do with pregnancy. You simply ate more than necessary and now you've got some work to do. The Food Guide Pyramid guidelines are not just for pregnant women. Use them now to help you choose nutritious foods (in the proper serving sizes) to help you lose weight while maintaining your health and energy. You should also talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program. As soon as you are physically able, body movement will not only help you shed extra pounds, it will speed recovery by bringing more oxygen and glucose to cells that are trying to heal.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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