During pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes an enormous transformation. Week by week, her body is changing to accommodate her growing fetus. Her hormones perform a unique dance, increasing and decreasing in production right at the times when it's needed. Everything in her body sees certain changes, from her brain to her ligaments and bones. And when she finally gives birth to her child, everything can't get back to how it was before pregnancy. It may not happen in a snap – it's just impossible.
Some of the pregnancy-related changes persist during the rest of a woman's life, and they can even become more prominent if she gives birth to more babies. Other changes seem to be huge after delivery, but gradually they fade away and stop bothering moms. But no matter what these changes are, they are totally worth it. Moms realize this simple fact when they look at their babies smiling at them, when they see their first steps and hear their first words. At this moment, they don't really care about hair loss, skin color changes, or stretch marks.
But since we still need to know what happens to the body during such a special period of our life, let's see what changes should be expected after childbirth and learn which ones of them are permanent and which are only temporary.
20 Will Stay: Hips Become Wider
A lot of women say that after childbirth their hips seem to have become wider. It's actually a common side effect and Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, can explain how it happens.
"During pregnancy and when you have a baby go through the birth canal, it changes your bone structure slightly," she says on Self. "Some people don't notice a change after, but others do."
So probably even if you come back to your pre-baby shape, you'll still need to buy new jeans for a new you.
19 Will Fade: Wee Issues
After giving birth, you'll probably find yourself experiencing the loss of your bladder control. Sometimes, you might even pee a little bit because of laughing, coughing, or sneezing. It happens, because natural delivery may weaken your bladder control muscles and damage bladder nerves. But even if you had a C-section, you'll probably experience similar issues, according to Dr. Michael Cackovic, the obstetrics director of cardiac disease and pregnancy at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
However, it's unlikely that you'll have to live with wee issues your whole life. If you do Kegel exercises, you'll make your muscles stronger again and regain your bladder control.
18 Will Stay: Bigger Shoe Size
One of the weirdest things that change in your body after childbirth is your shoe size. It's likely to become bigger and it happens as a result of the production of hormone relaxin. As the name suggests, it helps relax ligaments and bones in your pelvis, thus preparing it to delivery. Meanwhile, it also affects ligaments all over the body, including your feet. According to Dr. Leena Nathan, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, it makes them "looser and more spread out."
Even after the production of relaxin stops, shoe size doesn't get back to its prenatal size, so these changes are permanent. In other words, get ready to shop for new shoes.
17 Will Fade: Mask Of Pregnancy
There's a skin condition that's commonly known as "mask of pregnancy" (scientifically, it's called melasma). It manifests as brown patches on the face. And there's also a condition called the linea negra (the black line) that shows as dark vertical line running over your belly to the pubic hair region.
Both melasma and linea negra are caused by the increased production of melanin (the hormone that adds color to your hair and skin). Usually, shortly after giving birth both of these conditions fade away. In some women, they can last for a few years, but gradually they're likely to at least become lighter.
16 Will Stay: Sagging Girls
Yes, your girls will probably sag after giving birth and there's not much you can do about it. In fact, even breastfeeding doesn't really contribute to the problem and doesn't increase droopiness, which means that we shouldn't choose bottle-feeding only because we care a bit too much about our girls.
According to a study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, this incredibly sad side effect of pregnancy happens as a result of the "stretching of the ligaments and elastin that hold the fatty tissue in place." The loss of fat tissues is also to blame for it. And once the sagging happens, the girls won't perk up again, specialists say. #cryingface
15 Will Stay: Obvious Changes Down There
Yes, you will eventually heal down there, but no, your nether regions will never get back to how they were before you gave birth. After all, you certainly understand that your lady parts had to widen (a lot) to meet the size of your baby's head. And, if you had a natural delivery, you might have experienced some tear down there and the doctor might have had to put in a few stitches.
So this part of your body will permanently become wider. How much wider? No one can tell. As Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in New York City and the author of "The Complete A to Z for Your V" says, "There are many factors that contribute, including type of delivery, size of baby, and genetic factors, to name a few."
14 Will Fade: Hair Loss
During pregnancy, some women notice that their hair becomes thicker and lusher. But after they give birth to a child, suddenly the opposite happens. The hair becomes thin and starts falling out. Both of these things happen due to hormones. While a woman is expecting, her hormonal situation makes her lose less hair. But, as soon as the levels turn back to normal, the opposite happens.
"It's not uncommon for women to complain at six months that their hair is falling out," Dr. Michael Cackovic states. "But [hair loss] is really just a temporary thing and usually resolves by about 12 to 18 months."
So be patient and soon your hair situation will get better.
13 Will Fade: Gain A Child, Lose A Tooth? Not Necessarily
According to an old wives' tale, a woman will lose a tooth for every child she gives birth to. Well, your dental health will probably deteriorate after childbirth, because of such pregnancy-related issues as swollen gums, increased circulation, and morning sickness. But it doesn't mean that you'll absolutely have to lose a tooth after delivering your child. Just make sure to pay a lot of attention to your dental care and you'll be fine.
Dr. Leena Nathan, an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles, says, "It's very important for women to see their dentists during pregnancy and get their teeth cleaned according to schedule. If it's not taken care of, it can definitely persist postpartum."
12 Will Stay: Cup Size Will Change
Along with bigger shoes, you're likely to need new bras after delivery, because your cup size will probably change. But it's hard to tell whether your girls will get bigger or smaller. Either can happen. And, to be exact, both can happen.
Dr. Michael Cackovic described how it usually happens on Live Science, "They get bigger at first, because the dormant fat tissue in the [area] gets replaced by functional tissue. After a woman stops breastfeeding, that functional tissue atrophies, because it's not being used anymore."
In other words, your girls will probably get bigger at first and, when you're done breastfeeding your baby, they're likely to diminish in size.
11 Will Stay: Separation Of Abdominal Muscles
Another surprisingly common side effect of pregnancy that will stay with you after childbirth is a condition with a weird scientific name diastasis recti abdominis. I know, it's hard to even pronounce it, but what can we do?
Translating it into the common language, we can tell that this condition is the separation of abdominal muscles that leads to the emergence of a gap between the stomach muscles.
At the latest stages of pregnancy you're going to have this separation that occurs as a way to give more room for your growing fetus. And, according to Live Science, when you deliver your baby, this separation is likely to remain.
10 Will Fade: Some Problems With Legs
Varicose veins aren't the most pleasant condition in the world, but pregnant women need to be ready that they're likely to see it on their legs. These sore, swollen veins of blue color occur as a result of increased body mass and pressure on your legs, as well as of the reduced circulation in the lower parts of your body.
This condition can persist for some time after childbirth, but, according to Dr. Michael Cackovic, it's likely to decrease and fade away within 6 months or a year. If you want varicose veins to get better quicker, make sure that you have regular physical activity both during pregnancy and after childbirth, avoid sitting with your legs crossed, eat high-fiber foods, and stay hydrated.
9 Will Stay: Changes In Skin Color Of Some Areas
The cup size change and droopiness aren't the only things that happen to your girls. You're likely to notice one more change (and it probably won't make you as sad). The habitual color of your nipples and areolas can turn into a darker shade. It usually happens during pregnancy and it's likely to persist after childbirth.
You can also notice the same change of color in your nether region and you might even find a few extra moles on your body. According to Maureen Whelihan, M.D., an ob/gyn at the Center for Sexual Health & Education, "It's caused by the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy."
8 Will Fade: Enlarged Belly
It's obvious that the belly expands more and more during pregnancy but, for some new moms, it's less obvious that it can't get back into pre-preggo shape right away after delivery. It's absolutely natural to have pregnancy belly for some more time after childbirth.
So don't be too hard on yourself, if you strive to start exercising as soon as possible. Start gradually and listen to your body. After all, it has just done something amazing. It grew a brand new human being. So give it some time to recover and don't start exercising before talking to your specialist and making sure that you are safe to do it.
7 Will Stay: Alterations In The Brain
Your brain also changes a little bit after childbirth. According to Dr. Maureen Whelihan, "Changes in the neuronal network during pregnancy influence how the brain moves into 'protective mother [mode]'. The result of this is a focus on parenting, nurturing, and protecting." In other words, our brains change in a way to give us these renowned "mommy instincts" that make us fiercely love our children and protect them, whatever it takes.
Besides, one of the studies (as found on Today's Parent) on brain structure in mothers and women without children revealed that shortly after childbirth we have an increased amount of grey matter in our brains.
It supposedly enhances our understanding of emotions and boosts our empathy.
6 Will Fade: Can't Wear Your Rings? It's Gonna Be Fine
You're aware of the fact that you will probably experience swelling on certain parts of your body both during pregnancy and after childbirth. But do you know that these "certain parts" are likely to include your hands and fingers? As a result of this swelling, you will see that you can't wear your rings and you might also notice the change in the shape of your knuckles.
But don't get frightened by it and don't rush to resize your rings. Susan Smarr, M.D., an ob-gyn at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California, says that once your body mass turns back to normal your fingers will also regain their pre-baby shape and size. It may take some time, but eventually, your rings will fit again.
5 Will Stay: You'll Learn To Love Changes
So many things change after childbirth that at some point you might think that it's too much to handle. But when you look at your baby and feel this enormous love you never knew you could feel, you'll suddenly realize that all these changes are nothing compared to what you have now.
Kenna Cook, a columnist, and mother of two, described how she learned to embrace changes with the example of accepting her new body. "My new body had stretch marks and more cellulite but I also felt more connected to my body because I watched it grow and change in ways that I didn't have total control over," she explains.
Isn't it wonderful to learn to see positive things in everything that happens to you?
4 Will Fade: Vitamin Deficiencies
According to Sarah O'Hara, a dietitian from Calgary who specializes in pre- and postnatal care (as found at Today's Parent), "New moms are at higher risk of iron deficiency following childbirth." So if you're feeling shaky and exhausted, it can be due to low iron (and also due to sleepless nights, of course).
To help your body recover, make sure you eat properly. Include iron-rich foods, such as whole-grain products, beans, lentils, and leafy greens, into your everyday meals and you'll feel better in a matter of weeks.
"The best and simplest approach is to eat a variety of healthy foods and aim to eat some protein paired with complex carbohydrates, such as fruit, veggies, pulses like beans and lentils, and whole grains," Dr. O'Hara sums up.
3 Will Stay: Lower Risk In The Pink-Ribbon Realm
We've been talking a lot about rather saddening side effects of pregnancy, so that some of you might have even started thinking about whether you even need to give birth to a baby. Well, actually these side effects shouldn't stop you from experiencing the joys of motherhood, because they're so much more important. And, to cheer you up, we can also tell you about a very nice side effect – the reduction of [a major health] risk.
The Lancet published a review stating that "For every 12 months a woman nurses a baby, her relative risk of [that major modern health concern] drops by 4 percent." In other words, the more babies you have, the lower your risk is. And if you breastfeed, the likelihood of this disease decreases even more. Yaay!
2 Will Fade: Emotional Imbalance
Mood swings, anxiety, sadness, or irritability – these are the common signs of "baby blues" that some women experience after childbirth. It happens due to the special combination of hormones in your body. Specialists on Today's Parent say that oxytocin, aka the bonding hormone, goes up after childbirth and it makes your anxiety increase, as well. In the meantime, another hormone, progesterone, that could help you keep anxiety at bay, decreases after you deliver a baby. As if it couldn't stay there for a little bit longer, right?
Anyway, this turbulent emotional situation isn't likely to last for longer than a couple of weeks after childbirth. But if it bothers you too much, talk to your specialist.
1 Will Fade: Stretch Marks
Right after you deliver your baby, you're likely to have stretch marks on your body. They usually have pink or red color and in the beginning, they can be very visible.
In fact, this condition isn't unique to pregnancy. Anytime a person (either a woman or a man) experiences a sudden increase in body mass with a sudden decrease in it afterward, they're likely to have stretch marks here and there.
You shouldn't worry too much about them, because they're not permanent. "They usually do fade out in one to two years," Dr. Michael Cackovic says. But keep in mind that if you become pregnant again and deliver another baby, these stretch marks are likely to become more visible.