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When you’re pregnant, you spend so much time imagining what life with your new baby will be like. Will they look like you? Will they sleep? Will you sleep? After a long pregnancy journey, you may have forgotten what it even feels like to not be pregnant. But the truth is, after delivery, it takes time to adjust mentally and physically — to your new little one and your new self.
Model and new mom Ashley Graham recently posted on social media about just how hard postpartum recovery can be.
“No one talks about the recovery and healing (yes even the messy parts) new moms go through. I wanted to show you guys that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies!” Graham posted the message along with a photo of her postpartum belly a few weeks after the birth of her son.
“It’s common for women to be fixated on what will happen during labor and delivery, but they don’t always know what to expect or imagine from there,” says Kelly Frank, DPT, a pelvic health physical therapist at AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab.
Information can be empowering, and with the guidance of a compassionate care team, you can navigate your pregnancy and postpartum journey with confidence.
Here are 5 things to know about those first weeks and months after delivery.
1. The Fourth Trimester is Real
Your baby’s birth might feel like the finish line, but it’s just the beginning. This next chapter of life can be beautiful, challenging, messy, overwhelming and joyful all at the same time.
Your baby’s first 3 months outside the womb and your first 3 months of motherhood are known as the fourth trimester because you’re experiencing changes nearly as rapidly as you were while pregnant.
Smiling at the mirror in mesh underwear, Ashley Graham showcased the struggle so many moms can relate to. However you deliver, you may end up with stitches. Despite your desire to breastfeed, your new baby may have trouble latching. You might be in pain as you do your best to care for your little one with less sleep than ever.
But know that whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. Lean on loved ones and seek help from a care team of obstetricians, physical therapists, lactation consultants and more who can support you with expertise and empathy. Our fourth trimester class can also help prepare you for what’s to come.
2. There Will Probably Be (Temporary) Hair Loss
During pregnancy, your hair may have gotten thicker and stronger. But after having your baby, you might start noticing more and more hair in your hairbrush or shower drain. Some degree of postpartum hair loss affects most women in the first 6 months after delivery.
“It’s frustrating, but don’t worry — once your hormones reset, the shedding will slow and you'll see your hair go back to normal,” said Frank.
3. “Getting Your Body Back” Can Be Tough
Many factors — from genetics to diet to breastfeeding — impact how you do or do not lose weight after pregnancy.
“Give yourself grace,” says Frank. “Try to remember that your new baby doesn’t care what size you are. The most important thing is to relax, recover and bond with him or her.”
Many women also struggle with lingering diastasis recti, the separation of the abdominal muscles that occurs during pregnancy. It’s a condition that can resolve on its own, but up to 40% of new moms may experience it 6 months postpartum.
Fortunately, physical therapists like Frank know just how to help. There are therapy-approved exercises and treatments that target specific areas.
“My favorite exercise that I feel is appropriate for patients with pain, weakness or leaking complaints is the posterior pelvic tilt with abdominal engagement. It's something moms can do laying down, sitting and standing throughout the day as a way to engage their cores, bring awareness to their pelvises, focus on their breathing and relaxation, and safely strengthen their core and back as they continue to lift their new babies.”
4. Your Mental Health Is Important
In addition to all the swirling thoughts and feelings, hormones affect your body and your mind during and after pregnancy. Many women experience postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA) with differing levels of severity.
“It’s common to have what’s sometimes referred to as ‘baby blues’ in the first weeks postpartum as a result of your hormones changing,” says Frank. “But if you find that troubling thoughts or feelings of sadness and hopelessness are something you can’t shake, please talk to your doctor.”
5. Your Pelvic Health Is, Too
Vaginal and C-section births can be traumatic for your pelvic muscles. If left untreated, the damage done to them can potentially lead to conditions like urinary incontinence, difficulty having a bowel movement and pelvic organ prolapse.
"Pelvic physical therapy can help you overcome uncomfortable symptoms and get you back to feeling more like yourself,” says Frank. “You don’t have to accept pain and discomfort as part of your new motherhood.”
Visit AHBodyAfterBaby.com to take our symptoms quiz and find out if our pelvic health program can help you.
Find a Specialist to Support You
We believe in the whole health and well-being of you and your baby from conception to birth and beyond. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask. There is no shame in seeking help.
Specialists like Frank are here to guide you through the changes you experience postpartum. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit HerHealthNavigator.com for assistance finding resources or care providers for you and your whole family.