9 Ways Your Body Changes After Pregnancy
How will your body look after your baby arrives? Here are some major changes you'll experience, from hair loss to constipation.
A few weeks after delivery, you may start losing large amounts of hair. The average person loses 100 hairs a day, but during pregnancy you were losing far less than that due to those raging hormones. Now that the pregnancy is over, your body will have to compensate and lose extra hair for the first six months after delivery. But don't worry -- your hair will soon return to its normal growth cycle.
The "mask of pregnancy" (the tan-colored area around your eyes), which you got so many compliments on, will start to fade. Women who suffered from severe acne during pregnancy should see their skin start to clear up. However, other women will begin to experience a red rash that around their mouth and chin or suffer from extremely dry skin. Both of these conditions should be gone within weeks.
Your breasts will probably become flushed, swollen, sore, and engorged with milk for a day or two after the birth. Once this swelling goes down, in about three to four days (or until you stop breastfeeding), your breasts will probably begin to sag as a result of the stretched skin. You may also experience milk leakage for several weeks, even if you don't breastfeed.
Just after giving birth, your uterus is still hard and round (weighing about 2 1/2 pounds) and can be felt just by touching your naval. In about six weeks, it will weigh only 2 ounces and will no longer be felt by pressing on your abdomen. That mysterious brown line that you may have had down the center of your lower abdomen during pregnancy will disappear. But, unfortunately, those stretch marks you developed aren't going anywhere in the near future. Stretch marks tend to be bright red during and shortly after pregnancy, but they will eventually become more of a silver color and begin to blend in with your skin. Also, even the fittest moms will experience some flabbiness in the midsection after giving birth. Normal stomach exercises (such as sit-ups) can get your tummy as flat as it once was.
Because it will take some time for the stretched abdomen muscles to become strong again, your body is putting extra weight on the muscles of your back. This can lead to a backache until the abdominal muscles tighten up again. A new mom can also be suffering from back pain due to poor posture during pregnancy. Generally, these problems should clear up in the first six weeks after giving birth. If not, you may want to see a chiropractor.
Incontinence and Constipation
Without the baby pressing on your bladder any more, you're not urinating as frequently. But pressure on the urethra during delivery can make urination difficult postpartum. New moms may also suffer from incontinence or a urinary tract infection, which can cause a burning sensation during urination. Constipation may still be a problem, too, after you give birth. An episiotomy or hemorrhoids may make a bowel movement painful. A diet high in fiber and plenty of water, milk, and juices can help ease the pain.
Vaginal Pain and Discharge
Your vagina may feel stretched and tender after the delivery. If you had an episiotomy, using cold packs right after delivery can help ease discomfort. Shortly after delivery, you will start to have a vaginal discharge made mostly of blood and what is left of the uterine lining from your pregnancy. This is called lochia and can last for several weeks. You can usually start having sex again about three to four weeks after giving birth. If you're breastfeeding at that point, you may experience vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse very uncomfortable. Look for a water-soluble vaginal lubricant to ease the pain. If you're not breastfeeding, expect your period to return about seven to nine weeks after delivery. If you are breastfeeding, your periods may not return for several months -- or possibly not until you stop breastfeeding altogether.
Swollen Legs and Varicose Veins
The swelling and puffiness in your legs that you may have experienced during pregnancy will lessen very quickly after you give birth. However, some women begin experiencing twitchiness in their legs postpartum. If this happens to you, walking can provide some relief. Spider veins and varicose veins will probably improve with postpartum weight loss, but they will never go away completely.
Sweating & Energy Levels
You may start experiencing excessive sweating at night after giving birth. This is because your body needs to get rid of all the extra fluids it accumulated during your pregnancy. On the energy front, some new mothers say that they feel more energetic than they ever did before pregnancy. In fact, a woman's aerobic capacity can increase up to 20 percent in the first six weeks postpartum. Other women say that the sheer exhaustion of childbirth, caring for a newborn, and excess body weight makes them feel sluggish and moody.
No matter what your body may be feeling, there are some general rules for new mom to follow:
1. Get as much rest as possible
2. Eat healthy foods
3. Don't rush yourself to get back to what you were before
Soon enough, your body will feel like it's yours again.
Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Zein E. Obagi, MD; Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books: An All-Canadian Guide to Conception, Birth & Everything in Between (Macmillan Canada)
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