You can read a dozen books on pregnancy and childbirth, plus get all sorts of dirt on the joys and downfalls of pregnancy from your mother, sisters, friends, neighbours and the stranger in the street. However, there are some pregnancy-related topics that no one likes to talk about and when you finally see them in yourself, you’re flabbergasted and asking yourself ‘Why don’t they put that in the books! Why didn’t someone tell me?!’ Pregnancy and childbirth are indeed miraculous, life-changing experiences, but they bring as many bodily changes as emotional ones. And that’s what people often forget to tell you about.
Pregnancy typically lasts for nine months during which your body goes through such massive changes that noting down all of them would require reams of paper. Nine months – that’s close to a year of gruelling stress on your organs. If you think about it logically, your body is bound to change in appearance and function even after the baby is born. Some of these post-pregnancy changes will disappear with time, others will heal, others you just have to learn to live with. That’s all well and good. What’s shocking is your first encounter with them, and yes, there are multiple changes.
Would you rather know about the bodily changes post pregnancy or do you like surprises?
Common Post Pregnancy Body Changes
Most women prefer knowing what’s in store as it gives them time to brace themselves and prepare mentally for the coming changes. If you agree, read on.
You’ve given birth to your baby and ‘delivered’ the placenta too, so why should there be bleeding post-pregnancy? Postpartum, your uterus is still in the process of cleaning itself out. Dead skin cells from the uterine walls as well as bits of afterbirth will continue to be thrown out of the body for a few days and up to a couple of weeks post delivery, the time frame varying from woman to woman. The process is a slow one but not harmful in any way. There is no pain either. Do not wear tampons during this time as they carry a risk of infection, which you are very vulnerable to post-pregnancy. Avoid any undue physical stress as this can increase bleeding.
During pregnancy, your skin has to stretch to incredible proportions as your belly expands to accommodate your growing baby. This inevitably causes stretch marks which will first be an angry purple. As the weeks go by, they will change to white, and in a year or two they will fade to a shade that is slightly lighter than your natural skin color. Unfortunately, there is no cure for stretch marks. There are creams to reduce them and some home remedies to make them fade just a tad faster, but to date modern medicine has found no way to make them vanish completely.
Your body went through a massive hormonal ride during pregnancy, but the ride does not end once you give birth. To accommodate breast-feeding (or the lack of it) the body has to produce a whole new set of hormones. Plus, it has to revert to your pre-pregnancy hormonal production in some ways. All these hormonal changes will be apparent in your skin texture. You may suddenly break out for no reason, or maybe you will suddenly have clear skin even though you had bad acne during your pregnancy. Once hormonal production regulates, your skin will go back to whatever was normal for you.
No, not the kind of weight loss that gives you your pre-pregnancy body back, but you will lose a lot of weight after you deliver your baby. Depending on the weight of your newborn, you can lost anywhere from 5 to 7 kilos as soon as you give birth and up to 5 kilos in the successive weeks. If you breastfeed, you’ll be burning 500 calories a day without moving a muscle and that will lead to even more weight loss.
This post-pregnancy change scares women more than the others. You may notice that the drain in your bathroom clogs up with hair every time you wash it, or that your brush has become a jungle as your hair comes clean off in the bristles. You find numerous strands on your pillow and bed, on the headrest of your sofa, and even just running your hands through your hair is enough to detach tresses from follicles. What’s going on? Are you going to have to contend with baldness on top of everything else? Not at all. Although you are losing hair, all it’s actually doing is going back to its pre-pregnancy state. While you are pregnant, the excess production of hormones in your body causes your hair to become more lush and glossy. Once you give birth, hormonal levels gradually regulate to normal. So all that hair you gained during pregnancy is simply coming off because it needs higher hormonal levels to maintain. So rest assured that you will not lose all your hair, only those that you gained during pregnancy.
Breasts Change Shape
You probably noticed that your breasts got bigger while you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding, they will get even bigger in the days following delivery. The extra weight will cause them to hang lower than before. Also, your nipples will get darker. Once you stop breastfeeding, your breasts will lose weight, but they will still hang low and be much longer than before. Some women report that their breasts are smaller post-pregnancy once they stop breastfeeding than they were before conception. In some women, the breasts develop a slightly misshapen shape when they stop breastfeeding. This is one of the permanent post pregnancy body changes that you just have to learn to live with.
Feet get Bigger
This is called oedema and is nothing to worry about although it is one of the more startling discoveries for new moms. The uterus still holds a lot of blood and fluid post-pregnancy, not to mention that there are still IV fluids (if you had your baby in a hospital) in your body. The force of gravity naturally moves all this extra liquid in your body to your legs and this causes the temporary swelling. Worry not, your feet will get back to normal in about ten days, perhaps less. However, some women find that their shoe size increases post-pregnancy and that stays for life.
A common problem during pregnancy, haemorrhoids can unfortunately hit post-pregnancy as well. This is caused because of the stress of pushing during labour. The veins around the anus can get enlarged with the extra stress and these can be painful for weeks after delivery. Another reason haemorrhoids can occur is because the region around the anus has also been crushed under the extra weight of the blossoming uterus.
If you have a normal vaginal birth, your baby will press pretty hard against the vaginal walls while on its way out. This causes a numbness in the nerves there, the same nerves that are responsible for signalling when you have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, the nerves take a while to get back to working normally. During their convalescence, they may not always fire the way they are supposed to and you may not get the signal that you need to pee. Plus, your vaginal walls may not be strong enough to hold the urine in. So you may suddenly find your underwear wet and realize that you’ve urinated right where you are. Thankfully, this embarrassing problem is remedied quickly as the nerves repair themselves within a few days. Doing Kegel exercises can help speed up the process.