Sore breasts and leaking milk

Several days after delivery, your breasts might become firm, swollen and tender (engorgement). To ease discomfort, nurse, use a breast pump, apply warm washcloths or take a warm shower to express milk. Between feedings, place cold washcloths or ice packs on your breasts. Over-the-counter pain relievers might help, too.

If you're not breast-feeding, wear a firm, supportive bra, such as a sports bra, to help stop milk production. Don't pump or rub your breasts, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk. If feedings are painful, ask a lactation consultant for help.

If your breasts leak between feedings, wear nursing pads inside your bra to help keep your shirt dry. Change pads after each feeding and whenever they get wet.

If you're not breast-feeding your baby, wear a firm, supportive bra to help stop milk production. Don't pump your breasts or express the milk, which will cause your breasts to produce more milk.

Hair loss and skin changes

During pregnancy, elevated hormone levels put normal hair loss on hold. The result is often an extra-lush head of hair — but now it's payback time. After delivery, your body sheds the excess hair all at once. Hair loss typically stops within six months.

Stretch marks won't disappear after delivery, but eventually they'll fade from reddish purple to silver or white. Expect any skin that darkened during pregnancy — such as the line down your abdomen (linea nigra) — to slowly fade as well.

Mood changes

Childbirth triggers a jumble of powerful emotions. Mood swings, irritability, sadness and anxiety are common. Many new moms experience a mild depression, sometimes called the baby blues. The baby blues typically subside within a week or two. In the meantime, take good care of yourself. Share your feelings, and ask your partner, loved ones or friends for help. If your depression deepens or you feel hopeless and sad most of the time, contact your health care provider. Prompt treatment is important.

Weight loss

After you give birth, you'll probably feel out of shape. You might even look like you're still pregnant. This is normal. Most women lose more than 10 pounds during birth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. In the days after delivery, you'll lose additional weight from leftover fluids. After that, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you gradually return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

The postpartum checkup

About six weeks after delivery, your health care provider will check your vagina, cervix and uterus to make sure you're healing well. He or she might do a breast exam and check your weight and blood pressure, too. This is a great time to talk about resuming sexual activity, birth control, breast-feeding and how you're adjusting to life with a new baby. You might also ask about Kegel exercises to help tone your pelvic floor muscles.

Above all, share any concerns you might have about your physical or emotional health. Chances are, what you're feeling is entirely normal. Look to your health care provider for assurance as you enter this new phase of life.

Mar. 24, 2015 See more In-depth