We bring you the honest girl’s guide to the post-pregnancy body—because real women know that an awesome postpartum body is not exactly the norm. Worship yourself like the goddess you are, imperfections and all!
Sore, engorged breasts
Right after pregnancy, your breasts will most definitely feel full and sore. Your body will naturally sense that it must provide for the baby it has created, and your breasts will fill with milk and become engorged. Although this will make you feel like quite the buxom babe, it can also be rather uncomfortable. The best way to relieve the pressure is actually to breastfeed. Breastfeeding will provide a release for the excess milk, and feeding in 2 to 3 hour intervals will keep things flowing smoothly.
Likewise, breastfeeding has the added benefit of helping you burn calories, which will allow your body to get back down to your pre-pregnancy weight. Women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed will find that their breasts return to a more manageable size within a few days, and can alleviate soreness in the meantime by applying cold packs.
As your body has expanded over nine months to allow your baby to grow, so too has your skin. In the weeks following your delivery, your skin will slowly (but surely!) return back to normal, but you may notice those distinctive lines that so many women dread: stretch marks. These purplish-red lines are formed when small ruptures occur in the tissues directly under the skin, due to weight loss or weight gain. Most stretch marks fade over time, and in the meantime you can pamper your skin with creams designed to aid fading.
Also, melasma spots, referred to as the mask of pregnancy and resembling large brown freckles or splotches, may appear on your face, mainly due to the fluctuation of hormones. These spots fade gradually over time, especially if you protect your skin from harmful UV rays before, during and after your pregnancy.
Now that the bun is out of the oven, does the oven feel like it’s still cooking? You may be experiencing the natural pains that go along with your tummy adjusting to being, well, just a tummy and no longer a baby-making machine. Your uterus will begin to shrink and will eventually get back to its pre-pregnancy size and weight. But during this process, you may feel cramps, which can increase in intensity with subsequent pregnancies. One way to relieve this discomfort is to employ the breathing techniques you learned in prenatal classes. You can also take over-the-counter pain-relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as long as they’re cleared by your doctor.
Your hair was so thick, shiny and full during pregnancy that you felt like Rapunzel. Now, post-baby, it seems you’re shedding worse than a Persian cat. Why the change? While you were pregnant, your hair halted its natural shedding process due to new hormonal fluctuations. After you give birth, your estrogen levels drop, your hair returns to its pre-pregnancy processes and you resume normal shedding. Because you have more hair to lose now due to your pregnancy growth spurt, it seems like quite a lot is falling out. But never fear, it will eventually get back to normal.
Dry or oily skin
Where you once had a lovely pregnancy glow, your skin may be feeling too oily or dry after baby’s birth. Many women who never had acne develop it; likewise, women who always suffered acne might become desert-dry. Stress during delivery, fluctuating hormones and general fatigue are all contributing factors, but you may alleviate symptoms by adopting a facial regime that can effectively manage and re-balance your skin. And get plenty of rest—a little beauty sleep never hurts!
The post-pregnancy tummy seems to be the one part of the body that most surprises new moms. But learn to love your belly, even if it’s sans baby and a little flabby. It’ll take some time for it to recover—after all, it didn’t get to that size in a day, so it won’t contract back to its pre-pregnancy position in a day, either.
Give it time, and with moderate exercise, your muscles will regain their strength. Don’t stress about not looking like Nicole Kidman mere weeks after your pregnancy—just ease yourself into low-impact exercise (six weeks following pregnancy), and remember to make it fun! Include baby on your walks, or dance to your favorite 80s song with him. Whatever you do, don’t crash-diet, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Eat healthy foods, heavy on the fruits and veggies and light on the fat and sugar.
Did you once rival Imelda Marcos with your shoe collection, and now feel like Cinderella’s ugly step-sister who couldn’t cram her big foot into the glass slipper? After pregnancy, many women find that they can no longer squeeze into their beloved Manolos, which is an especially hard fact for the shoe lover to face. Your feet grow in the last stages of pregnancy, when your body releases a hormone called relaxin that allows joints to expand—most importantly your hips—so that the baby may be birthed with greater ease. However, a side effect of this loosening is that your feet may grow anywhere from a half to a full size. Some women’s feet never return to their pre-pregnancy size; in fact, there are women whose feet will grow an additional size with each pregnancy. The best way to remedy this? Buy more shoes! Now that’s a sweet pill to swallow.
Do you feel like you’re on Cloud 9 one minute, then want to punch your husband the next? Has pregnancy turned you into Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde? Don’t worry—mood swings are a natural part of your body’s recovery process. Your hormones are fluctuating all over the place, but believe it or not, it’s not just to torture you. Your hormones work with different parts of you body to help it recover from your labor; they play a large part in everything from shrinking your uterus to engorging your breasts. So take it easy on yourself (and your husband) and just roll with the punches.
You’ll find that the post-pregnancy changes can pack a triple-fold whallop, as you are adjusting mentally, physically and emotionally to this new force in your life. It’s OK to get a little freaked out, or even a lot freaked out. Just know that you can weather these changes with grace … and hopefully a little giggle with your jiggle.