Body After Baby

Changes You Weren't Expecting

  • Your New Skin Marks: Your belly, breasts, and butt can look like a road map during pregnancy. Sadly, these purplish-red streaks won't magically disappear after you have your baby. "But over time, they'll fade and become less noticeable," says Adelaide Nardone, M.D., clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University. Don't waste money on prescription ointments. They're not safe if you're nursing, and regular moisturizers work just as well anyway.
  • Your New Shape: Even after you tackle the bulk of your, well, baby bulk, don't be surprised if your favorite clothes fail to flatter you the way they used to. Your body may be curvier now in your breasts or hips. Changes in fat deposits play a role, as does decreased muscle tone. Be patient with yourself--you'll get there.
  • Your New Hair: Enjoy the lush strands your high estrogen levels bestow on you now; around 12 weeks after you deliver, estrogen drops and hair begins to grow and shed more quickly (read: clogged shower drain). If the fallout doesn't ease up after three to six months, see your doctor. It could mean you're low on iron. To commiserate about lost hair (or other postbirth woes) with moms who delivered when you did, go to americanbaby.com/momclub.

When Can I...

...shower? You can shower as soon as you want to. Pat yourself dry, especially if you had an episiotomy. C-section moms: Don't scrub your incision; just let water run over it.

...drive? Wait a week after birth, two to three weeks if you've had a C-section, says Robert Atlas, M.D., ob-gyn chair at Mercy Medical Center, in Baltimore. "You use your abs to move your foot from the gas to the brake."

...have sex? This one falls into the "wait until your six-week checkup" category, when a doc can make sure all's clear. It's okay if you want to start later. And "sex" doesn't have to include actual intercourse!

...take the Pill? You're fertile, so be sure to use birth control. The Pill is fine unless you're nursing, in which case ask for a progesterone-only pill, because estrogen can inhibit milk production.

...drink? In theory, after the baby comes out. If you're breastfeeding, having a drink two or three hours before you nurse won't hurt, but no more than that until after you've weaned.

...work out? Whether you delivered vaginally or via C-section, skip the gym for at least six weeks, when your body's done most of its healing. Start slowly with walking and stretches.

New-Mom Red Alert

If you experience any of these issues during the six weeks after you give birth, call your doctor immediately. They can signal a health problem.

  • Chills or fever of 100.5?F or higher
  • Sudden heavy bleeding (soaking more than
    one pad an hour) or lots
    of large clots
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe pain or redness surrounding, or discharge from, a C-section incision or an episiotomy
  • Fainting, nausea, or vomiting
  • Frequent urination or burning during urination
  • Constipation that lasts seven days or longer
  • Swelling, redness (or red streaks), and pain in your breasts, accompanied
    by fever
  • A tender, swollen, or red area on your leg
  • Persistent headaches or vision changes
  • Excessive swelling of the face, fingers, or feet
  • Intense sadness or feeling that you can't care for your baby

Originally published in American Baby magazine in October 2011. Updated in April 2014.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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