Have you noticed how different your post-pregnancy body looks after carrying and birthing a baby? The truth is, it’s bound to look and feel totally different to what it did before you fell pregnant because the body takes huge strain when growing a little human!
Obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Rafik Mia, from the Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg, guides you through the post-pregnancy body changes you can expect after birth. (Some of these changes are permanent!).
- Your breasts may become firm and a little tender about 48 to 72 hours after delivery. Your nipples also become larger.
- The breast tissue doesn’t return to its former condition after birth, but your breasts may become smaller once your little one has been weaned.
- Most women get stretch marks during pregnancy – either on their belly, breasts, thighs, butt, or all four. These stretch marks will fade over time after your baby’s birth, but they may not disappear completely. The good news is that there are creams and oils you can use to keep them at bay.
- Varicose veins tend to improve once your pregnancy is over, but it generally takes about three to four months, sometimes longer.
- Moms are, however, less likely to see the varicose veins shrink as much if they had varicose veins before pregnancy, if they’ve had multiple pregnancies, a family history of varicose veins, if they’re overweight, or if they stand for long periods.
- Postpartum swelling is rarely serious and will go away on its own within a week after giving birth, as your body eliminates the excess fluid you retained during pregnancy. Your kidneys are responsible for most of the purging, which means you’ll urinate more than usual.
- If the swelling doesn’t resolve in a week, it’s best to call your gynaecologist. There may be underlying factors such as high blood pressure or deep vein thrombosis. If the swelling is limited to one leg, post partum cardiomyopathy (dilatation of the heart) may be causing the swelling.
- During pregnancy, the uterus stretches and weakens your abdominal muscles, and alters your posture, putting strain on your back. Putting on extra weight means more work for your muscles and stress on your joints. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can loosen the joints and the ligaments that attach your pelvic bones to your spine.These changes will take some time to correct, so you may experience back pain until your muscles regain their strength and tone and your joints become less lax. You can also have a sore back if you had a long or difficult labour.
- During labour, you may have engaged muscles you don’t normally use, and you’ll feel the effects for some time. If you had an epidural, you may notice some tenderness at the site of the injection for a few days after giving birth, but it shouldn’t cause back pain.
- Back pain usually resolves within a few months after delivery, though some women may experience backache for longer. Women who had back pain before or during pregnancy are more likely to have persistent back pain after pregnancy, particularly if their pain was severe or began relatively early in pregnancy.
- During pregnancy, changes in your hormone levels cause your hair to stay in a resting phase for longer, so you lose less hair on a daily basis. You may have noticed that your hair seems thicker than usual during pregnancy.
- After you’ve given birth and your hormones have settled – usually about 12 weeks after delivery, more hair shifts into a shedding phase. You normally lose about 100 to 125 hairs a day, but after delivery, you may lose around 500 a day.Your crowning glory should be back to normal within six months after you’ve given birth.
Vaginal changes after birth
- During pregnancy, the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles lose tone to allow for birth. A natural delivery, especially if assisted with an episiotomy, can exacerbate this.
- After delivery, your vagina remains stretched and may be swollen and bruised. Over the next few days, the swelling starts to go down, and your vagina begins to regain muscle tone. In the next few weeks, it will gradually get smaller, although it will probably remain a little larger than it was before. Doing Kegel exercises regularly may help restore the muscle tone. This is important especially if you’ve had more than one natural birth, or if you’ve had an assisted delivery, a big baby or a family history of genital prolapse.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.