Postpartum Recovery: Your Uterus

pregnant woman places hands on belly and uterus

I think it’s important to be honest about what happens after a baby is born.

That’s a heavy sentence- sorry! Let me narrow that down. I want to talk about what happens to your body after your baby is born. Contrary to what celebrity magazine covers would have us believe, everything doesn’t just “snap back”.

Your body has spent up to 10 months growing a whole human being. So some things are a bit different. During pregnancy, your hormones changed, your organs literally shifted to make room, and you devoted a great deal of resources to making life happen. How awesome of you!

When you think about it like that, it makes sense that everything wouldn’t instantly go back to normal.

I’m not sure that all new mothers are prepared for the postpartum period. So this will be the first in a series of posts about what to expect when you’re no longer expecting.

Today, we’ll talk about your uterus!

Your uterus is also known as your womb, and it’s a pretty awesome organ.

It held your baby for months, and over time, the muscle expanded to hold what would become a newborn, as well as fluid, and the placenta. Then it may have done the difficult work of having contractions that pushed your baby out, or it had some assistance from your doctors through a cesarean.

No matter what, after birth, your uterus needs time to heal.

As a part of this healing process, you can expect discharge (called lochia) for a few weeks after delivery.

At first, this will be bright red blood. This is to be expected, and if you think about the placenta detaching from your uterus, may make a bit more sense.

Over time, the discharge should become pink or brown, and then yellow or white, and become less until it eventually stops.

Another part of your uterus’ healing is returning to its size and placement in your body. Initially, after your baby is born, your belly will feel much softer, but won’t immediately be flat. Some of this is because your uterus is still pretty big compared to its typical size.

As it shrinks, you may feel contractions, or after pains in the days after baby is born.

These after pains often resemble menstrual cramps. If you breastfeed, these contractions may tend to occur during nursing sessions, or become more intense. This is because oxytocin is a hormone related to both contractions and milk let down. The pains may also become stronger with each birth.

If necessary, talk to your provider about pain relief. Soon after birth is not the time to be a hero- you’ve done enough.

Your provider will likely tell you to avoid inserting anything into your vagina in the weeks after birth, including tampons or having vaginal intercourse. Their goal is to give your uterus time to heal and to prevent infection.

Things to look out for to avoid infection include:

  • If you soak a sanitary pad within an hour, especially while lying down.

  • If your discharge smells foul.

  • If you have clots larger than a golf ball.

  • If you develop a fever of 100.4 or higher.

  • If your abdomen is tender to touch

Give your provider a call if you see these signs, or anything else that you think seems scary. And as a postpartum doula I’m happy to talk to you about what I know to be “normal” recovery.

I’d like to give you and your womb a high five growing a baby! Well, something gentler than a high five. Perhaps your uterus would prefer a congratulatory heating pad? I wish you both a wonderful recovery.

Stay tuned to our series on how your body recovers after a baby! There’s lots to discuss about what happens postpartum.

2 Comments

  1. […] dive into the sensitive subjects. Last time in our postpartum recovery series, we talked about your uterus, and today, we’ll continue the real talk, in the […]

  2. […] discharge from the hospital and your six-week appointment with your OB/GYN, your body changes a lot. Some of these changes seem a little unsettling but are […]

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