Postpartum care

5 things that happen to your body after birth that no one warns you about

Sure, labour was bad, but you knew what to expect. Don’t let these postpartum symptoms catch you by surprise after the baby arrives.

5 things that happen to your body after birth that no one warns you about

Photo: iStockphoto

No one ever tells you that you’ll wake up in a pool of sweat or have trouble grabbing a glass of water from your nightstand in the days after giving birth. Here are the after-effects you can look forward to in the days after having a baby.

1. Shivering or getting the shakes.

This can happen right after delivery—and it can also happen during the transition stage of labour. I distinctly remember my knees shaking like crazy right after my first baby was born, and feeling really, really cold while my midwives finished doing a few routine stitches. (And since my son was born too fast for me to get an epidural or any meds, I know it wasn’t a drug reaction.) It was a good thing my husband was holding our baby at that point.

2. After you deliver your baby, you might get an injection before delivering your placenta.

Don’t be surprised if you’re given Pitocin to help expel the placenta and to reduce postpartum bleeding just after delivery. This synthetic version of oxytocin can come in a shot (in your thigh) or be mixed with your IV fluids. It helps your uterus contract and clamp down, preventing hemorrhaging. If you prefer to go drug-free, you can ask your doctor or midwife about opting out of the injection. (The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends it, but my midwives let me skip it.)

3. You’ll sweat a ton the first few nights postpartum.

This is your body’s way of shedding fluids from your pregnancy. Your boobs might be leaking, too, and you’ve got about six weeks of postpartum bleeding to look forward to (it’s called lochia). Between the newborn spit-up, leaky maxi-pads and night sweats, you’re basically waking up in a puddle for a couple weeks. Investing in a waterproof mattress cover, laying down one of those disposable blue bed pads (it looks like a puppy pee pad) or simply sleeping on an extra towel can be a good idea.

4. Your midsection feels like Jello.

You might find that even twisting to reach your nightstand and lift a glass of water can be surprisingly challenging in the first 72 hours. (Yes, even with a vaginal birth.) For me, the disturbingly squishy feeling firmed up gradually on its own over a few weeks, as the muscles in my torso strengthened, but it was definitely a weird sensation.

5. You might feel intense afterpains, especially while breastfeeding.

The afterpains are caused by your uterus contracting and clamping down, returning to its non-pregnant size, and they can be particularly bad if you’ve given birth multiple times. (You may also feel some gushes of bleeding while nursing—that’s normal.) The pains usually subside in five to seven days, but some women with large families report that the afterpains with a third, fourth or fifth child are actually worse than the birth itself!

This article was originally published on Oct 16, 2019

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Ariel is a Toronto-based managing editor for Douglas and McIntyre. More of her work can be found in The Toronto Star, Welland Tribune and Toronto Life