Body changes after birth

Body changes after birth


After the birth of a baby, the first 48 hours will show little difference in terms of shape and weight, with the majority of women feeling as if they should have lost at least 8lbs, but in reality their weight stays the same. It is important that women realise that just as they took nine months to produce a full grown baby it will take at least that long for them to regain some of their former shape.

Body changes in first weeks of birth

  • The first 24 hours of uterine involution is important as the uterus stays firmly contracted and controls any excessive bleeding
  • On palpation, the midwife would feel the fundus just under the umbilicus and if examined daily, there would be about a centimetre reduction in the fundal height until at around day 10, the uterus should be just palpable above the symphysis pubis
  • Involution takes up to six weeks generally to complete, particularly when the woman has had several children
  • The daily loss of lochia empties the uterus and ensures the risk of infection and haemorrhage is reduced
  • Retention of fluid in the lower limbs is usual for the first 2-3 days following birth and is generally due to additional pre-pregnant fluid volume that is no longer required. Gradually, the fluid is excreted and a more normal appearance noted
  • Additionally, in the first few days, the breasts enlarge and swell with milk production in preparation for breastfeeding; the woman will feel relieved when her baby feeds, but uncomfortable with her new distended breasts
  • All in all, it is likely that the woman does not recognise herself in the mirror in those first weeks and she may feel dismayed that even though she has her baby in her arms, her body does not resemble the woman she once was

Part of a midwife’s role is to reassure and instil a sense of reality when seeing new mothers. Expectations today are high in regard to how women perceive themselves, and it is more difficult when magazines and TV promotes quick fixes that are unrealistic. Preparing women for what they can expect after a baby is vital; this helps psychologically and gives more balanced expectations. Antenatal preparation with their partners enables both to hear and discuss what is real and also the myths that are common. This education approach should continue after the birth with every contact from the health professional offering reassurance and realistic advice that serves the woman well.

Post-birth timeline

Timeline Physiological change Visual change
1st day post birth Reduction in size of uterus,

palpated around the umbilicus.

Lochia rubra.

Abdomen feels soft and spongy.

Vaginal loss bloody, wearing pads.

3rd-5th day post birth Uterus wall contracted at 3

fingerbreadths under umbilicus.

Lochia serosa.

Leg oedema.

Breasts enlargement milk


Abdomen still soft, uterus feels firm.

Vaginal loss much less heavy when moving around, wearing pads.

Ankles look puffy and swollen.

Breasts tender, hot and swollen.

10th day post birth Uterus just palpable at symphysis pubis.

Lochia alba.

Breasts lactating.

Abdominal tissue feels firmer.

Vaginal loss more settled and like a discharge, wear a liner.

Breasts changing constantly when feeding, wearing breast pads.

28th day post birth Uterus not palpable.

Breasts lactating.

General body tone firmer.

Sleep pattern changed.

Abdomen firmer and more resistant.

Breasts more normal in size wear pads if breastfeeding.

Walking around with baby,doing tasks.

Tiredness and lack of energy.

3 months post birth Still has some post-pregnancy

weight to lose.

Breastfeeding on demand.


Some routine established, finding difficult to eat regularly between caring for baby.

Breastfeeding exclusively,

wearing pads.

Some nights where baby sleeps through.

6 months post birth Body shape slowly returning to previous functions.

Breasts still lactating.

Diet normal.


Has more energy to walk and get out of house, meet other mothers, confidence better.

Baby started to wean.

Managing to eat at regular intervals.

Baby sleeping through night.

12 months post birth All body functions and

physiological changes are now

as pre-birth.

Adapted to motherhood.

Back at work.

Enjoying family life.

Confidence normal.


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