15 Postpartum Body Changes You Should Know
The media doesn’t paint a very balanced picture of pregnancy and childbirth. What we see most times is a woman who has it easy all through and then snaps back to her pre-pregnancy banging body before you can even say jack!
The reality is quite different! And postpartum body changes are so real.
I had a hard time accepting my new body after the birth of my first child. The physical changes were many, so real and for the longest time, I was depressed, secretly thinking I was “expired” and would no longer be the hot wife I’d been before pregnancy.
I wish someone had told me about postpartum body changes to prepare me to accept these changes easily while I worked on changing those that could be changed.
15 Postpartum Body Changes You Can Expect to See
First, it is important to note that these postpartum body changes are of two types:
– The temporary changes that revert as the days go by
– The permanent changes you might have to come to accept about yourself.
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Temporary Postpartum Body Changes
Starting with the temporary changes you can expect postpartum.
You will experience postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia. This bleeding starts right after delivery and could run for up to six weeks.
The heavier bleeding lasts for 10 – 14 days after which it tapers off to become somewhat light for the remainder of the period.
Postpartum bleeding is quite similar to menstrual period, only slightly heavier. You’ll also notice it is not as clear as your period, since it would contain remnants of your placenta and mucus.
Postpartum bleeding is normal and should be expected after delivery. However, what isn’t is postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) which happens when you start to lose way too much blood.
How can you tell the difference?
Postpartum hemorrhage is not just the slightly heavy bleeding you should come to expect during the first two weeks but occurs when you lose up to 500 ml of fluid within the first 24 hours of delivery.
2% of postpartum moms experience postpartum hemorrhage and you should see a doctor if you suspect this.
Other signs that point to postpartum hemorrhage include:
– Blurred vision
– Lightheadedness or sleepiness
– Chills or fever
– Clammy or pale skin
– Cramps or pain in your abdominal region
– Rapid heartbeat
– A foul-smelling lochia
– Large blood clots
– Postpartum bleeding that goes light and turns heavy again
2) Night Sweats
Night sweats are another postpartum body change you want to look out for. This condition is caused by the reduction in your estrogen and progesterone hormones.
Your body needs high levels of these hormones during pregnancy, but not as much afterward and this drop is what affects your body temperature, causing excessive night sweats.
Postpartum night sweats are normal though and should subside after a few weeks. They are never a cause for alarm.
However, you want to see a doctor if your night sweats are accompanied by other symptoms like anxiety, fever and chills, and weight loss as this could be a sign of other underlying conditions.
Managing Night Sweats
Luckily this postpartum change is quite easy to manage and one of the ways for doing so is avoiding spicy food and caffeine like coffee known to cause temperature spikes.
Other remedies that work include:
- Wearing loose or less clothing.
- Drinking cold water just before your bedtime
- Turning on the air conditioning or fan.
- Spreading a towel over your bedsheets to absorb most of this sweat.
3) Enlarged Breasts
The thoughts of bigger breasts postpartum (or any other time for that matter) should fill you with joy, right?
Well, not when it comes to pain.
Breast enlargement or engorgement is caused by blood flow and too much milk to the breasts the first few days after you give birth.
This engorgement should start to ease off the more your baby sucks though. However, some remedies for getting quick relief during this time include using a warm compress, breastfeeding often, and using a breast pump or your hand to express some of the excess milk.
4) Back Pain
Postpartum backaches come and go (thank God!) and only become more pronounced when you perform physical activities involving body movements like lifting heavy objects, walking, bending, and even carrying your baby.
It is caused by the progesterone hormone released during pregnancy to relax your pelvic ligaments and joints. This hormone stays for a while, which means you might experience backache for a few weeks to a few months.
Postpartum backache is quite common as up to 50% of women experience it after delivery. It should, however, subside within six months or up to one year for some women.
In the time being, you can manage it through proven remedies like:
- Take short walks of 15 -20 minutes (not comfortable with the pain present, but highly effective in bringing quick relief).
- Perform safe yoga techniques to strengthen your strained muscles.
- Go on the right diet to achieve and maintain your ideal weight.
- Put a pillow between your knees to align your hips when sleeping.
- Desist from lifting heavy objects.
- Opt for warm and hot baths (not too hot if you’ve got stitches still in place) as cold water strains your muscles, intensifying the ache.
- Practice deep and relaxing breathing regularly.
Passing hard and dry stool is yet another change women face after childbirth. Luckily, it is one of the easiest postpartum body changes to correct and typically involves:
- Taking enough water
- Eating a high fiber diet
- Listening to your body and pooping when it says to, not holding it in
- Exercising regularly
- Avoid certain foods known to promote constipation like white rice, milk and other dairy products, alcohol, red meat, and processed grains.
You know you are experiencing postpartum constipation when
- You strain to pass out stool
- Have a feeling your bowel is not empty, even after you are done with your business
- Take an unusually long time in the restroom
- Feel bloated most of the time
- Feel some sort of pain when passing out stool
You should take postpartum constipation seriously as left unmanaged, it increases your risks of developing other conditions like hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, urinary and/or incontinence, fecal impaction.
6) Hair Loss
Forty to fifty percent of women will lose a moderate chunk of their hair after childbirth. This situation, called hair shedding, typically starts immediately after childbirth and peaks around four months of giving birth.
It is caused by dips in your estrogen and progesterone hormones but doesn’t last forever, with most women reporting their postpartum hair loss running for no more than three months.
You should lose around 80 and 400 hair strands daily but this will soon stop and you should have your full head of hair back by the time your baby turns one year old.
In the meantime, some ways to manage this heartbreaking hair shedding:
- Include a lot of protein in your diet
- Avoid heat to your hair as much as you can.
- Take your postpartum vitamins religiously. These contain a healthy blend of nutrients that should give your body all it needs at this point.
- Use a volumizing shampoo to add body and volume to your hair.
7) Facial and General Skin Changes
Like other postpartum body changes, skin discoloration after childbirth is also caused by your hormones still all over the place at this time.
You will notice red or brown blotchy patches on your forehead, cheeks, or other parts of your body. 50 to 75% of postpartum women experience this, so if you do, you are not alone.
These brown patches, called melasma, occur when melanocytes, the cells responsible for creating your skin’s pigment, produce too much melanin.
While hormones are the chief culprit for postpartum melasma, other common causes are prolonged exposure to sun and heat.
Treatment of Postpartum Melasma
Dr. Jessica Wu, a dermatologist, recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of 30-50 when going out, even if it appears cloudy. She also recommends eating a diet rich in folate and zinc to help fade the patches over time.
Progesterone during pregnancy causes your body to produce more sebum, leading to a possible acne breakout.
This skin condition should clear on its own, in the meantime here are some natural remedies for managing it:
- Drink up as water hydrates you from within.
- Eat a diet high in vitamin C to boost your skin elasticity and collagen production.
- Eat zinc-rich food, since this is antibacterial and effective against acne.
- Apply a probiotic cream, spray, or serum topically on your face.
Permanent Postpartum Body Changes
These next set of changes are a bit more permanent. Some stay awhile and will take some conscious effort on your part to completely go away, while others will remain, no matter what (these are actually the ones you will have to accept as your scars of war and wear them with pride).
Here they are:
1) A Slightly Pronounced Stomach (Pooch)
This is one of the postpartum body changes that get to women a lot. No matter how high your self-esteem, it will take a beating when you see your once flat belly settle into an unflattering pooch.
The first thing that will come to your mind is that you can no longer wear those trendy body-fitting dresses. You might even have to order some new clothes with cuts to hide this part of your anatomy.
Ways to Reduce Your Postpartum Belly
Your stomach will reduce in size each day as you continue to bleed. However, adopting certain quick and proven techniques can see your stomach snapping to its pre-pregnancy state:
- Breastfeed often. You lose up to 500 calories when you breastfeed and some of this weight will be around your stomach region.
- Eat smaller meals frequently. You only need around 1,800 and 2,200 calories to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients she needs. You want to include more proteins and carbs to keep your energies up.
- Dance to some music. This is a light exercise activity that helps you burn calories without putting too much stress on you.
- You could also take simple walks around your compound or neighborhood. You want to start with a light stroll and speed this up as you go.
- Perform deep breathing with abdominal contractions.
- Opt for belly binding using a postpartum girdle.
- Other exercises to engage in include V-ups, planks, bicycle crunches, flutter kicks, and mountain climbs.
2) Stretch Marks
Do postpartum stretchmarks go away?
If you’ve found yourself recently asking (yourself) this question, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the truth is postpartum stretchmarks never really go away.
However, they can fade to the point where they are almost invincible and that’s a good thing, right?
Stretchmarks are caused when your skin stretches too quickly during pregnancy to keep up with your changing body and weight gain. You’ll find them more on your belly, buttocks, thighs, and breasts.
The hormone, cortisone, produced by the adrenal glands can weaken your skin’s elasticity leaving it prone to stretchmarks.
However, remedies to fade these marks include:
- Carrying out regular massages using olive oil, almond oil, virgin, organic coconut oil, or any other therapeutic oil. This increases blood flow to your skin, which breaks up the scar tissue.
- Stay hydrated as this helps your skin repair itself.
- Keep it moisturized to preserve your skin’s elasticity.
- Use specialized stretchmark creams like Burt’s Bees Mama Belly Butter Skin Care or TriSlatin Maternity Stretchmark Prevention
3) Varicose Veins
Not every woman gets postpartum varicose veins, those unsightly bulges that appear mostly in the legs. For the 25% who do, these little devils don’t last long and should be gone within 12 to 16 weeks.
You can help speed this along through:
- Wearing compression stockings
- Staying away from tight clothing
- Eating a low-sodium diet.
4) Urinary Incontinence
Postpartum urinary incontinence is quite common and you’ll find it is more likely to occur when you sneeze, cough, or laugh.
It occurs when the muscles around your pelvic or bladder get weakened during pregnancy and childbirth.
This condition takes a few weeks (sometimes stretching into a few months) before you gain control of your bladder.
You can speed up this healing too by:
- Performing kegel exercises, which help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Increase your fiber intake, which helps prevent constipation.
- Avoid coffee, tomatoes, citrus, soft drinks, and alcohol, foods known to irritate the bladder.
- Make use of postpartum pads.
5) Postpartum Body Odor
Postpartum body odor starts as early as the first trimester of pregnancy for some women and continues up until after childbirth.
The drop in your primary pregnancy hormones, estrogen and progesterone is also responsible for the sudden appearance of postpartum body odor and this odor is likely to emanate from certain regions like the armpits, vaginal, and from breast milk.
Some effective ways for managing and eliminating this odor include:
- Showering as often as needed.
- Using a strong antiperspirant like Lume which you should keep on you always.
- Using a baby wipe every time you need to reapply your antiperspirant.
- Using an antibacterial soap.
6) Weight Gain
Weight gain is common and you should expect to gain around 25 to 40 pounds.
This weight is easy to shed, especially if you start exercising immediately. You want to check with your doctor before starting though and stop immediately if you feel lightheaded or experience heavy bleeding.
You also need to eat right, since your body needs no more than 2,200 calories during this time.
7) C-section Scar
This is one postpartum body change that never goes away. However, these scars can fade over time, especially when you apply a scar fade cream like the silicone c-section scar removal cream over it continually.
8) A Body That Tends to Flabby
For the first few months, you will notice most parts of your anatomy tend to be flabby.
These parts of your body will be this way and might remain largely so until you start exercising.
Exercising regularly, even low-intensity exercises like walking should start to firm up your body until it returns to its firm and supple pre-pregnancy state.