Postpartum Body Changes

It’s been weeks, months or even years after your little one was born, you walk past a mirror one day and see your tummy looking soft and jiggly, new stretch marks, loose skin and saggy breasts. Sigh. Those are some of the postpartum body changes women experience. Some changes are temporary, they last for a while before fading away and other changes are permanent. What remains constant though, is, you’re not alone! These postpartum body changes are your trophy for the beauty you have created by bringing new life into the world.

Yes, thousands of women give birth across the world every day but YOU did this. Your body, which you might not be feeling much love for at this moment, did this. No matter what your religious inclinations are, when you take a moment to ponder on how a microscopic egg and regular old sperm came together to fuse into one cell, two cells, and millions of cells that make up your baby or babies, you can’t help but be awed by the miracle of it all.

A miracle that was brought to life by you and your body. Your body made, nurtured and grew a whole human being, it is an amazing thing that has happened through you mama. Please do not let the expectations of the world and #snapback photos you see on social media make you feel sad about any postpartum body changes you experience. Do not compare yourself to the celebrities you see, they have nannies, personal trainers and chefs at their beck and call. The rest of us, take things one day at a time. You are not alone.

The thing is, we change as we grow. Regardless of whether you have had kids or not, your body will change as you age and that is a fact of life. Some of these changes can make us feel devastated but it is good to come to terms with this fact so you can cut yourself some slack and be kinder to yourself. Now some of the postpartum body changes can be worked on and some of them are out of your hands. This is a good time to remember The Serenity Prayer which says:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference”.

Here are some of the changes that can happen to your postpartum body

1. Hair Loss

Even with the prior information I had, postpartum hair loss still caught me by surprise. I had heard about it but didn’t realise it would kick in months after your baby arrives so I thought it had skipped me. There I was, full head of hair one day and total edge damage the next. My edges were gone! Thankfully, postpartum hair loss is one of the temporary changes. It usually kicks in 2-6 months after delivery although some women experience it much later and some women are lucky they don’t lose hair at all. Up to 90% of new moms get it though, so don’t freak out if you are one of those women. With patience, your hair will be back to normal in no time. Some treatment information can also be found here

2. Saggy Breasts – Major Postpartum Body Change

All breasts eventually succumb to gravity, some faster than others and pregnancy does not make the journey to that eventual destination any shorter. It is erroneously believed that it is breastfeeding alone that makes our breasts sag, this makes some women decide not to breastfeed or cut their breastfeeding time short. Sorry to burst your bubble, sister. Once pregnancy begins and you miss that period, the journey to the “Olympus has fallen” phase begins.

Apart from the sag, some breasts end up being larger or smaller than they were pre-pregnancy. If you recently stopped breastfeeding, your breasts would feel thinner and flatter than you are used to but don’t get bothered about this. Give your body some time to stabilize and your breast will soon fill up with fatty tissue that was replaced by all the awesome parts that made milk to nourish your baby. When you are breastfeeding, the milk-producing structure within your breast fills up and expands. When you stop, it will take some time for fat to fill up your breasts again.

All those gels, creams, pills do not work for lifting saggy breasts. The only sure way is by getting surgery done. Personally, I find acceptance easier. If you have a breast lift today, who knows what part of your body will bother you tomorrow? When does it really end, this search for perfection? Some of these postpartum body changes come along with the usual passage of time, childbirth or not. This is a no judgement zone though, anyone who feels inclined to get a boob job done would certainly not be judged by me. Heck, I’d even admire a job well done.

3. Postpartum Weight Gain

Quite frankly, hormones aren’t fair to women! Did you know that you can start a diet with a man, eat the same things and he’ll lose weight faster than you? Heck, men don’t even get cellulite. Our body predisposes us to store fat and the postpartum phase is especially notorious for this. The lack of sleep, stress and breastfeeding also contribute to weight gain. Some women experience weight loss with breastfeeding but this is not the case for every woman.

I know, I know, there’s an unholy hunger that comes with exclusive breastfeeding. You eat a meal and the next instant, it feels like you haven’t eaten for 10 days. hehehe. Such a crazy period.
It’s not all bad news though, of most postpartum body changes, weight gain is one that can be tackled fairly easily by making good choices with our meals and staying active. Not in the beginning though, give your body time to heal, eat well to make sure your breastmilk supply is well established. Eat well does not mean eating for two though, you still need to be careful with the things you eat and not throw caution to the wind.

Once your baby starts solids, you can kick things up a notch with your workouts and diet. And before you know it, your body is back to normal. In fact, you can even look hotter than you did pre-pregnancy if you put in the work. Remember to give yourself time.

4. Stretch Marks

Biotin, shea butter, cocoa butter, vitamin E oil, you used all these things, massaged your tummy diligently and one day towards the end of your pregnancy, you looked in the mirror and saw the beginning of stretch marks on your tummy. Arggh!

Those are your tiger stripes mama, you earned it! With time, they might fade away and look better and you might not get to see them again. For some women, they are a permanent part of you now. All I can say is, Love Thyself! Remember it is an amazing thing you have done and a privilege to get pregnant, carry that pregnancy successfully and birth your child and with that privilege, comes postpartum body changes.

Desiree Fortin shared a post on Instagram that inspires me, She said
“Several months ago I was given an opportunity from the TV Show, The Doctor’s, to have a non-invasive tummy tuck. They called me “the perfect candidate.” To be honest, I have never once considered a tummy tuck, not because I don’t support them but because I do my best to love my body for what is now. I declined the offer twice and had to follow my heart. “

5. Bigger Feet After Pregnancy

Some women experience larger feet after pregnancy, it’s bye bye to those cute shoes you last purchased. On the flip side though, it’s an opportunity to go shoe shopping, yay! Researches have found between 60 to 70 percent of women experience a change in shoe size after having a baby. This change is usually permanent. Apparently, the hormones that cause your vagina to relax in preparation for the delivery of your baby, also cause the ligaments and joints in your feet to relax and stretch out. Leaving you with longer and flatter feet.

When your baby is born, you might experience fluid retention that makes your feet swell. It is usually one of the temporary postpartum body changes. This fluid retention goes away after some time, it is different from the change in feet size mentioned above.

6. Vagina Changes and Incontinence

Some exclusively breastfeeding women feel unusually dry, some women find themselves tighter than before, this occurs in cases where they are given an extra stitch after a tear or episiotomy, it is also known as the Husband Stitch. Some feel looseness. In some unfortunate cases, there might even be a vagina prolapse. There’s also postpartum incontinence This is the involuntary leaking of urine when laughing, sneezing or any strenuous activity. You might also find you can no longer hold your pee as well as you used to.

If things feel really weird down there or you feel an extra bit of flesh, please see your doctor for an evaluation. For the looseness and incontinence, Kegels help a great deal.

To perform kegels, you need to identify your pelvic floor muscles by trying to stop the flow of urine while peeing. Once the muscles have been identified, you are good to go:

  • Contract the muscles gradually till you feel it tighten up
  • Hold for about 5 seconds
  • Relax the muscles
  • Repeat steps at least 10 times per session and 3 times daily

Remember to breathe while doing the exercises, also do not tighten your buttocks or abdomen. If you find yourself tightening the wrong muscles, you’re not focusing on the pelvic floor muscles as required.

Don’t make a habit of stopping your urine mid-flow though, you just need it once to identify the correct muscles. Doing the exercise frequently while urinating can cause damage to the bladder.

7. Voice Deepens

This one is rarely spoken about but it is part of my experience. I was no Whitney Houston to start with but I find it difficult singing some of my favourite songs now. I’m in great company though, it happened to Adele.

Researchers at the University of Sussex sampled ten years of voice recordings from 20 mothers before, during and after their first pregnancies and concluded that the pitch of new mother may drop after giving birth for the first time. They also found that things went back to pre-pregnancy levels after a year. So if you’re anything like me, just hang in there! Your bathroom voice just went on vacation, she’ll be right back!

8. Diastasis Recti

That big belly might not be simply fat, it could also be a fascinating postpartum body change known as Diastasis Recti. Yikes!

It is a condition where the left side of your abdominal muscles separates from the right.

Diastasis recti can leave you looking pregnant after you’ve lost the postpartum weight and it is a fairly common condition that frequently goes undiagnosed.

How to check for Diastasis Recti (source):

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly lift your head up, as if you’re about to do an abdominal crunch.
  3. Press two of your fingers into the flesh around your belly button. If you have diastasis recti, you will feel the walls of your abdominal muscles squeezing the sides of your fingers as the muscles contract.
  4. Try 1, 2, and 3 fingers to see how wide the gap is. The more fingers you can fit in the gap, the wider the gap and the more severe the condition.

If you’ve got a mild to moderate case of DR, physical therapy would help strenghten your core and resolve the issue. Severe cases would require surgery. Speak with your doctor for further evaluation. Here’s a helpful video on Youtube:

Diastasis Recti Exercises - From a doctor of physical therapy

After all is said and done, pregnancy and childbirth does take a toll of the body but most of the issues can be resolved by awareness, patience and making required changes. You’ve got this, mama!

Leave a Comment