I hear “no one ever told me ….” from new mothers all the time. Perhaps there’s a good reason. Perhaps there are things that should remain unsaid. Is it really appropriate to talk about the messy reality of ‘healing’ before you’ve even gone into labor? Maybe not at a dinner party. But here, in the privacy of a pregnancy blog, it can be talked about. All of the following are temporary.
1. The first bowel movement can be a most fearsome event.
Usually this is discovered alone, behind closed doors, hemorrhoid-soothing witch hazel compress in hand. It’s not that the bowel movement is particularly exciting, it’s just that after giving birth, pushing is not appealing. And yes, hemorrhoids are common — they are just varicose veins of the anus (I see why people don’t talk about this). These veins can “pop” out at the end of pregnancy and during labor from the pressure of the baby. They will eventually “pop” back in. But they can make bathroom visits a tad more stressful.
Problem is, holding it in can make things a lot worse. So be brave. If you have any stitches, be reassured that they can withstand a push. Try using a low footstool to raise your knees and put you in more of a squat than a sitting position. Hospitals offer Colace, a stool softener. Take it. Drink lots of fluids and eat a non-constipating diet (fiber, simple meals, etc). Enemas can be used if things get a little crazy. Often this problem resolves within the first few days. In any case, it gets easier and easier.
2. You’ll lose hair.
We are constantly losing and regrowing hair but during pregnancy shedding stops and we get a nice thick head of hair. After the baby is born, all that hair that didn’t fall out in pregnancy falls out at once. Not, like, right away in one clump, though it can feel like that on some days. It takes a few months to notice the hair loss and then it starts to grow back at around 7 or 8 months postpartum. You may recall Katie Holmes had a small crown of postpartum hair growth when she married Tom Cruise. Bangs can help in the transition period. Some women lose more hair than others, and almost all grow their hair back.
3. You’ll bleed.
Women bleed for about 4-6 weeks postpartum. It’s kind of like having all those periods you missed during pregnancy in one long burst. The flow does taper after two to three weeks to not much at all. At first, it can be quite heavy though. And the absorbent gear you’re given in the hospital? Pretty much a diaper. No tampons allowed. By the way, bleeding post-C-section is the same. The uterus still needs to shrink back down and clear out.
4. You’ll sweat.
Water builds up in your body over pregnancy and needs to be flushed out. Sometimes women wake up with soaking sheets on about day three. There’s absolutely nothing wrong, but it can be quite extraordinary. Especially so for women who have medications during labor: The IV adds a lot more fluid to your system, and pitocin (the drug used to induce labor) is an antidiuretic, it makes you retain water. If you had pregnancy edema and then medications in labor there can be a whole lot of fluid to flush out. The kidneys can only do so much. Usually the sweats take place over a day or more but then stop. Drinking lots of water actually helps flush out what’s there.
5. Breastfeeding will make you hungry.
Let’s end on a good one: Breastfeeding makes you really hungry. Like, post-swimming hungry. Making milk for around-the-clock feeding takes a lot of energy, more than even growing the baby in the first place. It’s an appetite most women haven’t felt since childhood. All bodies are different and the rate of weight loss varies postpartum, but a breastfeeding woman’s appetite can seem insatiable. (I had two breakfasts a day for months; it was awesome.)