Welcome back to our postpartum recovery series! Today, we’re talking about a thing that can cause a lot of silent worries- your sense of smell.

Sometimes new mothers worry that they don’t smell “fresh” after they’ve had a baby.

In the context of everything else that you’re trying to do, this might seem trivial. But when you’re already trying to get the baby fed, get you and baby to sleep, and manage changes to your family and maybe your relationship, a weird odor can feel like it’s just ONE MORE THING that you wish would go back to normal.

And who do you even ask about this? Is a smell worth calling your doctor?

 

First off, know that you’re not alone in your concern. I’m someone who has thought about keeping herself fresh and clean since my mom used to say “go take a shower, you smell like outside”. And don’t get me started about boys on the bus in middle school who used to make crass jokes about smelling fish when they were being jerks to girls.

Secondly, this is not an unusual experience. While everyone is different, lots of people experience a change in body odor after birth. After hearing this question whispered enough, I did my postpartum doula thing and found some answers. There might be a few culprits for any smells you’re noticing:

 

Postpartum bodies may sweat more than usual.

Your body is likely losing a large volume of water, and sweating is one of the ways it exits.

Hormones are adjusting in a major way.

This shift impacts everything from your hair, to your mood, and of course your fertility. Just like our scent changes in puberty, the shift post pregnancy may have an impact as well.

Vaginal discharge, lochia, may continue for 4-6 weeks after childbirth and can have a very distinctive smell.

It’s a sign of your uterus healing and emptying itself after it’s grown your baby. Since this is your body’s time to shed cells that have been inside throughout pregnancy, it’s a bit different than an extended menstrual period. 

Early parenting has its own scent.

Drips of breastmilk or formula, baby spit up, diapers- none of these come in a laundry fresh scent. And it’s common not to shower as often when you’re tired and a new baby is attached to you. No judgment if every day doesn’t bring a fresh pair of clothes.

Superhuman smelling powers are common in pregnancy.

As your body settles down, this may or may not go away in time. But it’s possible that you smell things that others don’t.

 

Now that maybe you’re relieved, let’s remember that not all smells are created equal.

Check in with your doctor if:

  • A foul odor or pus seems to be coming from your cesarean scar or any stitches

  • You have itching, pain, green discharge or other signs of vaginal infection

  • You have a fever

Any of these could be signs of infection, which is another cause of odors.

The good news is, if there are weird smells after a baby, like so many things during the postpartum period, they will get better.

And the better news is that everyone around you will still love you even if you don’t think you smell like your usual self.

Or, if they’re giving you a hard time, ask your postpartum doula to hold the baby while you take a much-deserved shower! Perfect reason for me time!

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