The skinny on your post-birth body
Some postpartum symptoms may surprise you, but are completely normal. Others mean you need medical care. Here’s what you need to know, writes Margot Bertelsmann
BLEEDING • What’s normal?
New moms often feel they are leaking from every orifice – breastmilk, blood and tears. And it’s true. Natural and caesar moms both experience postpartum bleeding called lochia when the body expels placental tissue and mucus. This bleeding is usually heavier for NVD moms than caesar moms and can include blood clots. The bleeding usually lasts three to six weeks, reducing in heaviness and colour over time. Use pads and avoid tampons – rather go back to them after your six-week check-up.
• What’s not normal?
“See your doctor if you feel itching, burning, smell a foul smell or have a fever,” says gynaecologist/obstetrician and Your Pregnancy consulting expert Dr Bronwyn Moore. And if it’s really gushing and you feel light-headed, get yourself to your gynae immediately – a haemorrhage can be dangerous.
BREASTS • What’s normal?
There’s a myth that breastfeeding makes your boobs sag. But the American Society of Plastic Surgeons says it’s pregnancy itself that causes sagging. Other factors are smoking, older age, larger pre-pregnancy bra size and number of pregnancies a woman has had. But breastfeeding does temporarily affect the look and feel of your breasts. Your breasts fill up with milk on about day three of your baby’s life (before then, she survives on colostrum). By six weeks postpartum, your body will have figured out how to regulate the supply of milk tailored to your baby’s appetite. Before then, engorged or overfull breasts are very common. “Manage this with warm showers and by applying cabbage leaves,” says Dr Moore, and feed your baby on demand rather than to a schedule. If a milk duct gets blocked, you might experience a painful lump in a breast. Learn to massage your breasts to nudge a blockage out and express milk to relieve the pressure on overfull breasts. And lastly, your nipples can come in for a serious hammering in the early weeks: cracks, blisters, pain and bleeding from a little mouth that isn’t latching correctly yet. So it’s vital to get good breastfeeding advice from a lactation consultant as correct positioning can make all the difference. She might advise using silicone nipple shields to enable you to keep breastfeeding without as much pain.