Childbirth is an exhilarating experience for many women, but it can also be difficult and painful. In addition to recovering from physical trauma, the body has to adapt to the abrupt changes in hormone levels after the birth. This hormonal fluctuation, which causes physiological changes, particularly in the breasts in preparation for breast-feeding, often leads to emotional swings.
Once the baby and the placenta have been delivered, the uterus starts to revert to its size before pregnancy. This process takes about 6 weeks. However, it may take several months for muscle tone to be regained in the abdomen, and any excess weight gained during pregnancy will have to be lost through a careful diet and exercise. The breasts remain enlarged while breast-feeding and only return to their normal size once the baby has been weaned.
The first article covers excessive bleeding occurring immediately after the delivery of the baby or in the first few weeks following childbirth.
Depression, which is covered next, is very common after the birth of a baby. Feelings range from mild baby blues to severe depression that requires hospital treatment. The final articles in this section cover breast disorders that can occur after childbirth, often in association with breast-feeding.
For more information on the physical changes during and after a normal pregnancy, see Pregnancy and Childbirth.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.