Giving birth doesn't give you back your former body -- you're still in for some big changes as it recovers and adjusts to its new demands. But "you don't have to have a tough '10th month,'" says Sylvia Brown, coauthor of The Post-Pregnancy Handbook (St. Martin's Press). "A well-informed woman can use this time to heal her body properly and give it the rest and care that it needs." Here's a guide to what's coming.
When: Right after delivery
Why: The pushing you do during labor also pushes to your face and extremities any extra fluids that you've been carrying, says Kristina Sole, MD, an associate ob-gyn at the Cleveland Clinic. Indeed, shortly after I delivered my son, Campbell, I inflated like a float at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, as much of the extra fluid that had been coursing through my body for the past nine months spread to my legs. Women who have c-sections are also likely to find themselves swollen, thanks to the IV fluids they received. Fortunately, within days of your baby's birth, your kidneys will kick into overdrive, and you'll start peeing and sweating out this water. If your legs, ankles, or feet resemble those of the Pillsbury Doughboy, use a pillow to elevate them above your heart while lying down. However, "if the swelling is worse on one side or if pain is involved, you may have a significant problem like deep vein thrombosis, a condition where there is a blood clot that usually occurs in the leg," says Nicole Karjane, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect you may suffer from this rare but serious condition.