Our bodies change during pregnancy, and when it comes to these changes, we are all very well aware of what they include. But what about after the baby is born? You may have an idea of what you’ll look like after giving birth and that your body will go back to its pre-pregnancy state. Baby’s out so that means a return to your “normal” body, right?
Well, Mother Nature says not so fast…
Postpartum bodies are full of just as many mysteries as pregnancy bodies; however, many women are still in the dark about the realities of what having a baby does to their bodies. Postpartum bodies are leaky, swollen, bulgy, saggy, scarred, and incredible. But, what’s really going on after giving birth? Below is a list of 5 things that no one tells you about your postpartum body.
1. Tears and stitches
More times than not, giving birth results in some tearing “down there”. While this doesn’t happen to everyone, it is normal to experience small tearing, or in some cases, tearing all the way down to the anus. Doctors will stitch these tears which will help you to heal; however, these stitches can make post-pregnancy pooping, peeing, and even sitting feel sore.
Don’t panic though! These tears and stitches often heal quickly.
2. Weakened pelvic floor
The pelvic floor is the muscular sling that supports the major pelvic organs (including the bladder, bowel, vagina, and uterus) and maintains the everyday functioning of the bladder and bowel.
Whether giving birth vaginally or by cesarean, your pelvic floor muscles will be impacted by the hormonal changes and the weight of the growing fetus. During a vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles undergo considerable stretching and strain. During a cesarean, surgery through multiple muscle layers can lead to a slower recovery generally and a weakened abdominal wall.
The benefits of a healthy pelvic floor before are numerous. Exercising these muscles before and during pregnancy can decrease the weakening of the muscles caused by the strain of carrying a growing baby, decrease the risk of injury during vaginal birth and speed up recovery afterwards. A strong pelvic floor can also increase sexual pleasure for a woman and her partner, and has even been shown to reduce the length of time spent in active labour!
It is important to note that while the Perifit does help you to strengthen your pelvic floor, we do not recommend that you use it during pregnancy. We recommend that you perform manual Kegel exercises or work directly with your physiotherapist during pregnancy and recommend the usage of the Perifit for postpartum pelvic floor recovery at 6 weeks postpartum.
3. The mummy tummy
Woo hoo! The baby’s out so that means your stomach is back to its pre-pregnancy state, right? Wrong!
For days, and even weeks, after giving birth you may still look like you’re pregnant. Even once this bump goes down, most moms will have skin that’s saggy and feels thin and soft.
Many moms also get stretch marks during and after pregnancy which can show up in several different places - boobs, stomach, back and hips, inner thighs - as well as range from white to dark purple in color.
Some also experience Diastasis Recti which is the separation of the tummy muscles from having been stretched and are now thin and weak.
4. Changes in mental health
There are several physical changes that your body experiences postpartum, but it would wrong not to mention the mental and emotional changes that many new mothers experience.
While there are endless stories of mothers instantly connecting and loving their newborns, some women do not feel this instant connection to their child after giving birth, often resulting in feelings of shame and guilt. Between 50 to 75% of new mothers experience a shift in their emotions called the “baby blues” after delivery.
Up to 15% of the above-mentioned women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression, called postpartum depression, after delivery. Postpartum depression is still misunderstood, but luckily there’s a lot of support out there to help you if you or anyone you know is experiencing postpartum depression. Your doctor may be a good place to start. Or you may reach out to a dedicated postpartum depression foundation for help and support.
5. Postpartum boobs
After giving birth, your boobs are likely to be bigger and rounder than usual which is your milk is coming in. They can also feel very hard if your baby doesn’t feed or if you aren’t pumping regularly. This constant weight and pressure on your chest can be painful but getting into a routine of expressing the milk can help get rid of the pressure.
Don’t be alarmed if your post-pregnancy boobs leak… this is normal! As well, some mothers experience chapped or sore nipples as the skin on their boobs stretches and swell.
Breastfeeding can help mothers lose weight after being pregnant. Some mothers are unable or choose not to breastfeed at all and many moms experience deflated boobs once the feeding is all done.