By Eirian Hallinan
A larger family and fewer full nights of sleep aren’t the only changes you can expect once you’ve given birth. A woman’s body goes through big changes before the baby is born as well as after. The following are some of the things that you can expect from your body after pregnancy.
Along with larger breasts during your pregnancy, your breasts will also become swollen and sore, as well as engorged with milk in the couple of days after giving birth. Once that swelling goes down or after you’ve stopped breastfeeding, your breasts may sag because of the stretched skin. Stretch marks on the breasts are also common.
Even after you’ve given birth, you’ll likely continue to look pregnant for several more weeks because of the stretching of your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. You may also be able to feel the top of your uterus just below the belly button until it shrinks back down to close to its weight before the pregnancy. Stretch marks are also common during and after pregnancy.
During pregnancy you urinate more often because the baby puts pressure on your bladder. After pregnancy, though you’ll urinate less frequently, you may suffer from other issues, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or mild incontinence because of the stress placed on your urethra during childbirth.
Immediately after giving birth, your vagina will be stretched, swollen, and even bruised. The swelling and bruising should subside in a few days, but your vagina will need a few weeks to get smaller. Doing Kegel exercises can help you regain muscle tone. Peritoneum tears and incisions (episiotomy) need time to heal and your doctor will tell you how long to expect based on your specific case. Following childbirth, you may notice less vaginal lubrication, especially if you are breastfeeding. Vaginal dryness happens as a result of lower estrogen levels, which are even lower if you breastfeed. Personal lubricants can help in the meantime.
Many women experience constipation during pregnancy and it can often continue after you give birth. Prenatal vitamins and pain medication can cause or worsen constipation and pain from hemorrhoids, perineum stiches or a tear, or a C-section scar can make bowel movements uncomfortable, especially if you have to strain. High fiber foods and drinking more water can help. Your doctor can also recommend a safe stool softener or laxative if needed.
The drastic drop in estrogen levels after you give birth will cause hair loss during the first few months. The excessive shedding is only temporary and not the same as balding. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most women will regain normal hair fullness well before their baby’s first birthday.
It may take some time, but you will get back to feeling like yourself as time goes on, even with all of these changes to your body and this new and exciting phase in your life.