Changes In Our Bodies

Abdominal Tone

Right after delivery, since your abdominal tissues have been stretched immensely, your belly may appear very loose. Your uterine ligaments and abdomen have been stretched significantly during pregnancy and need time to recover. The loose skin should lessen over time and you may recover your abdominal tone in approximately 2 to 3 months.




For centuries, women in Asia and other countries throughout the world have been wrapping their postpartum bellies with a belly wrap as a natural postpartum recovery method. Many believe that constant pressure against the abdomen during recovery aids in reducing the size of your swollen uterus, tightens loose skin, and helps restore abdominal tone. It also gives additional support to your legs and back while providing support for your postpartum belly. For women who are recovering from a C-section, wearing a belly wrap accelerates the recovery process by increasing blood circulation around your scar and supporting your abdominal tissues.


Vaginal Pain and Bleeding

Typically you will bleed up to 4 to 6 weeks post childbirth. Discharge of blood is mainly blood left from the uterine lining from your pregnancy. Your vagina may also feel stretched and tender after a vaginal delivery. Sometimes women tend to bleed more heavily after a C-section. If you had a C-section you are more at risk for anemia and Qi and blood deficiency because you also lose blood during surgery.


Use overnight pads to absorb the blood and change pads very frequently. Do not use tampons during the duration of your postpartum bleeding because it may increase the possibility of an infection or toxic shock syndrome. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is beneficial to avoid tampons entirely because they are a cause of stagnation since they inhibit the downward flow of blood.




Incontinence is a common side effect after delivering your baby. Incontinence is the involuntary leaking of urine that occurs whenever you are laughing, sneezing, or performing demanding activities. This happens primarily because childbirth weakens the muscles surrounding your bladder and pelvis, making it more difficult for you to control when urine starts and stops. In addition, as your uterus reverts back to its pre-pregnancy size, it lays directly on top of your bladder, making it more problematic to control. It can take anywhere between 3 to 4 months to regain complete bladder control post childbirth.




It is beneficial to do 3 sets of 15 kegel exercises a day. In order to properly identify your pelvic floor muscles, you need to stop urination midstream. If you master this then you are working the correct muscles. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, ensure your bladder is empty and lie flat on your back. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, hold the squeeze for 5 seconds, and then relax for 5 seconds. Do these 4 or 5 times in a row. It is helpful to keep the pelvic floor muscles squeezed 10 seconds at a time and then relax for 10 seconds. Focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles and avoid flexing other muscles in your body. For ultimate results, breathe freely while you perform your kegels. You should also avoid drinking diuretics including coffee, sodas, and alcohol because they weaken your digestive system and impede your recovery. They also irritate your bladder, making it harder to control your bladder.




Breast Engorgement


After delivery, your breasts will become swollen, hard, and engorged with milk. This happens because once you deliver your baby and your body expels the placenta, your body immediately stops producing excess amounts of estrogen and progesterone and produces prolactin to make sufficient breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, the engorgement diminishes within 3 days since breastfeeding releases the milk and reduces engorgement. If you continue to feel your breasts engorged in between breastfeeding sessions, it signals that your baby needs to be fed. If you are not breastfeeding, your engorgement should dwindle within a few days.




If you are nursing, use your hand to express a little milk from your breasts to relieve the pressure from the engorgement. It’s essential not to express too much milk because it will cause your body to produce more milk and intensify engorgement. Once you have an established feeding schedule with your baby, your breasts will no longer get engorged with milk. It is also important to feed your baby on demand and follow a consistent schedule. If you are not nursing you should wear a snug-fitting bra and avoid any milk expression. You may also use ice packs to relieve any discomfort.




Insufficient Lactation


Insufficient lactation means that you have insufficient breast milk to adequately feed your baby. In some cases there may be no secretion of milk at all. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, lack of milk and halted milk flow may be due to deficiency of Qi and blood or due to stagnation of the Liver Qi. The Liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine is responsible for smooth flow of Qi throughout your body which is crucial to the health of all of the organ systems in your body. For mothers who lack abundant milk due to deficiency of Qi and blood, it is primarily due to the fact that childbirth consumed all of your Qi and blood and very little is left to be converted into breast milk. For mothers who lack sufficient milk due to stagnation of Liver Qi, you may experience various symptoms like mood swings, frustration, and depression. A blockage of Qi or energy flow in your body obstructs milk flow, leading to distending pain in your breast as well as hard and painful breasts.




If you are experiencing symptoms of deficiency of Qi and blood, including a pale complexion, dry skin, poor appetite, loose stools, and pale tongue, it is important to consume nutrient dense, warm food, and incorporate a lot of protein rich food like beef, eggs, chicken, fish, pork, and black beans. Oatmeal also promotes breast milk production. Seaweed soup and papaya fish soup found in the recipe section are known to boost breast milk production. Consuming herbs that replenish your Qi and blood also stimulate breast milk production. It is also critical to feed on demand and ensure that you establish a consistent feeding schedule.




If you are experiencing frustration, mood swings, depression, or anger, it is imperative to stimulate circulation in your body so that milk can flow out freely from your breasts. Although you may have adequate milk stored in your breasts, due to the blockage of Qi, the milk cannot flow out correctly and is stuck. It is essential to consume food and herbs that help circulate Qi including small amounts of black pepper, cardamom, fennel, dill, and ginger. You need to restrict and avoid consuming deep fried meals and excessively spicy food because it will only aggravate the blockage and reduce your breast milk supply even further.




For women who are struggling with either deficiency of Qi and blood or Liver Qi stagnation, it is important to breastfeed your baby at least every 2 to 3 hours during the day. Remember to keep your baby close, day and night, and nurse often. Always drink enough fluids and consume a warm and nutrient dense diet.





Mastitis is an acute infection of the breast. You may experience symptoms of distension of the effected breast and painfully swollen lumps. If left untreated, the blockage may grow and fill your nipples with pus, and become extremely painful. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the main cause of mastitis during breastfeeding is the stagnation of milk due to stagnation of Liver Qi. It may be due to mood swings, frustration, depression, improper diet with excessively spicy food, deep fried foods, or due to an irregular feeding schedule. All of these factors may result in a blocked duct and then create an infection.




Continue to breastfeed more frequently. Although nursing may be painful, you need to let your baby breastfeed regularly to allow your milk supply to continue to flow. Apply warm compresses to stimulate letdown. You also need to consume a diet that circulates your Liver Qi and avoid consuming excessively spicy food and deep fried foods which aggravate your inflammation. Consume nutrient dense food, incorporating warm foods and herbs that help circulate Qi, including small amounts of black pepper, cardamom, fennel, dill, and ginger. If you have a fever over 101 degrees, you may need to seek the advice of your health provider. Your provider may or may not prescribe antibiotics, depending on the severity of your infection.




Stretch Marks


While pregnant, the skin covering your belly, thighs, butt, and breasts stretch remarkably to the point that your skin fibers may tear. The areas of your skin that have excessively stretched may develop pink or purple marks. Whether or not you develop stretch marks may be genetic or may depend primarily on the elasticity of your skin. Also, eating nutritious food during pregnancy and gaining weight within the normal parameters decreases your chances of getting stretch marks. 




The appearance of stretch marks can be lessened by highly moisturizing your skin with cocoa butter. Vitamin E oil has also been found to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It is essential to use a moisturizing cream that contains cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, and lanolin. These key ingredients help to heal stretch marks by rebuilding the structure of your epidermis. If the scars are extremely noticeable, you may apply concealers on the affected area to reduce visibility. There are also more permanent solutions available, including laser treatment and blue light therapy. Lasers repair the skin's natural synthesis of collagen. Blue light therapy utilizes gel and light to treat stretch marks.






During pregnancy, your body retains excessive fluid to nourish your growing baby. After childbirth, the high amounts of estrogen and progesterone that helped you retain fluids during your pregnancy help you get rid of the extra fluid. You may find that you may urinate more and sweat out the excessive fluid in the immediate days following delivery.  




Drinking more liquids throughout the day may be beneficial in curbing excessive sweating because the fluids can be released through urination instead of through your skin. Remember the sweating is only temporary and it will taper off eventually once your hormones become stabilized. Although you may be tempted to turn up the air conditioner or the fan, it is essential to still stay warm during this time period. Remember to wear comfortable 100% cotton clothing to absorb the sweat and change your clothing once it becomes necessary.  




C-Section Incision Pain


If you underwent a C-section to deliver your baby, the incision may itch and feel painful during your postpartum recovery period. You may continue to feel discomfort around your incision area for weeks after childbirth. You may feel uncomfortable while nursing, have trouble sitting properly, and may have difficulty bending over to reach for things.  




It is essential to protect the incision during your recovery period and forgo holding and carrying things. When you are nursing your baby, place your baby on a firm pillow over your incision to protect the area. Minimize leaning over while you are breastfeeding and sit upright to reduce abdominal pressure. You may also consider lying down while breastfeeding to make it easier and more comfortable.




Perineum Discomfort


During vaginal delivery, your baby’s head placed an excessive amount of pressure on your perineum, which is the region between your vagina and anus. The perineum may tear naturally or your Obgyn or Midwife may have decided an episiotomy was necessary to establish a wider opening. After childbirth, your perineum may feel particularly tender and sore. The duration it takes to heal depends primarily on whether it is a first-degree small tear, which involves the skin rather than muscles and doesn’t require any stitches, or a second-degree tear which involves both the skin and muscle. Second-degree tears take anywhere between two to three weeks to heal. If you have a third degree or fourth degree tear that extends to the rectum, you may feel discomfort for more than a month.




Remember to use the peri-bottle provided by your hospital to pour warm water on your perineum whenever you are going to the bathroom for at least seven days. Do not use cold water because it will delay recovery. The warm water dilutes your urine so your perineum doesn’t sting when it comes in contact with your urine. Cleanse the area with another squirt of warm water after you urinate.  




A couple of days after delivery you may take a warm sitz bath for 20 minutes. A sitz bath is a shallow basin that you fill with warm water and place over your toilet seat, making it useful to soak your perineum a few times a day without having to entirely undress each time.




If you feel severe pain, sleep on your side to avoid pressure and try not to stand or sit for long periods of time, which can increase the perineum pain. You should avoid walking excessively because this can increase the dull pressure surrounding your perineum.




Hair Loss


A few weeks or months postpartum, you may begin to lose large amounts of hair, known as telogen effluvium. During pregnancy you were losing far less than 100 hairs a day due to the extra estrogen.




Shampoo only when necessary, ideally once every other day or once every two days, and use a moisturizing conditioner and a wide-toothed comb to minimize tangling and prevent excessive breakage. Make sure that you towel dry and then blow dry your hair immediately after you step out of the shower. Ensure that you continue to take your prenatal vitamins and that you consume warm, nutrient and protein dense food.




According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, excessive hair loss, more than 100 hairs a day, may be due to Qi and blood deficiency. If your hair loss is prolonged, where you are still losing hair 8 to 10 months post childbirth, it is essential to check with your health provider to see whether your thyroid is balanced. If your thyroid results come back normal that is good news because it can be treated with healthy nutrition and a balanced lifestyle. Remember to consume nutrient dense warm food that is rich in protein and essential fatty acids. Warm food is easier on your digestive system and if you are suffering from an underlying Qi and blood deficiency, it is important to consume food that is easy to digest for instant energy. Incorporating chicken, black sesame seed, black beans, and fish in your diet will promote hair growth.






It is almost inevitable to be constipated during the week following delivery. When you are delivering your baby, the anus opens and the large intestine completely empties. In addition, most women don’t eat much during labor and delivery. For scheduled C-sections, you may have fasted for 8 hours before the procedure. Epidurals and general anesthesia will also slow down your intestinal functions. The incredible pressure applied on the rectum while you were pushing your baby out causes the tissues surrounding your anus to swell. In order to have a normal bowel movement the swelling needs to lessen.




Drink adequate fluids throughout the day and incorporate sufficient fiber and essential fatty acids in your diet. Consuming enough healthy fats lubricates your intestines and consuming sufficient fiber in the form of black beans, brown rice, sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, and oatmeal add bulk to your stool and will help push things along.




After Pains


You may experience cramping, known as after birth pains in your lower abdomen. This happens very frequently when you are nursing because the oxytocin released while nursing causes the uterus to contract. Although these pains may be uncomfortable at times, they are a good indicator that your uterus is contracting and returning to its pre-pregnancy size.




When experiencing after birth cramps, you may practice deep breathing to relieve discomfort and put all your focus on your breath. Placing a warm heating pad over your abdomen may also be beneficial. Wearing a belly wrap which places constant abdominal pressure may also help reduce the discomfort.






You typically lose ten pounds during delivery and approximately five pounds the following days postpartum. The other pounds will decrease gradually during the following months.




Focus on replenishing your body with nutrient dense and warm food during the first 30 days after childbirth. After your body has been nurtured with healthy and nourishing food, your digestive system will be stronger and more efficient, extracting more nutrients from the food you consume to convert into energy. When your digestive system is efficient and your Spleen Qi is strong, you will have a lot of energy. Once you have more energy, typically a month after delivery, you may begin to exercise moderately and continue to consume food that is healthy and nourishing.




Causes of Concern


You need to contact your health provider immediately if you are experiencing a fever more than 100 degrees, pain when you are urinating, hard and painful lumps in your breasts, excruciating cramps, increased discomfort in your episiotomy, heavy bright red bleeding or large clots in your blood. 


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Welcome to Nouvelle
Mama - Your Guide to
Healthy, Post Childbirth
At Nouvelle Mama, the focus is all about you and replenishing your body during the postpartum recovery period integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, nourishing recipes, and a healthy lifestyle that promotes your overall health and well-being.