The last few weeks of pregnancy can be downright miserable, making you both excited to meet your new little one and for your body to return to normal. Once your new little one arrives, however, don’t expect to feel exactly as you did before getting pregnant. Your body changed over nine months to miraculously create a human being, and it will take some time for it to recover. Learn what you can expect from your postpartum body, so you will be prepared once you return home from the hospital.

Expect Some Bleeding

After you have your baby, your uterus will begin shrinking, shedding its lining as it contracts to its pre-pregnancy size. This bleeding is much like a menstrual period and can last up to six weeks. It will likely start off heavy and slowly decrease to a light colored or brown discharge as your body heals. Don’t be alarmed if your body passes blood clots during this time but talk with your doctor if they are larger than a golf ball in size.

Breastfeeding will prompt your uterus to contract, which can often cause a gush of blood during early nursing sessions. This will soon cease as your uterus returns to its previous size. Remember to always use pads, never tampons, during your postpartum recovery period to prevent infection and pain from occurring.

Expect to Be Sore

Perineum soreness often occurs after vaginal delivery. The perineum is the area between the vagina and rectum. During labor, the perineum stretches to allow the baby to pass through. In some cases, the perineum tears or the doctor has to perform an episiotomy in order to make room for the baby to be born. Cold packs, warm baths and sitting on soft pillows can help ease this soreness.

If you had a Cesarean section, your incision will be painful as it heals. Placing a pillow over your incision when you need to laugh or cough, resting and taking pain medication as prescribed by your doctor can help ease this pain.

Expect Extremely Firm Breasts After Your Milk Comes In

Approximately two to three days after you give birth, your breasts will fill with milk. Until then, your baby will receive colostrum when he or she nurses. When your milk comes in, your breasts will quickly become engorged and feel rock hard. Breastfeeding regularly and pumping with a high-quality breast pump will help your body regulate to make the perfect amount of milk for your growing little one. Placing warm towels on your breasts, taking a warm shower and wearing a supportive nursing bra can help with any discomfort from engorgement in the meantime.

Expect to (Still) Have Some Swelling

Swollen ankles during the last trimester can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of pregnancy. Unfortunately, this swelling normally continues after delivery and may spread to your hands, feet and face. Your body retained extra fluids during pregnancy in order to prepare you for labor and delivery. After your little one is born, this fluid can cause you to swell. Drinking lots of water and propping up your legs during nursing can help your body to remove this fluid.

Expect Hair Loss

The average person loses approximately 100 hairs per day. Pregnancy hormones lessened this loss during pregnancy, giving you lush, full locks. Several weeks after pregnancy, the drop in hormones will cause your body to make up for this by causing more than the average amount of hair to fall out. You may notice extra hair in your brush or hair in your hands in the shower as you wash it. This loss can last up to six months before regulating itself. Trying new hairstyles or talking with a stylist can help you feel more confident when your hair falls out.

Expect Stomach Changes

Your abdominal area went through the most changes during pregnancy, as it stretched and grew to accommodate your developing baby. When you give birth, your uterus will still be several times larger than it is normally and will weigh over two pounds. Over the next six weeks, it will drastically shrink in size and will weigh only two ounces once it has returned to normal. If you had a line form on your abdomen during pregnancy (linea nigra), this will slowly disappear after giving birth.

Don’t expect to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans anytime soon. Swelling and extra fluids will necessitate you wearing your maternity jeans or yoga pants for several more weeks as your body heals. You will probably also have loose skin and stretch marks after giving birth. Exercise can help reduce this loose skin in your stomach, and the stretch marks will slowly fade from a bright red to a pale silver color.

Expect Some Incontinence

With the delivery of your baby, the pressure will be relieved from your bladder and you won’t have to run to use the restroom quite as often as you did during pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, however, causing you to leak a small amount of urine when you sneeze, laugh or cough. Kegel exercises can help strengthen these muscles and reduce the incontinence you experience.

Your body went through an incredible amount of changes during pregnancy and delivery, and it will continue to do so now that your new little one has arrived. Though your postpartum body may be different than what you expected, with patience, time and self-care, you will soon be feeling like yourself.