Your body goes through radical changes throughout your pregnancy to nourish and accommodate your developing fetus. After your baby’s born, though, you’ll be back to normal, right?
Not so fast. Even if you’re planning to give yourself a generous amount of time to lose pregnancy weight, you may not realize how much your body has changed.
You’re Going to Bleed
You skipped nine months’ worth of menstrual cycles during pregnancy. Remember, your period flushes the uterine lining out of your body if you don’t successfully implant a fertilized embryo.
Well, now that you’ve delivered your baby, your body’s ready to shed the uterine lining that kept your little one snug all this time! Postpartum bleeding is normal for both vaginal and C-section births. It’s called lochia, and it lasts for a few weeks after you give birth. Call your doctor if the bleeding smells foul or is excessively heavy (soaking a thick pad in an hour). These signs could indicate a complication.
Your Hair Falls Out
During pregnancy, you’re growing an entire new human. All the extra hormones in your body can result in extra growth for you, too. Sometimes this is annoying (pimples and skin tags), and sometimes it’s awesome (thick, glossy hair and strong nails).
As hormones in your body return to normal after your baby arrives, you’ll likely notice hair coming out in clumps. Don’t worry–you’re not going bald. Your body is just going back to a pre-pregnancy level of hair production (although the color and texture may undergo a permanent change).
Your Abs May Be Split
Carrying a developing baby around all day is heavy work, especially toward the end of your pregnancy. It’s common for the pressure of the fetus to separate your abs down the midline, in a condition called diastasis recti. Some minor cases will resolve themselves over time. If your abs endured a more dramatic separation, they might not close back all the way without surgery. This causes a “pooch” in your stomach, even if you go back to pre-pregnancy weight.
You can ask your doctor to assess any gap at your six-week appointment. Steer clear of ab exercises until you’re approved. Traditional exercises like crunches can make an ab gap worse, not better.
Your Hips and Feet May Be Permanently Wider
Relaxin is a hormone produced by your ovaries and placenta during pregnancy. It acts to relax ligaments and help widen your cervix. Relaxin is great because it helps your pelvis change to accommodate your growing little one.
Like most other hormones, though, relaxin takes effect all over. Ligaments in your shoulders? Relaxed. Between your toes? Relaxed. The combo of extra weight and ligament loosening can make your feet spread a size or two wider, and this may not change.
Even once you return to pre-pregnancy weight, you’ll likely notice differences in your figure.
Your Body Moves Differently
Multiple factors, including relaxin and the various stresses of pregnancy and birth, can affect how your body responds to exercise. It’s smart to be gentle at first. Rushing into strenuous exercise can cause you to miss cues that your joints and muscles move a little differently now. Taking a mindful approach to exercise can help you understand where you want to focus to get back to the kinds of activity you love.
Skin Takes a Long Time to Heal
Stretch marks, C-section scars, and saggy skin may greet you whenever you look in the mirror. Your skin stretched a ton while you were pregnant. It’s elastic, but it’s not a rubber band. You can’t expect it to snap back into place as soon as the baby’s out.
The bad news is the creams on the market won’t do anything to reduce scarring or sagging (although staying moisturized can reduce itching). Your skin’s stretchiness is genetic. The good news is, you may notice you look tighter as the postpartum months go by, even if you’re not losing weight. Your skin pulls back in ultra-slow motion, so it’s possible you’ll continue to see healing improvement by the time you’re planning your baby’s first birthday party.
The most important thing to remember about your postpartum body is how strong, amazing, and beautiful it is. Creating a new person is the most miraculous thing a body can do, and you did it. Whether you “bounce back” or not, becoming a parent means you’re never quite the same, and that’s ultimately a wonderful thing.