Our bodies are the grandest mysteries, aren’t they? They undergo the most remarkable journey of intricate change over the course of a pregnancy, and afterwards, they restore themselves to factory settings. Most of us probably learn a lot about what our bodies are going through while we’re pregnant, but how much do we really know about the postpartum period?
I’ve put together a few of the most surprising things I’ve learned about postpartum, two of which I experienced. The more we know, the more empowered we are to deal with the unexpected when it crops up!
This post is not a replacement for medical advice. Before starting any medication, or if you have any symptoms that concern you, always consult your doctor.
#1: Even after the placenta is delivered, you still have contractions
Late in the evening after I had my daughter, I went to breastfeed her and was startled by the strangest sensation—every time she sucked, my entire body jolted uncontrollably, and it seemed to originate in my uterus! What’s more, it was accompanied by the painful feeling of labor that I’d felt a few hours beforehand. What was going on?
It turns out that I was having after birth pains associated with “involution.” Involution is the process of the uterus shrinking back down from the size of a basketball to the size of a fist. The uterus employs contractions to help with this (and to keep you from bleeding too much), just as it did to kick the baby out. These contractions can be painful!
Just like labor contractions, they’re egged on by oxytocin, which is released whenever our babies breastfeed, so we might feel more cramps while breastfeeding. In addition, they can get worse and more noticeable with subsequent pregnancies.
Not everyone has pain with these, but for those who do, you can take comfort in knowing they should resolve within a couple of days or so, and you can take medication like Ibuprofen to help alleviate them in the meantime. Some women find that a hot pad works wonders, too!
#2: You can develop preeclampsia after birth
A few days ago, this popped up in my Facebook feed:
I’d never heard of postpartum preeclampsia until I saw this post and started researching it myself!
A postpartum mother is at greatest risk for developing postpartum preeclampsia in the first couple of days after birth, but it can happen anytime within the first six weeks.
It can be easy to focus so much on your baby that you neglect your own health, but be sure to keep an eye out for the same concerning symptoms you would’ve called your doctor for when you were pregnant. Check out the resources below for more information on the warning signs from the Preeclampsia Foundation.
#3: You might start shedding hair like crazy
Around 3-4 months postpartum, I started shedding (what felt like) more hair than my family’s Golden Retriever! It was piling up in my brush, getting caught in the shower drain, tickling my back under my shirt, and getting stuck in my clothes. I was finding my hair everywhere.
I mentioned it to a friend and found out that it’s a common postpartum phenomenon!
Our bodies don’t shed as much hair while we’re pregnant because of our hormones, but sometime after we give birth, those extra hairs must go, resulting in shedding that can be pretty noticeable. Rest assured, though—it does go away eventually!
What To Expect cautions that if your hair loss seems very excessive, it could indicate a more subtle thyroid condition that can develop after pregnancy, so talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
There are my top three things you didn’t know about your postpartum body! If you’re postpartum, what are some things that surprised you? Comment below!
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