During the 9 months that a woman is pregnant, her body goes through some radical changes. An expanding waistline, weight gain, aches and pains and morning sickness are some of the most common physical changes that a woman experiences while she is pregnant.
Yet there are many other side effects that women can experience during those 40 (give or take) weeks of pregnancy, including bleeding gums, heartburn, swelling and a heightened sense of smell – just to name a few.
As the end of pregnancy draws near and the due date approaches, most pregnant women start to feel a sense of excitement. Naturally, they are excited to meet their little ones, but they are also excited and relieved about the thought of not having to experience some of the undesirable effects that are often associated with being pregnant – like that pregnancy waddle.
For those moms out there who are looking forward to kissing those pregnancy side effects goodbye, be forewarned; after birthing the baby, there are plenty more changes that will be experienced.
Expecting to walk out of the hospital wearing a favorite pair of pre-pregnancy skinny jeans isn’t a realistic expectation (kudos to those who can pull that off!) and many expectant moms understand that, but many mamas-to-be aren’t aware that their bodies are in for even more changes after the birth of their babies.
Just like a woman’s body needs to transform to accommodate the life that it is creating and carrying, it also needs to adjust to no longer carrying that extra human being after the baby is born. As a result, mamas experience some serious changes after pregnancy. Some of those changes are experienced almost immediately, and some will be observed within the first few weeks postpartum.
What types of changes can mamas-to-be expect after they deliver their little ones? Here are 15 of the most common post-pregnancy changes.
15 Postpartum Bleeding: Lochia
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to expectant mothers that bleeding is a something they will experience after delivering their babies; especially if they delivered vaginally. However, what does surprise many first-time moms, especially those who deliver via a C-section, is how much and how long they bleed.
Immediately after delivering a baby, a bloody discharge starts. Known as lochia, this bleeding is completely normal. This discharge is comprised of leftover blood (remember, blood levels significantly rise during pregnancy,) mucus and tissue from the uterus, particularly from the site where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall, which is why C-section mamas experience this post-pregnancy symptom, too.
This bleeding is essentially like having a menstrual period, except it’s extremely heavy, and it lasts way longer than 7 days. In fact, lochia usually lasts for about 6 weeks after delivering. It starts off heavy, and just as a menstrual period, it gets lighter as it draws to an end.
14 Hair Loss
A few weeks after delivering the little bean, many new mamas start to notice that they are losing large amounts of hair.
While seeing clumps of hair in the drain after showering or pulling out what seems like an absurd amount of strands while brushing may be cause for alarm, take comfort in knowing that there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, hair loss after pregnancy is quite normal.
What’s happening? Well, during pregnancy, the hormones that are responsible for so many other side effects also impact the hair. Far less hair falls out during pregnancy, which is why so many pregnant women claim that they have thicker, more luxurious hair. However, after delivering the baby, those hormones levels start to level off, which means that the hair returns to its normal state and the strands that weren’t lost during pregnancy begin to shed.
This seemingly large amount of hair loss lasts about 6 months after delivery and the normal growth cycle soon returns.
13 Changes To The Chest
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the breasts are going to undergo some serious transformations after pregnancy.
Immediately after the baby is delivered, the breasts fill with a clear-like fluid known as colostrums. This is the first nourishment that breastfed babies will receive from their mamas. It’s dense in minerals and proteins – even more so than regular breast milk – but it has less fat and sugar. Colostrum also contains vital antibodies that provide baby with protection to ward off certain diseases.
Within a few days, more mature breast milk will replace colostrum. Once this supply is established, it will nourish the breastfed baby for as long as the breastfeeding mama sees fit, or can.
A side effect of producing breast milk is engorgement; enlarged, firm and uncomfortable breasts. Establishing a regular feeding cycle will help to control engorgement, but until then, new mamas can ease this side effect by wearing a supportive and comfortable maternity bra and by massaging their breasts in a warm shower.
12 Pregnancy Belly?
After delivering their babies, many new moms expect their bellies to magically return back to normal and are surprised to find that they still look like they are 3 months pregnant.
Despite what Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and other celebrity moms may have the general public believing to be a reality, most women don’t return to their pre-pregnancy bellies until long after giving birth.
Why the baby bump after baby has arrived? For one thing, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size after giving birth, which can definitely make the belly still look like it’s sporting a baby bump after delivery.
However, in many cases, the uterus never completely returns to its pre-pregnancy size. Think about it: A tiny human being was living inside that space, so it’s only natural that it is going to be stretched out.
Mamas shouldn’t stress about getting their pre-pregnancy bellies back; instead, they should relish their newborns and celebrate that remaining bulge, looking it as a reminder of the life that was created and housed inside the womb (that’s just my two cents.)
11 Pain In The Back
Moms who experienced back pain during pregnancy may be surprised to find that they still experience aches and pains even after they deliver. Moms who didn’t experience back pain when they were pregnant will likely be surprised when they find that they are suddenly feel pain in their lower back.
Though not all new moms experience it, lower back pain is not uncommon after pregnancy. Why does it happen? During pregnancy, the muscles in the abdomen stretch, which causes strain on the back, coupled with the fact that relaxin, the pregnancy hormone that is responsible for relaxing the ligaments to prepare the body for labor and delivery and allows the pelvic region to accommodate the growing baby, uterus and placenta, takes time to level off, and well, aches and pains in the back are not uncommon after pregnancy.
It will take time for those hormones to get back to normal levels and for those muscles to get strong again. Hang on mamas! The pain will soon subside! Until then, get massages, take warm baths, use a heating pad and enjoy snuggling with those little ones.
10 Decreased Intimacy
It’s not safe to have sex until about 6 weeks postpartum, or until a doctor approves it; but besides that, not many mamas feel up to having sex after pregnancy.
After carrying a baby for 9 months and birthing it, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, changes to the body, constantly thinking about the baby and everything else that occurs after pregnancy, it’s totally normal for new moms to experience a decreased sex drive.
Add the mix the fact that those hormones are adjusting and dropping off and sex often falls low on the priority list of a new mama.
The good news is, however, that sex drive will eventually move back up. It will take time, but once the body has adjusted to the physical changes that occur during and after pregnancy, and once the new mama has established a routine and become more comfortable and confident in her new role as a mother, her desire to have sex will return.
9 Loss Of Bladder Control
Many moms experience an increased urge to go to the bathroom when they are pregnant. The pressure on the bladder can even lead to incontinence during pregnancy for some expectant moms; however, after delivering the baby, many women find that they are experience bladder control problems.
Why does it happen? During pregnancy and delivery, the muscles around the pelvis and the bladder often weaken. As a result, it’s harder for new moms to control when the flow of urine begins – or when it stops. Plus, the uterus starts to shrink immediately after delivery (though it does take up to 6 to 8 weeks for it to return to its pre-pregnancy size,) and because it sits directly on top of the bladder, it compresses it and makes it even more difficult to control the flow of urine. Hormonal changes (what a surprise) can also add to the problem.
This common post-pregnancy change is a real bummer, especially for women who experienced constipation during pregnancy and were excited to finally start getting things to flow more smoothly.
Unfortunately, postpartum constipation happens, and while it may not be much of a comfort, many women experience it. Why does it happen? There are several factors that can contribute to this issue:
- Medications that were administered for pain after delivery could be to blame. Constipation is a side effect of many pain medications. Once a new mom stops taking these medications, she should start to see her bowel movements return to normal soon.
- Supplements can also cause constipation. Mamas who are still taking prenatal vitamins or who were administered medications to up their iron intake often experience constipation. If this is the cause, speak to a doctor to find out what changes can be made to ease the problem.
- Pain in the perineum or in the abdomen could play mind tricks, making you afraid of passing a stool.
7 Bigger Feet?
It’s true: Many women find that their shoe size has completely changed after giving birth.
While many women experience edema, or swollen feet and ankles during pregnancy, after pregnancy, the swelling may subside, but her feet may permanently be bigger.
How can pregnancy make the feet bigger? It has to do with the amount of weight being carried during those 9 months. The after woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds while she is pregnant. That extra weight puts a lot of pressure and stress on the feet. The result of that extra weight can actually flatten the arch of the foot, which may mean that a mama may have to move up a shoe size after giving birth.
Another cause for bigger feet is, you guessed it, hormones! Relaxin, the hormone responsible for loosening the ligaments in the pelvic region, can loosen ligaments throughout the body, including the feet. The relaxed ligaments in the feet coupled with the added pressure of pregnancy can mean a permanently larger shoe size.
6 A Smaller Chest?
Most pregnant women know that their chest size will increase during and after pregnancy, but many are surprised to learn that their chest can actually shrink… The old saying ‘what goes up must come down’ can be applied here.
Yes, breast milk certainly makes the breasts grow larger; however, once a mom stops breastfeeding and her milk supply dries up, her breasts can actually shrink. In fact, many women actually drop a cup size after they have finished breastfeeding. Women who have more children and breastfeed will find that their cup size will fluctuate widely throughout their childbearing years.
Another change to the chest that women can experience post-pregnancy: Sagging. Not all women experience this, but it is definitely something that can happen. Do note, thought, that a study found that breastfeeding did not increased the likelihood of developing sagging breasts; rather, a high BMI, more pregnancies, a larger pre-pregnancy breast size and smoking were the cause of this issue.
5 Excessive Sweating
Many women find that they sweat a lot after having a baby. The sweating can be so severe, in fact, that it can actually soak a pillow (it happened to me!)
Why does excessive sweating happen after delivering a baby? During pregnancy, the body was holding onto tons of fluids. Immediately after the baby is born, the body starts to release those excess fluids that it stored during pregnancy, and it often comes out as sweat.
This excessive sweating often happens a few hours after giving birth and it can be severe. Don’t be alarmed, however; in most cases, it will subside in a short period of time. To remain comfortable, new moms can wear lightweight, cotton clothing, can use a fan or an air conditioner, can apply cold compresses to their heads, behind their necks and under their legs and should drink plenty of ice water.
4 A Wider Torso
It may sound weird, but the torso, or the rib cage, can actually become wider. I know, because it happened to me.
During pregnancy, as the baby grows bigger, it takes up more room in the abdomen. As it does, it starts to take over the lower portion of the rib cage. This, coupled with the fact that relaxin (that lovely pregnancy hormone that has been mentioned so much and helps to relax and loosen the ligaments to prepare the body for labor and delivery and accommodate the baby in the pelvic region,) can actually cause the ligaments in the rib cage to loosen.
When you add those two things together, the result can be an enlarged torso. Many new moms find that not only does their cup size go up, but also the size around their torso goes up when wearing a bra. My youngest son will be 3 in a few months and I still can’t zipper a dress that I wore comfortably before his pregnancy up past my ribs, and my back size increased 2 inches. Sigh…
3 Changes To The Skin
Many women find that they breakout after having a baby, even those whose skin was perfectly clear during pregnancy find that they have increased blemishes after delivering their babies.
What’s going on? Well, those hormones that were at such heightened levels start to taper off and dip down to their pre-pregnancy levels (a process that can take a few months to complete,) the stress of having a new baby and sleepless nights can all contribute to these skin changes.
Of course, catering to the baby’s needs and not having enough sleep can also impact a new mom’s beauty regiment, meaning that she may not be washing her face as frequently or as thoroughly as she was before she gave birth.
The result of all of this could be the development of blemishes. Take comfort in knowing that it won’t last forever. Eating a well-balanced diet, properly cleaning the face, and getting rest (whenever it’s possible) will all combat the issue.
2 Changes To The Perineum
After a vaginal birth, women will experience changes to their nether regions, including the vaginal opening and the perineum. Immediately after delivery, the opening will be stretched open and may even be swollen or bruised.
Within a few days, the swelling will subside, but it may take a few weeks for it to return to normal. Kegel exercises will certainly help to restore the muscle tone in this area.
The perineum often tears during delivery. If the tear was minor and didn’t require stitches, it should heal within a few days. If the tear was large, or if an episiotomy was necessary, stitches were likely needed and it will take time for the perineum to heal.
Tenderness is not unusual, but pain medications and cold compresses can help control it. Any pain will start to subside within a few days and should be completely gone a few weeks after delivery.
1 Mood Swings
- Surprise, surprise; hormone changes play a huge part in mood swings. Immediately after delivery, a new mom’s hormone levels will start to adjust, which can cause serious shifts in her mood.
- Pain that she may be feeling as a result of labor and delivery. Listen, it can be a very painful process. It’s not easy to deal with that pain and then have to deal with caring for a newborn around the clock.
- Sleep deprivation is major contributor to mood swings. Lack of sleep can make anyone moody; add to that surging hormones and pain, and any mom is likely to get weepy or mad.
- The realization that she is responsible for another being can also cause mood swings. That realization can be wonderful and make her overjoyed and cry happy tears, but it can also be overwhelming, frightening and stressful.
If mood swings are severe or if there is any thought that postpartum depression may exist, contact a doctor as soon as possible. There is help and a new mom doesn’t have to go through it alone.