One of the best things about the first pregnancy are all the apps that tells you exactly what is happening in the body that week. The growth of the baby, the hormones that are flowing through your body, the changes in your breast tissue, and all the other miraculous ways your body transforms in pregnancy.
But once we give birth, that information is cut off and we are now only recommend apps for child development, growth, sleep, and feeding routines. And what we don't realize is that there is so much healing, bodily changes, and neglected knowledge that is vital for us to know in the 4th trimester.
These are just five of the many hundreds of changes that happen in those first 6 months.
After you birth the placenta, your uterus begins the process of involution. A term that describes your reproductive organs returning to their pre-pregnant state. The placental site begins to contract quickly to reduce any more blood loss, and this can cause some cramping and pain for some. At this stage, the uterus weighs 1000 grams (35 ounces) and feels firm, but by the end of your first week postpartum your uterus will weigh 500 grams (17,5 ounces), and by week six it will weigh approximately 50 grams (1,8 ounce) which is your pre-pregnant uterus weight! So in those first 6 weeks, your uterus is working so hard to contract and return to its original size, from 1000 grams down to 50 grams. And did you know that when you have your period your uterus then weighs 225 grams ( 8 ounces)? Our bodies are always adapting and changing, and our uterus is so incredible.
I hate to say it, but you know how you had to pee every 20 min in your 3rd trimester? That doesn't end once you give birth. Your uterus is still rather large as we spoke about above, but it's actually because you have about 6-8 liters of body fluids that needs to be expelled. The amount you lose is in line with how much you retained during pregnancy but in the first two weeks postpartum it is not uncommon to have a urine output of 3000 ml (100 oz) a day!
Pregnancy has a huge effect on our immune system, and rightly so. The fetus in utero is half of the pregnant person and half of the person with sperm. The pregnant person's immune system needs to be tightly regulated so that it doesn't reject the fetus. But what we don't realize is that it can take well over 6 months for our body's immune function to return to a pre-pregnant immune state. It takes time for our immune system to recover, but this doesn't mean we can't give it a little boost, just like what we do during the winter season.
Here are a few tips:
1. Eat foods that are high in vitamin A & C. Fresh produce like citrus and leafy greens. Raw honey and fresh ginger.
2. Vitamin D, check your levels and either take a supplement or get a daily dose of sunshine.
3. 70% of our immune system lives in our gut, find a great probiotic or even better include broth and fermented foods in your diet.
4. Regulate your nervous system. Stress has a huge impact on our immune health. Get good sleep and include some daily movement after the initial 6 weeks postpartum.
You have probably been told that the first few days after you give birth, you will have colostrum that is secreted from your breasts and that by day 3 or 4 your milk will then come in. But did you know that producing breastmilk uses 30% of your body's energy, while your brain only uses 20% of your body's energy? This is why snacks and eating enough food are vital! A healthy mother will secrete 500-800 ml of milk and day, and this requires at least 700kcal/day. So make sure you are stocking up on all the delicious snacks that give you energy.
The one thing all women can agree on in the postpartum is they know there will be postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia. The wound site from where the placenta detached is one of the main reasons for postpartum bleeding/lochia and we lose about 1/10 of our blood supply from this open wound! So whether you had a c-section birth or vaginal, everyone has this bleeding wound. The lochia is actually not just blood! Day 1-4 postpartum the lochia is usually red and is comprised of blood, fragments from the uterus lining, and mucus. Day 5-9 the lochia can change color to be yellow or pale brown, and now mostly is comprised of mucus, blood, and cells. Finally, the last phase is days 10-14 where it's mostly white and contains mucus. The lochia CAN last up to 5 weeks and it can take an average of 6 weeks for the placental wound to heal. This is just an average, because it depends on how much we rest, the nourishment we receive from food and support. So mothers who receive less may take longer, and mothers who prepare and set themselves up may heal quicker.
What to know more about your postpartum body? I have a monthly webinar that touches on all the physiological changes in the body during the 4th trimester, and how to best prepare for this new life stage. You will get two workbooks and lots of time for questions. It's filled with information you won't find on google and you'll take away tips, tricks, and ways to treasure your postpartum.