If you’re planning to breastfeed and haven’t bought nursing bras yet, now is the time. Bring them to the hospital – you’ll want them for comfort and support. Your breasts are likely much larger now than pre-pregnancy, and they’ll probably increase one or two more sizes while you’re nursing.
While you’re shopping, get some breast pads to tuck into your bra to absorb any leaks and some purified or “medical-grade” lanolin ointment for tender nipples. (Avoid lanolin if you’re allergic to wool.)
How your baby’s growing:
Your baby’s waiting to greet the world! He continues to build a layer of fat to help control his body temperature after birth, but it’s likely he already measures about 20 inches and weighs a bit over 7 pounds, a mini watermelon. (Boys tend to be slightly heavier than girls.) The outer layers of his skin are sloughing off as new skin forms underneath.
How your life’s changing:
At each of your now-weekly visits, your caregiver will do an abdominal exam to check your baby’s growth and position. She might also do an internal exam to see whether your cervix has started ripening: softening, effacing (thinning out), and dilating (opening). But even armed with this information, there’s still no way for your caregiver to predict exactly when your baby is coming. If you go past your due date, your caregiver will schedule you for fetal testing (usually a sonogram) after 40 weeks to ensure that it’s safe to continue the pregnancy. If you don’t go into labor on your own, most practitioners will induce labor when you’re between one and two weeks overdue – or sooner if there’s an indication that the risk of waiting is greater than the risks of delivering your baby without further delay.
While you’re waiting, it’s important to continue to pay attention to your baby’s movements and let your caregiver know right away if they seem to decrease. Your baby should remain active right up to delivery, and a noticeable slowdown in activity could be a sign of a problem. Also call if you think your water may have broken. Membranes rupture before the beginning of labor in about 8 percent of term pregnancies. Sometimes there’s a big gush of fluid, but sometimes there’s only a small gush or a slow leak. (Don’t try to make the diagnosis yourself. Call even if you only suspect you have a leak.) If you rupture your membranes and don’t start contractions on your own, you’ll be induced.
Surprising Facts: How your body changes after giving birth
Even if your labor and delivery was fast and easy, it will take some time for you to feel like your old self again. It may be hard, but try to remember that it took nine months to get here, so you won’t bounce back – emotionally or physically – overnight.
What to expect from your body:
- You’ll start losing weight right away. While you probably won’t return to your pre-pregnancy weight for some time, most women are about 12 pounds lighter after delivering one 7- to 9-pound baby and losing another pound or two of placenta and another two pounds or so of blood and amniotic fluid. Although it will take a while for your body to regain its pre-pregnancy shape – that pregnant belly may stick around for longer than you’d like – by the end of the first week, you’ll probably have lost about 4 pounds of water weight.
- You’ll have lochia discharge. After your baby is born, the cells that form the lining of your uterus will begin to slough off. This results in a discharge called lochia that lasts for weeks. At first, this discharge is mixed with blood, so it appears bright red and menstrual-like, then it gradually gets lighter in color, finally fading to white or yellow before it stops.
- Your emotions will be in flux. Within the first week or two of giving birth, many new moms experience the “baby blues.” You may find yourself moody and weepy, exhausted, unable to sleep, or feeling trapped or anxious. Your appetite can change, too – you might want to eat more or less. The good news is this emotional upheaval will generally pass within two to three weeks.
Call your caregiver if:
- You have signs of abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as soaking more than one sanitary pad in an hour, passing blood clots bigger than a golf ball, or bright red bleeding that occurs four days or more after you give birth. You may have what’s called a delayed postpartum hemorrhage. (Note: Call 911 if you’re bleeding profusely or if you have any signs of shock, including lightheadedness, weakness, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, rapid or shallow breathing, clammy skin, restlessness, or confusion.)
- You have signs of infection, which may include any fever; lower abdominal pain or foul-smelling discharge (signs of endometritis); difficulty urinating, painful urination, cloudy or bloody urine (signs of a urinary tract infection); redness, tenderness, discharge, or swelling around the site of a wound (such as a c-section incision, episiotomy, or laceration); a painful, hard, reddened area, usually only on one breast, and fever, chills, muscle aches or fatigue, and possibly a headache (signs of mastitis, a breast infection).
- You have signs of postpartum depression, such as being unable to sleep even when your baby sleeps, having any thoughts of harming your child, crying all day long for several days in a row, or having panic attacks.
How to recover more quickly:
- Get as much rest as you can, and make an effort to sleep when your baby sleeps. This can be tough advice to follow, especially during the day, but it really helps.
- Limit visitors and the time you spend with them. Consider turning off the phone and posting a “we’re napping” message on your door to discourage drop-ins.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugared sodas.
- Accept all offers for help with cooking, cleaning, childcare, errands, and the like. If you aren’t receiving offers, ask for help. It’s hard, but trust us, your friends and family want to help and most will be honored you asked. If you can’t get help for free, consider hiring a mother’s helper, cleaning lady, or others who can give you a break.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Talking to friends, relatives, and other new moms about your birth experience and life with a newborn can help you cope.