Your Postpartum Body
What's happening the first six weeks after the last nine months
Your uterus has just endured a strenuous workout and it bulked up quite a bit so that it could handle the job of carrying and delivering a baby. Immediately following delivery, the uterus is about the size of a football, and patients can feel it just below the bellybutton. But then it starts to shrink. By six weeks postpartum, it’s back to normal, about the size of a pear. “Normally it sits behind the pubic hairline and you can’t feel it,” explains Dr. Iffath Hoskins, executive director of the Women’s Health Institute at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia.
You may experience “afterpains,” sharp abdominal pains or cramps, as the uterus contracts back into the pelvis, especially while breastfeeding. That’s because the hormone oxytocin is released during breastfeeding and triggers contractions. Hoskins says these cramps generally last three to five days, with residual effects continuing for a week or more. Many women claim afterpains are a lot stronger after the second baby. Hoskins jokes, “I guess the uterus is ticked off. It remembers from the last time.”
Your uterus also does its version of a little spring cleaning after the pregnancy. You’ll get a discharge of “lochia” consisting of blood, mucus, and tissue. Arm yourself with plenty of maxi pads because things can get quite messy. The discharge starts immediately after the birth and lasts two to six weeks. For some women, it continues for a few months. The color will change from bright red, to a dark reddish brown and then taper off to a yellowish white.
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