It’s possible that your idea of what a postpartum body should look like has been somewhat skewed by media and societal standards of where your physical appearance should be after you’ve had a baby.
Remember that Barbie that had a pregnant belly you could attach and then take it off after she had the baby and that was that? That’s not what having a postpartum body is like AT ALL.
We’re here to talk about the nitty-gritty of what having a baby is like, and here’s what a postpartum body really might experience (take note, Matel)!
Things you need to know about your postpartum body
Your breasts might be HUGE
If you thought your breasts grew while you were pregnant just wait until those things are filled with milk!
It can get uncomfortable, especially in the first few days, so avoid wearing a bra while your milk is coming in (a form-fitting tank top is ideal so you can still put breast pads in if necessary). Use cool compresses to alleviate any pain, and keep feeding that baby to:
a) release pressure in your breasts
b) get that milk flow going
It will take a while for your belly to flatten out
During pregnancy, your uterus has grown around 500 times its original size!! Go ahead and read that sentence again…your uterus has grown around 500 times its original size. While a good ol’ fundal massage will help it contract so it can start to return to its dainty little stature it will still take some time for that to happen.
You may look like you’re still in the last trimester of your pregnancy for a few weeks after you have your baby*. Be patient; this will go down. It’s all part of the joy of the postpartum body!
*Just a note here: it may look like you’re in the first trimester of your pregnancy for a few years/forever after you have your baby. The skin around your belly has stretched and it can be extremely difficult to become taut again. A lot of folks experience this, so you are 100% not alone on this.
You’re going to have some pain
So, there’s the obvious pain of “my vagina or lower abdomen has been opened and now must heal”, the lesser-known after-birth cramping (which gets worse with each baby and you should honestly have some midwife/doc approved pain relief handy for those babies), and also the general aches and pains from your body’s latest endeavor of getting a baby out of it.
Your abdominal muscles have gotten stretched which will affect your back. That, combined with the extra weight you’ve had on your front, can cause back pain. Be mindful of how you’re sitting when you’re feeding your baby, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Proper posture can help alleviate some muscle pain. If it doesn’t and you’re still suffering it may be wise to see a chiropractor or massage therapist.
There’s also new pain of holding your baby. Bicep curls done in pregnancy would come in hand here. Didn’t do any of those? No worries; you’ll be lugging around a tiny, adorable weight for the next 3 years so those muscles will definitely come!
You may experience skin changes
You may have noticed some stretch marks on your breasts, belly, and/or thighs as you went through your pregnancy. While those will never fully go away they will fade in time. Immediately after having your baby they may seem quite dark but as they fade they’ll turn a silvery colour.
If you had a linea nigra line that will entirely fade in time, although it may take a number of weeks.
You may also find that you’re getting some acne! Hormones combined with absolute exhaustion (trust me, washing your face might be the last thing you even think about at night) are a perfect storm for a pimple or two.
**You’re going to need some pretty heavy-duty under-eye concealer now that you’re a parent. You can use some of that on your blemish if you so desire!
Your postpartum body experience wouldn’t be complete without some lovely postpartum hormones to inject a little bit of panic in your life, would it?
While it’s not super common (around 10% of folks who have just given birth) hair loss is a thing in the postpartum period. Fortunately, most of this hair is excess hair that you would have had from hormones in your pregnancy but it’s still unnerving nonetheless.
Your hair loss should only last for about 3 months, but if it continues in full force beyond that it’s worthwhile checking in with the doc.
You may be constipated
You spent hours trying to push a baby out and now you get to relive (almost) the same thing!
The first postpartum poo is a bit of a doozy, and the few afterward can be pretty uncomfortable. The best advice: give your baby to someone else while you undertake this task (and no, this does not count as “alone time”). Eat plenty of fibrous foods and drink LOADS of water. This will help things go a little more smoothly.
Speaking of constipation…hemorrhoids may be an issue
You can prevent them/minimize them by doing things that you do to prevent constipation but sometimes they get out of hand and you’ll need to talk to your healthcare provider about it about some potential medications to help you relieve your discomfort.
You might pee your pants (more than usual)
Your pelvic floor muscles and bladder have been absolutely thrashed during your pregnancy. You may find that things are a little looser than normal down there. Coughing, sneezing, laughing…they all may cause a little dribble which can be more than a pain in the butt (even more so than the hemorrhoids you’re also dealing with).
Keep on top of your kegels. Ask your healthcare provider if you’re doing them properly-because there IS a correct way to do them. If you haven’t noticed an improvement by around a month maybe give pelvic floor physiotherapy a try. They can give you all the strategies you need to be able to build those muscles back up and save many a change of pants.
You need to watch for a few things:
You’re busy taking care of your beautiful new baby, but don’t forget about yourself, too.
If you notice any of these symptoms that www.parents.com indicates call your healthcare provider as soon as possible:
- Chills or fever of 100.5 degrees or higher
- Sudden heavy bleeding (soaking more than one pad an hour) or lots of large clots
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Severe pain or redness surrounding, or discharge from, a C-section incision or an episiotomy
- Fainting, nausea, or vomiting
- Frequent urination or burning with urination
- Constipation that lasts three days or more
- Swelling, redness (or red streaks), and pain in your breasts, accompanied by fever
- A tender, swollen, or red area anywhere in your leg or calf
- Persistent headaches or vision changes
- Excessive swelling of the face, fingers, or feet
- Intense sadness or feeling that you can’t care for yourself or your baby
The most important thing you need to know about your postpartum body…
You may not love it. We’re pretty inundated with “love your postpartum body”, “beautiful postpartum body”, “look what your postpartum body does”, etc. Yes, there is obviously validity to this. Your body housed and nourished a child, brought that child into the world, possibly continues to nourish that child, holds that child, and cares for that child. Yes, it’s incredible.
However, there’s often a dismissal of the fact that your body has likely experienced some significant physical changes which may be difficult for you to become used to, difficult for you to love.
This is okay.
You can love what your postpartum body has done, but not love your postpartum body. Make sure you take care of it all the same, but if you’re not fully comfortable with the extra weight on your tummy or the stretch marks on your breasts that’s okay.
And, you’re not alone.