Giving birth, while a beautiful and life-changing experience, also has its darker side. Having a baby changes your body in many ways, and not all of them are good. For a time, you’d be uncomfortable, insecure, and in constant pain.
The media tells women to love their postpartum bodies, stretch marks and all. But even though they mean well, the effect can be damaging to some moms, especially first-time ones. It’s as if being insecure about their new body makes them a bad mother. With social media and other moms telling the world that the postpartum body is beautiful, they can harm the mental health of first-time moms who are still attached to their pre-pregnancy figure.
That said, there’s no need to feel bad if you’re not loving your postpartum body. It’s completely normal to feel as though you’re not yourself anymore. Besides, there’s no harm in bringing back your pre-pregnancy body, especially if it will make you feel more confident. The better your mental state is, the more you’d find motherhood enjoyable.
So if you’re expecting or planning to conceive soon, expect these “unpretty” changes in your body after giving birth:
1. Body Aches
The labor contractions and pushing will take a toll on your body. As your uterus shrinks back to its original size, you may experience abdominal aches and cramps similar to period pains. The aches may feel more intense when you’re breastfeeding. The good thing is body aches only last for a few days, and can be treated by over-the-counter painkillers or prescription drugs.
2. Swollen Feet
Many moms only talk about swollen feet as a pregnancy symptom, but not as a postpartum bodily change. Your feet may still stay swollen after giving birth because your body has produced 50% more blood and other fluids while nourishing the baby in your womb. As such, you’d experience edema, which is the swelling of the feet, hands, ankles, and neck. It’s most pronounced on the feet, though, so don’t be shocked if your foot has grown by half a size larger. The swelling will subside after a few weeks; consume plenty of potassium-packed foods to speed up the process.
3. Breast Engorgement, Sagging, and Displaced-looking Nipples
After a day or two of giving birth, your breasts may become engorged with milk. They’ll be painful and tender, and likely to occur again if you missed a feeding. Thankfully, you can reduce the engorgement using a warm compress, feeding your baby more regularly, and applying a cold compress to relieve the pain. Your doctor may also prescribe some medications if your engorgement is severe.
While breastfeeding, you may notice that your nipples look displaced. Eventually, as you start breastfeeding less frequently, your breasts may sag. That’s because the volume of the breasts decreases once women get pregnant and end nursing. Stretch marks may also become visible.
4. Larger Belly Pouch
The belly pouch, or stomach pooch, is due to the weight you’ve gained during pregnancy. Genetics may also play a role in its size. It can take as long as six weeks for the belly pouch to deflate, but the skin may no longer be as taut as it was before you got pregnant. Abdominal exercises may help make the loosened skin less noticeable, though.
5. Hair Loss
10% of women experience thinning hair after giving birth. That’s because your hormone levels drop postpartum. But even if the amount of your hair you shed seems thick enough to leave bald patches, that’s not the case at all. Some tried-and-tested postpartum hair loss tips include eating protein-rich food, using a volumizing shampoo, and skipping the styling. In three months or so, your hair should be back to normal.
Should You Get Your Pre-pregnancy Body Back?
There are mixed opinions about women trying to get their pre-pregnancy bodies back. Some are against it because it’s apparently “not normal.” Others promote it because of the confidence it can give mothers. However, if you want your pre-pregnancy body back because you feel pressured, that’s not a very healthy reason.
Bring your toned and slimmer body back for health-related reasons instead. Don’t overexert yourself by skipping meals or exercising excessively. Though it’s normal to feel insecure about your postpartum body, you also have to understand that your body just underwent an incredible journey, which is giving life to a human being. As such, it may never be the same again, but it has become stronger and more amazing.
John Hopkins Medicine recommends breastfeeding to burn calories, and postpartum core exercises to firm up your belly again. You should also keep taking your prenatal vitamins to restore the nutrients you’ve lost during your pregnancy.
If you’re insecure about your stretch marks, retinol will minimize their appearance. But keep in mind that even if you exercise and use treatments, some changes in your body will be permanent. They may not be the prettiest, but they’ve served you and your baby well. At the end of the day, acceptance of your new body is the best postpartum “treatment” you need.