Today we’re talking about post partum body changes no one tells you about. This post originally appeared on ElisabethMcknight.com in May 2017 when I was 8 months post partum with Adelaide. Westley is now 8 months old so it seemed appropriate this get a little refresh.
We’ve survived with Westley almost as long on the outside as we have on the inside! He turns nine months old next month and it is hard to remember when our family didn’t include him (although that might just be because memories don’t work very well on such interrupted small amounts of sleep).
Everyone talks about the changes that happen during pregnancy. And everyone likes to tell their own miraculous and traumatizing birth experience. Friends told me what to expect in the days after delivery. But in the months after giving birth I still felt like I was getting reacquainted with my body… and struggling with a few postpartum changes I was not expecting.
Here are post partum changes you might not be expecting and people will not want to tell you about. Fingers crossed you don’t deal with some of them but if you do, you aren’t alone.
1. Hair loss:
Everyone mentioned that their hair fell out a few months postpartum, but you can expect it to take up to a year for your hair to return to normal. Some women report their hair being permanently thinner after childbirth. While there isn’t science behind this, your hair does thin as you age and one year postpartum you’re almost two years older than before you got pregnant.
2. Extra Skin:
You might be mentally prepared to lose the weight you’ve gained with each pregnancy but what I didn’t plan for is the extra skin that didn’t disappear as the pounds came off, especially around my belly. Lotions with vitamin E help tighten the skin but mostly it just takes time. Even as stretch marks fade, the skin is still just there.
3. Belly bulge:
It takes 6-8 weeks for your uterus to shrink back so plan on leaving the hospital still looking like you’re in your second trimester. This is why people recommend bringing maternity clothes to wear home from the hospital. A belly band after delivery can help shrink the bulge (and also help your abdominals).
4. New Shoe Size:
You’ve probably heard that your feet swell during pregnancy but did you realize that after the baby is born you may have a permanently different shoe size? The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend gaining 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy (I gained 50+ pounds each time) and this results in a lot of pressure on your feet. This added weight can flatten your arch which may leave you finding larger shoes to be more comfortable. The hormone relaxin, which is released to relax muscle ligaments in your body to prepare for childbirth, also effects your feet.
5. Peeing your pants:
Whether your push a baby our vaginally or have a c-section, you are at risk for incontinence. Pregnancy and delivery weaken the pelvic floor muscles which help with bladder control. Without strengthening those muscles, plan on crossing your legs before you sneeze and avoiding trampolines for a long time.
6. Back Pain:
You’re probably excited for lower back pain to go away once you’re no longer pregnant but has anyone mentioned it can persist long the newborn months. The hours spent hunched over a newborn trying to nurse and carrying an extra 10-20 pounds in your arms for the first year doesn’t help.
Daily exercise and yoga stretches are a necessity (maybe along with some ibuprofen). Cat and cow (yoga poses) are great for relieving back pain … bonus points for doing it with your newborn lying on the floor making faces up at you while you do it.
A portable massager might be your new best friend. This one was recommended by friends pregnant and post partum and is under $50.
7. Abdominal separation:
All women experience the separation of abdominal muscles toward the end of pregnancy to make room for their growing belly. One year after delivery, though, 1/3-2/3 of women still have some separation. You’ll find a lot of mixed information on how to heal the separation which may ultimately be permanent.
My recovery nurse in the hospital recommended an abdominal binder (I used this one under $20) to help stabilize my core after delivery.
8. Vaginal farts or queefing:
The vaginal canal is stretched during childbirth and it can take weeks or months for it to return to it’s normal size. You might notice air escaping in vaginal farts when you return to the gym for the first time. Pelvic floor exercises can help (they seem to be the answer for everything) .
9. Dry Skin:
Did you know was that dry skin can be due to a hormonal imbalance after child birth and can persist for up to a year post partum. If you’re struggling with super dry skin after baby, try a deeply moisturizing lotion (Curel Hydrotherapy worked the best for me) and take hope that hormones balance out eventually.
10. Sex Drive Drop:
Estrogen levels rise during pregnancy and plummet right after giving birth. Couple these hormone changes with exhaustion and it is very normal for sex drive to drop after baby arrives.
11. Varicose veins and hemorrhoids:
It is not uncommon for the added pressure of your baby to reduce blood flow in the lower half of your body resulting in varicose veins and hemorrhoids. If things get really bad you could have thrombosed hemorrhoids while pregnant (google it, I’ll spare you here). Usually these go away after delivery but in 25% of women, hemorrhoids are still hanging out 6 months after their baby is born.
If you’re looking for relief, sitz baths, ibuprofen, and ice packs can help. Reduce the problem by taking a fiber gummy or stool softener to decrease pressure down there.
12. Cup Size:
You might be enjoying (or bemoaning) going up a cup size or three during pregnancy. If you plan on breastfeeding, the trend will continue and you can gain another cup size while nursing. Be prepared for once you stop though (or after child birth if you’re not breastfeeding) for things to shrink back down, possibly to a cup size smaller than before you got pregnant. If size doesn’t change, it is likely that post partum everything will sag a bit more than before.
13. The Sweats
Post partum hormones fluctuate like crazy so gear up for hot flashes and lots of sweating. It is worth upgrading your deodorant to one of these just for the month or two after birth: