The journey of getting Pregnant After 40 and having a baby in general is such an incredible time for most women. Regardless of whether this is your first pregnancy or your seventh, there are so many things to be excited about as you progress through your pregnancy and begin your countdown to delivery.
All we can think about is bringing our beautiful babies home after we deliver. With all that anticipation, we don’t think about what happens to us and our bodies immediately after birth – and people don’t volunteer that information either. So, for those of you that want to know or get a refresher about what you likely will experience after birth, here you go!
1) Cramping Contractions
Immediately after you deliver your baby, the contractions are not over – and they likely won’t be for another couple of weeks. Between your uterus shrinking from the size of a soccer ball back to the size of a tennis ball and nursing, you feel like you’re in active labor again except they don’t give you an epidural for this pain. While ultimately your uterus shrinking is a good thing as it gets you closer back to your pre-pregnancy body, it definitely hurts getting there.
Additionally, the more children you have, the more intense the contractions are when you breastfeed your baby. With my first 2 children I didn’t experience contractions while breastfeeding, but with my last one I was almost in tears from the breastfeeding contractions that I encountered shortly after I delivered my son in the hospital. Don’t worry though, the breastfeeding contractions will usually subside within a week postpartum, although general uterus shrinking contractions can last up until your uterus reaches its pre-pregnancy size, usually by 6 weeks postpartum.
When I had my first son in 2018, the nurse asked if I wanted a prescription for pain upon discharge, and I told her no because I was feeling pretty good, despite having just delivered the day before. What the nurse didn’t make abundantly clear to me though was the fact that I still had some residual pain relief from the epidural and they were giving me pain meds every 4-6 hours while at the hospital. After going home later that day and waking up the next morning, I felt like an 18 wheeler slammed into my body, especially my pelvis, overnight because all the pain medication that I had been given in the hospital had run its course. That, in addition to cramping, I was miserable. So obviously, when I had my second son in 2020, I readily accepted the offer for a high dose of Ibuprofen, which I consistently took for the first 4 days and then a couple of times as needed after that.
My Suggestion:Take the prescription pain medication!!! Maybe you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll thank me later.
Unfortunately, post-delivery bleeding is inevitable, whether you delivered vaginally or via c-section. But how much and how long? Well, in the beginning heavily and the bleeding will likely be dark red, much like in the peak of your normal period. Luckily though, most hospitals will supply you with heavy duty sanitary napkins and those totally unsupportive mesh granny panty like diapers along with a plastic squeeze cleansing bottle that you fill with warm water to rinse your va-jay-jay in lieu of having to wipe yourself with toilet tissue. These cleansing bottles are a life saver especially if you delivered vaginally and even more so if you tore during delivery.
I would also definitely suggest purchasing the thickest over-the-counter maxipad that you can find for when your hospital supply runs out.
For me personally though, the first 2 days were the worst and the bleeding began to taper down by the time I was discharged from the hospital. If you don’t over exert yourself within the next couple of weeks, the bleeding should be less everyday and after a week or so your discharge should be pinkish instead of the dark red. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking it easy the first 2-3 weeks as I have had a tendency to do too much physically by either walking extensively, making frequent trips up and down the stairs, doing laundry, cleaning, exercising, etc. because I felt okay physically. The result was additional heavy dark red bleeding, clotting, pain and cramping. The reality is that internally your body is still healing, organs are still shifting back to their original locations and as long as you’re bleeding your cervix is still open. You’re bleeding will likely subside within 4-6 weeks and you owe it to yourself and new baby to focus on the well-being of yourself and your new bundle of joy.
My Suggestion:Seriously take it easy for at least the first 2 weeks. Let the laundry pile up, the dishes stack and toys take over the house. You’ll be tempted to do these and other things because overall you might feel pretty good – but your body is still doing a considerable amount of healing. So, do yourself a favor and “chillax”.
3) Postpartum Body
So you finally delivered your beautiful bundle of joy and feel like you can breath again! With anticipation you’re already thinking about which pre-pregnancy outfit you’re going to wear when you get home – that is until you take that first look into the mirror and see that you still look 5-6 months pregnant after birth. Before you freak out though, it’s totally normal, especially if you didn’t gain that much weight during your pregnancy.
However, know that your pre-pregnancy body and your pre-pregnancy weight are two entirely different things. It’s actually easier to reach your pre-pregnancy weight easier than it is to get back to your pre-pregnancy body. When I had my daughter at 25, my body pretty much snapped back right after giving birth to her. But my body was a different story when I was in my 40’s, as I was way more wiggly jiggly after delivery than I was before getting pregnant. The 2 children that I had in my 40’s totally changed the shape and elasticity of my body. Our snapback days are over after 40 years old and additional work, diet and exercise is needed to get back to your baseline when you’re pregnant after 40.
5 Tips on Firming Up Post-Pregnancy Loose Skin
1. Do Cardio Exercise, once given the okay to your doctor to start being active again, on a regular basis. Things such as cycling, speed walking, jogging or swimming are great exercises to get in your cardio.
2. Incorporate Strength Training to shape and tone your muscles by doing situps, pushup, pilates, yoga or any exercise that tighten your core and glute muscles.
3. Eat healthy proteins that help you build muscle.
4. Drink plenty of water as it helps hydrate the skin and make it more elastic and reduce water retention.
5. Massage your targeted areas with carrier oils, such as jojoba oil or coconut oil to help tighten the skin.
My Suggestion:Give yourself some time when it comes to losing all that baby and baby related weight. It took you 9 months to get this size so give yourself the same time to get back to your pre-baby weight and body.
You likely already know or have personally experienced swelling of your feet, ankles, legs, hands and face during your 3rd trimester of pregnancy, which is not uncommon. However, if you thought that the swelling disappears immediately after you deliver, you’d be mistaken. While your baby is no longer inside of you, much of the extra blood, fluids and hormones that built up in you over that last 9-10 months as well as IV fluids if you were given any during labor, is still very much present in you, hence the lingering swelling. Not to worry though, the swelling disappears within a week or two and you’ll be able to wear your favorite rings and shoes without puffy interference before you know it.
Click here for “8 Ways to Treat Your Postpartum Swelling”
My Suggestion:More so than anything, drink plenty of water to reduce your swelling. My “kanckles” were gone by the second week after I had my sons. Although getting a massage and trying acupuncture sound mighty tempting as well!
During pregnancy a drastic increase in hormones can make many of us extremely emotional, being happy and excited one minute and crying and anxious the next. These ups and downs are not unusual and once we hold our miracle(s) in our arms, love to the millionth degree takes over in our hearts. At this point, you’d think we’d be on could nine, but oh the things they don’t tell you after giving birth!
Now that we have this new love in our life, we experience several different things at once outside of the physical, which includes, pain, uterine contractions, extreme bleeding and swelling. However, initially, after you feel the relief of having a baby, you can also be emotionally overwhelmed with exhaustion, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), fear of taking care of a newborn (whether this is your first baby or not), wondering if something is wrong with your baby, problems with nursing or feeding your baby, worrying about the additional financial responsibility of a new life or God forbid worrying about your baby if he or she is in NICU or has other health issues. The emotional toll of having a baby is real but not unusual. You will find your new normal within months and won’t be able to imagine life without your little one again.
As a side note though, Postpartum Depression (PPD) is very real as 1 in 7 women suffer from PPD. So if you become depressed or have thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or others, you can find Local Support and Help by visiting “Postpartum Support International” at www.postpartum.net.
My Suggestion:If you need a break, then take a break and know that these feelings are temporary. It’s definitely a balancing act ladies, but we are built for this and you will be fine and a great new mommy!
6) Hair Loss
Many women notice that their nails are longer and their hair is thicker than ever during pregnancy (unfortunately, that may also come in the form of more facial hair as well) due to the increase of a hormone called oestrogen. Your hair is not actually growing anymore than it did, it just stays in the growing phase longer, which means less hair falls out during pregnancy.
Now this is definitely a side effect that you would like to continue for a while after delivery (except for the facial hair, which I use Nair Facial Hair Remover to get rid of), but of course it doesn’t as your body returns back to normal. You will likely notice hair loss until around 3-4 months after having your baby and your hair should resume its normal growth/shed pattern by the time your baby reaches their first birthday.
My Suggestion:Your hair and nails will seem like their withering away, along with your sleep, but it’s normal and definitely related to just having a baby. There’s not much that can be done about this one. We just have to accept the fact our luxurious hair and nails will soon come to an end.
7) Engorgement & Blocked Milk Ducts
Once you deliver your baby, your body begins producing and releasing milk to your breasts. This will happen whether you delivered vaginally or C-section, whether you want to breastfeed or formula feed, or whether your baby latches on or not. The colostrum immediately ready to supply your newborn is the calm before the storm. Within a few days of delivery your breastmilk will likely come in, however, when it does your breasts may become engorged (when your breasts overfill with milk, and as a result become swollen hard and painful). When I become engorged, I try to get my baby to nurse, but if he won’t at the time, then I’ve pumped some milk, using my Medela Manual Breast Pump out to relieve the pressure. Once expressed, you can either store it using sterile storage bags and feed it to your baby at a later time (according to proper breastmilk storage guidelines) or dump it.
Blocked Milk Ducts & Breast Lumps
At this same time while you’re making breastmilk and in addition to engorgement, you may also notice a few lumps in your breasts, which is likely due to blocked milk ducts. “A lump from a blocked milk duct is a common problem while breastfeeding.” (Healthline.com). Your milk ducts may be due to your baby not latching well, which leads to insufficient drainage of milk or you’ve gone too long in between feedings. At the end of the day though, both situations are common and should subside once you and your newborn get on a nursing schedule or stop nursing altogether.
My Suggestion:When my milk ducts become blocked and I feel the lumps, it’s usually a result of going too long in between feedings. I alleviate the lumps by putting a hot towel on my breasts for about 10-15 seconds and then massage each one, including the nipples, starting by my armpits in a circular motion until I reach the nipples. Ideally, I will nurse at that point, but if not, then I’ll insert a clean nursing pad or pump if my breasts are hurting and the baby is not ready to feed.
8) Postpartum Sweats
Aside from being pregnant, I am already hot-natured and require at least a ceiling fan to be on at night all year long, even during the winter. But pregnancy adds another level of internal hotness, you know with all the additional blood and hormones circulating throughout your body. You just accept this as another pregnancy woe, knowing this will be over soon.
That soon, however, is not right after you deliver. You still have that extra blood, fluid, hormones and are now producing breast milk. After you have the baby, your body no longer needs these extra fluids so your body tries to rid of it by sweating it out. Night sweats are their highest 2 weeks postpartum, but can last up to 6 weeks postpartum.
If you’re experiencing Postpartum Sweats, you can do the following for some relief:
1. Stay cool by turning on the air conditioner, fan, or opening a window;
2. Drink cold water;
3. Wear loose, thin clothing;
4. Avoid foods like spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol and/or hot foods or liquids;
5. Practice relaxation methods and techniques;
6. Eat a healthy diet and exercise; and/or
7. Getting a Massage or doing Pilates
(Medical News Today)
My Suggestion: Keep air circulating as much as possible. Also, personally, I have to consume an extraordinary amount of ice water (preferably with a straw) throughout the day and night, but especially while I’m nursing baby or pumping in order to lower my body temperature.
So, when I had my daughter in 2002, it was a requirement that I had at least one bowel movement before the hospital would discharge me. By the time I had my first son in 2018, that policy changed and we new moms were only required to pass gas prior to being discharge. When I had my second son in 2020, passing gas before being discharged was still the requirement, but I specifically remember the hospital giving me a stool softener 1-2 times a day this time. All this to say that after giving birth, your first bowel movement may be somewhat challenging as your bowels are often sluggish due to stretched muscles, a sore perineum and the side effects of some pain medications.
That first poop is very intimidating, especially if you tore (your perineum) during a vaginal birth. There are, however, a few things you can do to make your first few postpartum poops a little easier, including the following:
1. Take a Stool Softener (NOT a Laxative);
2. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Plenty of Water;
3. Eat Fiber Rich Foods, Prunes or Take a Fiber Supplement;
4. Put your elbows on your knees and lean forward when you poop, breathe in and then gently push as you continually breathe out; and
5. Use your cleansing bottle to clean and wash after you use the bathroom for the first couple of weeks after having your baby.
My Suggestion:When I had my second son in 2020, I actually had my first bowel movement before I was discharged from the hospital. I attribute that to taking the stool softener and drinking a boat load of ice water constantly throughout my stay. Additionally, I maintained drinking a lot of water and added Kale blends to help with easier stools.
10) Frequent Urination
If you’re like me, you probably thought that the frequent bathroom trips to urinate were the most prevalent during the beginning of the first trimester and during your third trimester. You thought that once you had the baby that those frequent bathroom trips would finally come to an end. NOT!
You will still make frequent trips to pee for up to a couple of weeks after delivery, but for good reason.
Most of those fluids that you produced during pregnancy are still present, and the best way to rid your body of those fluids and hormones is through your urine. After the first week you should see a significant decrease in swelling, be it in your feet, ankles, legs, hands or fingers. By your 3rdweek postpartum, those potty trips will likely be back to normal and you’ll once again see very defined ankles.
Just remember that even though you’re peeing frequently, you still need to drink plenty of water, refrain from consuming caffeine and eating processed foods and foods high in sodium to have the most productive potty trips. I just got accustomed to going to the bathroom right before I nursed my son, which ended up being about every 2 hours or about 10 times a day for the first couple of weeks. It does come to end though, so just hang in there!
My Suggestion: See frequent urination as a good thing. I automatically drink a lot of water anyway so that helps. During my last pregnancy, my frequent urination began to subside after the second week after having my son, so trust me, it does subside.