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Here’s the inside scoop on what really happens during pregnancy and those early postpartum days
When it comes to having a baby, people will “ooh” and “ahh” over teeny tiny baby clothes and tell adorable stories of snuggly newborns. That’s not the full story. There’s so much that people don’t tell you when it comes to pregnancy and postpartum—this is where you’ll have to turn to your BFFs (or Ashland Women’s Health) for the nitty-gritty real talk. To give you a sneak peek into the not-always-glamorous side of pregnancy and new-mom life, we’ve rounded up a few things we wish we’d known about having a baby. (If you’re squeamish, read with caution—but prepare yourself for the inevitable.)
1. Your boobs might start leaking during pregnancy
Sometime later in your pregnancy, you may notice a few drops of colostrum (that thick, creamy first “milk”) inside your bra cups or on the shirt you sleep in. Don’t panic, it’s totally normal. Your breasts are just getting ready to produce milk, thanks to all those pregnancy hormones. Leakage will peak in the early days of breastfeeding but should taper off for the most part after your supply regulates.
2. Your abs will separate as your baby bump grows
You’ll look pregnant leaving the hospital (and for some time after), partly because during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles literally separate to accommodate your growing baby. It takes time (and, in cases of diastasis recti, sometimes physical therapy) for them to reunite. In the meantime, once you’re cleared for exercise, steer clear of traditional planks and crunches and opt for gentler core exercises and breathwork that encourages healing of that ab gap.
3. As you near your due date, shaving your legs will be a challenge
By sometime in the third trimester, you won’t be able to see your bikini area beneath your baby bump, and you’ll have to do crazy yoga poses to reach your legs. Take heart though: your doctors won’t care about any excess hair while you’re giving birth—and, trust us, neither will you.
4. You’ll probably poop during delivery
Yes, you read that right. Pooping while the baby labors down the birth canal or while you’re pushing is a natural side effect of labor and delivery. Rest assured, it’s a common occurrence and the nurses are quick to clean it up, so you may or may not even be aware that it happens.
5. Your boobs will get huge and hard as rocks
Hello, engorgement! When your milk comes in a few days after delivery, your chest may look like it instantly grew several cup sizes—and it might hurt. If your boobs feel full, tight, warm and painful, know that it’s all temporary. Apply warm compresses to encourage letdown, wear wireless nursing bras for soft support and use a manual pump to help soften your boobs before nursing.
6. You’ll need a strong nipple cream
With frequent feedings, your nipples will need some soothing. Keep a quality nipple cream on hand at all times and reapply after each nursing or pumping session. It’s also a good idea to slather some on before you shower. Your nipples will be super sensitive and pretty sore, so even the rush of warm water can sting.
7. Stock up on stool softeners
Trust us on this: take the stool softeners. Postpartum pooping can be a little scary with how tender that whole area is, and pain meds can make you constipated. To prevent pain and hemorrhoids (yes, they can pop up during pregnancy and delivery), stay on top of the stool softeners, prop your feet up on a stool or Squatty Potty® while on the toilet, and exhale as you gently go. Then use a peri bottle (that squeezable bottle of water from the hospital) to rinse off and pat dry with toilet paper.
8. Bleeding can come and go and last for weeks
Your postpartum vaginal bleeding, a.k.a. lochia, will be heavy in the days after delivery and then lighten up after that. But be warned that it can continue for about four to six weeks. When you breastfeed or on a day when you are a little too active, the bleeding may pick up, so take that as a sign to slow down as much as possible as your body heals. If you notice excessive bleeding or large clots, definitely get in touch with your doctor.
9. You’ll have night sweats and body odor
All those crazy hormone changes can cause you to wake up in a puddle of sweat. Keep a change of clothes near your bed, consider sleeping on a towel that can easily be switched out in the middle of the night and don’t forget to rehydrate. With time, your hormones will regulate, and those night sweats and special brand of B.O. will go away.
10. Watch out for pelvic floor issues
Between pregnancy and giving birth, your pelvic floor muscles may need major recovery time. Gentle walking, deep breathing and proper body mechanics will go a long way to helping them heal. In those first postpartum weeks, some discomfort and vaginal or c-section pain is normal. But if you have prolonged pain, pressure, painful sex or urinary incontinence, know that you don’t have to live with it. Pelvic floor physical therapy is a real (and super helpful) thing, so talk to your doctor about any concerns and check into your insurance coverage.
11. You will come in contact with bodily fluids constantly
Poop, pee, spit-up, breastmilk—it’s the name of the game for moms of newborns. Embrace the mess of motherhood with a stack of burp cloths, the occasional change of clothes and a good sense of humor.
12. You won’t believe how in love you are
You’ve probably never wanted to inhale, kiss and stare at another human being 24/7, but just you wait. Sure, becoming a mother is pretty daunting, but your heart will soar every time you look at your son or daughter. It’ll shock you how in love you are with this little peanut! Forget all the changes and the discomforts of pregnancy––it’s all worth it for your beautiful baby.
As evidenced by this list, mom life can be messy—but it’s also pretty incredible. Our best advice: don’t be afraid to talk about the hard parts (you’re not alone!). If you’re an expecting or new mom, contact the team behind Ashland Women’s Health for support and answers to your most “embarrassing” questions. We’re run by moms for moms so absolutely nothing is off limits.