I hope nobody will read this when they’re considering whether or not to have a baby, because becoming a parent is a wonderful transition that should never be discouraged by anything as shallow as body image. The information I’m about to give could be much more valuable in preparing an already pregnant woman for what lies ahead.
For most women, pregnancy is no picnic. For some ladies, so-called ‘morning sickness’ is actually a full day debilitating nausea that lasts for months. Others sail through the early weeks of pregnancy only to find that acid reflux and restless legs haunt their nights during the second trimester. Most preggos find that by the time they reach week 34 of growing a baby, they can’t do anything comfortably, and wait impatiently for their due dates.
There is plenty of information out there about the changes that occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding a baby. You can bone up your knowledge about your changing hormones, moods, and even how terrified you might be about your responsibilities for a brand new human life. However, some changes are either so obvious or so awful that nobody wants to discuss them, and they appear out of nowhere and shock and shame new moms. The following body changes are nothing to be shocked by or ashamed of because, even if nobody wants to say so, they are very, very common.
There are more sacrifices to being a mom than you will ever be able to count - but that’s okay, because once you’re a mom, you’ll be far more absorbed in the rewards.
7 Stretched Vaginal Canal
As if there weren’t enough features of a woman’s body that could be held up to judgement, after childbirth the world has the gall to speculate about an internal feature - the size and overall fitness of her vaginal wall muscles.
Pregnant quickly get versed in others’ opinions about pregnancy and a pregnant woman’s body. Strangers will comment on your size, the height of your belly, your backside, and your ‘glowing’ (aka: sweaty) complexion. People will even joke about how you got pregnant in the first place (like it’s their business).
Some women are lucky enough not to be introduced to the cuts and jibes about mom’s down-there fitness, but in some circles the jokes abound, leaving women to worry whether they’ll be lacking in bedroom finesse after they’ve delivered a baby.
It’s hard to take this claim seriously enough to address it. Any man worth a grain of salt will tell you sex with a mom is as amazing and awe-inspiring as it was before she gave birth. While the shape and size of a vagina changes with childbirth, so does the rest of the body change over time and in numerous ways. Just as your skin gets loser with age and your nose grows for the whole time you’re alive, your body is intended to change, and your vagina is no different.
There is a health element to your body’s ability to regain its elasticity. Doctors recommend Kegel exercises to stave off incontinence and help heal any abrasions from her baby’s delivery. Researchers have questioned the need for all women to squeeze-and-hold their way to a better pelvic floor, claiming squatshttp://breakingmuscle.com/womens-fitness/stop-doing-kegels-real-pelvic-floor-advice-for-women-and-men are the best way to keep some bodies in tip-top shape.
Whichever way you choose to help your body recover from childbirth, there is one thing you need to keep foremost in your mind: you are a hero. You are sacrificing of yourself for the child you’re about to have, and you deserve praise, no - worship for the physical and psychological pains you’re going through on behalf of your family and the human race. Please, do not worry about the state of your vagina after birth. You’re way above that.
6 Sagging Boobs
Boobs just never seem to get it right. They can be too big, too little, or too pointy. Women can wear low cut tops, but if the boobs make too much of an appearance, the women are tramps; showing too little makes you prudish. And, after 40 weeks of gestation - when a woman’s body is pummelled with hormones that accomplish varying tasks and make breasts swell and fill with milk, a woman is failed again by her boobs - when she’s done giving milk they will be noticeably droopier than they were before her pregnancy. Seriously, how dare they?
All the rumours are true, ladies: pregnancy alone will cause that dreaded sagging of the mammary glands. The part that’s shocking is that whether or not you choose to breastfeed your baby, your breasts will suffer the fate of so many breasts before them, and they will loose their youthful perkiness.
The sheer disparity between pregnancy’s full and firm breasts and the ones you’re left with afterward is enough to shock the most secure mother into buying her first push-up bra.
Some people like to offer solutions to this problem, by suggesting that pregnant ladies, particularly those well-endowed in the chest area, should wear bras at all times - even while they sleep - to stop gravity from speeding up the loosey-boob problem. Too bad, ladies, it’s all in vain. The good news is, you and your partner (and maybe some ladies in the gym change room) are probably the only folks lucky enough to see your girls naked. So if you and your family can love your breasts and all the changes they’ve gone through, you don’t have to worry about them sagging. After all, for the rest of the world you can still show off that push-up bra.
I know it’s hard to wrap your head around now, but keep in mind, your girls have done their job. They prepped themselves to feed a brand new human, and if you breastfed your baby, your body nurtured your baby to grow and stay healthy, all by itself. Your breasts deserve a rest, don’t be ashamed if they slouch a bit.
5 Stretch marks
Stretch marks are not that usually surprising to women - these scars have become notorious in pop culture when it comes to pregnancy. You can get those red squiggly lines on the sides of your burgeoning breasts, belly or thighs. Over time those scars become silvery and less obvious, but never go away. Women hate them, judge them, and swear off two-piece bathing suits for life. But there’s one thing that is surprising about stretch marks: there’s not much you can do to stop them from happening.
You know how you can go in cute little baby boutiques or skin care shops and buy lotions, potions, and oils to help stave off those nasty squiggles? Those shops will sell you anything if they can convince you it’s necessary for baby, but this is one of those items you can pass by. None of those potions are likely to help - and some of them can harm. If you like the feeling of pampering your growing belly, by all means do it! There’s a lot to be said for soft skin, and it might help to alleviate the itch that comes from all that stretching skin. Try to use something gentle. Often times, highly perfumed lotions can turn your irritable stomach upside-down, and who knows what chemical concoctions you’ll find on the ingredients list? Despite your best intentions, all that attention on your baby bump may not help a whit.
It turns out, stretch marks could be another of those traits you inherit from your parents. Do your parents have elastic and unmarked skin? Then you have a great chance of maintaining your pristine mid-section too. If, on the other hand, your mom bears the silvery trophies of her child-bearing years on her belly, there’s a good chance that’ll be your fate.
While tummy scars may seem like a terrible, awful thing right now, you can take solace from the many, many women who sport the mark of the mama, and do it with pride. The good news is, those marks are not very noticeable after awhile. When they fade and you’ve grown used to them, they will always be a reminder of the sweet bonding you experienced while your baby was growing inside you.
4 The Pooched Belly
Most of us don’t sport athletic six-pack abs even before we get pregnant. We manage to be comfortable in our own skin with the shape we have. We know exactly how to improve the situation if we’re so inclined: eat right and exercise.
Clearly some of us have more issues getting the ‘right’ body - the one we think we want when we look at pictures of famous people - than others. By the time we have kids, though, most of us have come to terms with what we’ve got.
Then we get pregnant, and the whole landscape changes again. We’ve got ripples and folds we never had before, and they don’t go away the way we might have expected them to do.
A post-baby body can have mind of it’s own. The old mantra about diet and movement doesn’t help if despite all that stuff a woman is left with one little hump at the bottom of her abdomen that refuses to budge. The mama pooch is behind the creation of ‘mom jeans’ with control-top panels. It’s the quintessential shape of what we consider to be, well, old women, and now it seems to be tacked on to our midsections.
And what happened to the texture of our tummies? While they might not have been exactly flat, they were firmer, and had a nice curvature. Now it looks like cottage cheese laying loosely under some extra skin.
The pooched belly is forever a plague on women, even on those that seem slim after pregnancy. There are exercises and eating regimens that can help, and a whole lot of time might just be the answer to all that extra skin. Your body will tighten up some as the weeks and months pass.
While your tummy may never look the same as it used to in a bikini, give it a long time before you judge what the final outcome will be. One of the first lessons you have to learn as a mom is patience.
On to the most shocking of pregnancy’s physical after-effects: your bottom end.
Gravity is the culprit onto whom you can foist the blame for many of the discomforts you’ll feel while you’re pregnant. That said, if you consider the organization of the human body you’ll realize why your pelvic floor, your perineum, and your bum suffer as they do.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum and anus. It amounts to an itchy, painful bump around your anus or just inside you. When you go number two they might hurt or bleed.
There are lots of ways you can treat this little (big) problem: there are over-the-counter creams, witch hazel-soaked pads, and suppositories. All can help while you’ve got particularly painful hemorrhoids.
Here’s the sneaky bit: you can treat this plague of discomfort and help the swelling to go down, but after these veins have popped out they never go back the way they were. That means if you suffer from piles once, the ailment is likely to crop up again and again down the road.
Hemorrhoids can haunt you at almost any time in your life, but many people suffer their first bout when they’re pregnant. There are lots of reasons for this phenomenon. First, your baby is putting serious pressure onto all your internal stuff, so there are bound to be some consequences for that. Second, constipation is a very real problem for many pregnant ladies. As digestion slows down so all the nutrients and water can be squeezed out of the food you’re eating, it becomes more difficult to poop. Don’t strain if you can help it! Try to adjust your foods and drinks to alleviate constipation. Sleeping well and exercise are also recommended.
If you’re lucky enough to make it all the way through pregnancy without a case of piles, count your blessings - and then wait for labour. All that pushing, combined with severe pressure on your digestive tract, means you’re even more likely to
You can also suffer scarring on your perineum that could haunt you for some time to come.
2 Your Feet Grow
Okay, I bet you never saw this coming. You’ve heard about just about every part of your body growing and swelling during pregnancy: your hips widen and may never return to their pre-baby shape, and your belly and butt will need serious convincing to tone up after months of plumping out. Has anybody ever mentioned that your feet may widen, too?
Yes, it’s true: You may not only go up - or down - a bra size after you’ve had a baby and your body has hit it’s new stride, but you may have a new shoe size, too. As if you don’t have enough to worry about, your favourite heels may be forever too tight as you go from Cinderella to Ugly Step Sister in a matter of months.
Once again, you can blame gravity, and the extra pounds you put on while gestating. Carrying thirty or more extra pounds around for a few months, in combination with hormones designed to relax and loosen pregnant bodies, may have caused your foot’s arch to flatten out, resulting in a more expansive footprint than you used to have. Think of all the extra balance you’ll have!
Probably nobody will notice your larger feet except you, unless you continue to squeeze your feet into strappy sandals that now cut into your flesh, but you will probably feel a touch self-conscious anyway. Maybe a pedicure is in order to make you feel better, if you can handle them touching your big, clumsy feet!
Your wardrobe concerns will vary in the weeks following your baby’s birth. You had dreams of graduating from your maternity garb straight back into skinny jeans, but you’re finding out you may need a whole set of clothes for the interim, while you drop the rest of the baby weight. If you’ve suffered foot spreading, you can add footwear to your post-pregnancy clothing needs. Think of it as a really nice excuse to treat yourself at your favourite shoe store. (See, there’s an upside to everything!)
If you’re anything like me, you get the willies when you see those ads for incontinence pads on television. Typically, they feature sexy, menopausal women dancing or playing with grandchildren, looking youthful and happy and apparently wearing absorbent undergarments that ‘look just like underwear.’
No matter how happy those ladies look, I hate the idea of losing control of my bladder in my later years. It turns out many women experience light incontinence long before their menopausal years, as a result of having a baby.
Pregnancy and childbirth can both cause you to leak pee, and the problem can persist well after the baby is born. The leakage comes in two varieties: stress incontinence is when you trickle a little urine when you laugh, jump, or cough, while urge incontinence is the very sudden feeling that you have to use the little girl’s room, and leak when you can’t get to a toilet in time. Whatever type you have, it can seem like a real drag. After all the indignities that come with pregnancy and childbirth, now you have an uncontrollable bladder. I mean, you were so excited to return to your sexy lingerie - do they make absorbent panties in black lace? It’s hard to get back your confidence and sex drive when you feel like an old lady.
Women who’ve had vaginal deliveries are more likely to experience the type of nerve and muscle damage that can result in incontinence, especially if there were interventions like forceps used. The statistics are staggering. If you experience bladder leakage, you are not alone.
There is good news:news:news: there are some things you can do if you experience incontinence, aside from picking out your favourite absorbent panty brand. Some folks swear that Kegel exercises tone up all their down-there muscles, making them strong enough to control their flow again. Others resort to surgery to fix the issue.
There are also pelvic floor physiotherapists out there, who can help you diagnose the issue, an decide if Kegels are really the exercises you need to do. If you suffer from post-baby incontinence, it might be worth checking out what you can do to improve the situation.