Postpartum body changes are an inevitable phase of childbearing and childbirth.
Although a beautiful and rewarding process, it also comes with temporary and permanent postpartum body chances which we must learn to cope with and care for.
There is so much going on after childbirth.
Everything from caring for your sweet little baby, balancing your new normal, and trying to care for yourself and your postpartum bod.
But, what is a postpartum body after all?
Also called the fourth trimester, postpartum is the time immediately following birth to about 6 weeks after birth.
Within that time frame, our bodies undergo a massive recovery and transformation period, leaving us with temporary and often times, permanent body changes.
What will you find in this postpartum body charges list?
Today we will be talking all about postpartum body changes and how to care for yourself as these changes happen.
Knowing what to expect after birth and how to care for your postpartum body will enable you to not only heal faster after birth but not be so hard on yourself.
Because there are so many questions surrounding postpartum body changes, I will address each main topic separately.
Additionally, I will be addressing “frequently asked questions” for each category as well as postpartum care tips.
Also, because of my nursing background I will be explaining most of these changes from a medical perspective. But, as a mom of two, I will also be sharing with you my own experiences and that of many other moms who have “been there, done that”.
Whether you are currently pregnant or have recently given birth, it is my hopes that as you read this article you find helpful information that can help you navigate through this unique phase of motherhood.
But most importantly help you realize you aren’t alone in your journey as we are all in this together.
Let’s take a look….
Postpartum body changes
(Care Tips & FAQ’s)
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Disclaimer: Although I am a Registered Nurse, I am not your doctor. Please ensure you speak to your health care provider and get medical clearance before you perform any of the advice provided in this article.
1. Postpartum Belly Changes
For some of us, our postpartum belly will retract close to our normal size within a few weeks after birth. This is mostly true for women who exercised their core muscles throughout their pregnancy.
However, truth is for most of us, the pregnancy “pouch” will remain for a while longer.
Why is my belly big after pregnancy?
If your belly still looks like you are carrying a baby months after delivery, diastasis recti might be the culprit.
“Diastasis recti is a gap in between your right and left abdominal wall muscles that can result in a rounded, protruding belly ‘pooch’. Often times, the tissues get so stretched out during pregnancy that they lose their elasticity and, therefore, the ability to retract back into position.” (Source)
How long does it take for your stomach to go down after having a baby?
Soon after childbirth your uterus is still enlarged and doing its best to get rid of residual blood and fluids.
In the days/weeks to follow, your postpartum belly will start to decrease in size as the swelling subsides, muscles recover, and “baby weight” starts to come down.
With that said, postpartum belly size will depend on multiple factors:
- how much weight you gain during pregnancy?
- your postpartum diet
- prenatal and postpartum exercises
- if you opt to breastfeed
- if you developed diastasis recti
★ Postpartum Belly Care Tips
1. Belly support is really important during the postpartum period, specially if you had a c-section. Using a belly band helps keep things in place as your belly shrinks back to size.
2. Eat a balance diet to help lose the extra baby weight and be as healthy as you can be.
3. Perform diastasis recti exercises to correct this issue, if present.
2. Postpartum Swelling
Postpartum swelling, or postpartum edema, could happen as a result of excess amount of fluid remaining in the body tissue after childbirth. Specially, if you received a lot of IV fluids during labor.
Postpartum swelling it’s mostly noticeable in body extremities such as hands, feet, face, and ankles.
It is important to note that although mild edema is common for most women to experience after giving birth, you should call your doctor right away if your postpartum swelling:
- lasts more than a week
- happens on only one side of your body
- get worse instead of better
- becomes extremely painful
- you experience frequent headaches
★ How to care for my postpartum swelling?
1. Eating potassium rich foods helps get rid of sodium in the body. Therefore, opting for foods high in potassium such as bananas, avocadoes, spinach, lentils, and yogurt can help alleviate and get rid od your postpartum edema.
2. Elevating your legs above the level of the heart encourages the water to flow throughout the body.
3. Many women find that light exercise such as walking, and swimming help can reduce swelling and related symptoms. However, you should listen to your body and take periods of rest multiple times a day as well.
4. Using compression stockings are also a great way to help alleviate and improve postpartum swelling. Compression stockings help to increase blood flow by reducing the size of blood vessels in the legs. In turn, encouraging the vessels to circulate more blood in a shorter amount of time.
3. Postpartum Stretchmarks
Oh, the good old pregnancy and postpartum stretchmarks.
Bad new? Some are here to stay!
Good news? Some might get lighter in color and some will even fade to barely visible with time.
Whatever your stretch mark scenario looks like post baby, know that you aren’t alone and that most moms carry these lovely battle scars somewhere in their body post baby.
Why do I get stretch marks during pregnancy and postpartum?
As per WebMD, “stretch marks happen when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks”.
The most common areas for pregnancy and postpartum stretch marks to appear are the belly, bottom, thighs, and breasts.
Will postpartum stretch marks go away?
For moms with light skin, postpartum stretch marks will likely appear pink or purple in color. For moms with darker skin color the stretch marks might look a little lighter than their skin color.
On either instance, there isn’t a magic pill that takes postpartum stretch marks away!
However, over the next few months and years after birth, the lines will fade to fine streaks that are closer to your own skin color.
How do you get rid of stretch marks after pregnancy?
Although getting rid of stretch marks completely might not be entirely possible, there are ways to make them more faint and smoother.
Also, keep in mind that the best time to treat postpartum stretch marks is while they’re still in that reddish/purple stage.
★ Postpartum Stretch Marks Care
There is no magic pill or cream that will instantly make stretch marks disappear.
However, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the process.
1. Massaging the affected areas helps increases blood circulation, which helps your skin to receive nutrients faster and accelerates the healing process.
2. Use gels and balms that hydrate your skin and relive other symptoms such as itching. Also remember that whatever you put on your skin has the potential to be absorbed into your body. So, try to use natural and non-toxic postpartum care products whenever possible, especially if you are breastfeeding.
A great an popular choice is the Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks by Spoiled Mama. It is non-toxic, organic, vegan, and safe to use during pregnancy and thereafter.
3. Stay hydrated. By keeping your skin hydrated, you can help keep the elastin that your skin needs to keep from scarring.
4. Postpartum Breasts Changes
Breasts are one of the first body parts to change during pregnancy and thereafter.
Postpartum breast changes, specifically during the postpartum and breastfeeding stage, could be significant.
After birth, whether you choose to breastfeed or not, your body gets ready to feed your baby.
So, in the next few days after birth your breasts might feel full, achy, and might leak milk (this is known as the engorgement phase).
If you choose not to breastfeed, your milk supply will eventually dry out and your postpartum breasts will go back to its “new normal” within the next few weeks.
However, if you decide to breastfeed, your breast might feel full, itchy, warm, tingly, and leaky in the first few weeks of your breastfeeding journey.
Although these are all normal symptoms of functional breastfeeding breasts, IF they feel firm, painful, and you develop a fever it might be a common sign of a breastfeeding problem.
So, contact your health care provider right away.
How long does postpartum engorgement last?
If you’re breastfeeding, postpartum breast engorgement should diminish within two to three days after delivery.
Although, it might take a few weeks for your breasts to get used to the demand and supply amount of your nursing and growing baby.
If you’re not nursing, engorgement should subside within a few days.
How do breasts change after pregnancy?
Especially if you decide to breastfeed, for the next few months, your breast will undergo a series of swelling and shrinking transformations several times a day.
The constant expanding and contracting of the skin could inevitably lead to the dreaded “breast sagging” dilemma.
Besides permanent breast sagging, other common permanent breast changes could include:
- Bigger breasts
- Smaller breast
- Perkier or “pointier” nipples
- Uneven breasts
- Breast stretch marks
Even if you don’t breastfeed your breast might also have a new change in breast appearance.
That happens in response to the expansion of the breast tissue during pregnancy and an increase in discrepancy between the skin and the glands, thereafter.
★ Postpartum Breast Care
- Try a warm compress (before nursing), cold compress (after nursing). The Therapy Gel Breast Pads are a great product to achieve this (cold therapy to help relieve engorgement, AND as warm therapy to encourage milk let-down and help relieve plugged ducts and mastitis).
- Pump a little milk to relieve engorgement (don’t pump too much as it can trigger more milk production).
- Take a warm shower and slowly message your breast to hand express excess milk.
- Massage your breasts gently while nursing will help along the milk flow.
- Wear a supportive breastfeeding bra.
- Take pain reliever if necessary (consult your physician for options).
If not breastfeeding:
- Wear a supportive bra
- Avoid nipple stimulation or milk expression as it will trigger more milk production
- Use ice packs to help soothe discomfort (frozen pea bag will do)
- 3 Must-Take Online Breastfeeding Classes for New Moms
- 13 Sanity-Saving Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
5. Postpartum Vaginal Changes
Oh, dear friend!
After two vaginal births, a few vaginal tears, stitches, and a whole lot of respect for childbirth in general… I can tell you a thing or two about postpartum vaginal changes.
If you had a c-section your lady friend might have been spared from most of these situations.
But, if you had or will have a vaginal birth, here are some of the common postpartum vaginal changes you will notice immediately and in the next few days/weeks after birth. Plus, some live-saving postpartum vaginal care tips.
★ Postpartum vaginal care Tips
Vaginal Pain, Bruising and Swelling
I mean let’s be real… a human just came out of you! Yes… you did that. Way to go mama.
But, the after math might leave your vagina feeling achy and swollen.
In addition, vaginal deliveries are no strangers to possible tearing (internal, external), stretching, episiotomy, and so on.
So, although totally normal to experience a few hours/days postpartum, here are a few things that can help with the postpartum vaginal care faster healing.
Note: The following recommended products are non-toxic and organic and should all for part of your all-natural, non-toxic DIY postpartum care kit.
1. Using a peri bottle with warm water on every toilet visit helps keep your perineal clean without causing more damage to the already sensitive area, then pat dry.
2. Using a cleansing spray such as Earth Mama Herbal Spray is a great natural alternative to keep your lady friend clean and cool, with organic herbs and no parabens, butane, propellants, or artificial fragrance.
3. Witch hazel pads help soothe and heal the peritoneal area and hemorrhoids faster.
4. Perineal cold pads are so beneficial and convenient. They help your perineal area by helping reduce swelling and discomfort. All you have to do is crack it to activate the cold therapy and use it on every pad change the first week postpartum.
5. Water wipes are also ideal for helping keep the area clean since toilet paper tends to get stuck in the moist perineal area.
6. Using Sitz Baths helps cleanse the perineum, but it relieves itching, irritation, and minor pain. The Sitz Baths Soak (organic) from Purasoothe is a great choice.
After your baby is born, your body gets rid of the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus. This is called vaginal discharge or lochia.
For the first few days, it’s heavy, bright red and may contain blood clots. Over time, the flow gets less and lighter in color. You may have discharge for a few weeks or even for a month or more.
A great maxi pad option are the Menstrual Overnight Pads (Certified Organic Cotton) by Rael.
They are made with 100% organic, OCS certified, non-GMO Texas cotton grown and nurtured without the use of toxins, pesticides or synthetic chemicals
Vaginal dryness and Pain During sex
Postpartum vaginal dryness happens as a result of a sudden decrease in estrogen following birth.
This is especially true for breastfeeding moms whose estrogen levels drop even more.
Because of this, sex can feel really painful.
If that is the case, try to use lubricants and take it slow. Your body needs time to recover from the labor and birthing process.
Remember to speak to your health care provider with any questions and concerns.
6. Postpartum Incontinence
As if all the above weren’t enough to deal with, postpartum incontinence can also be an issue.
Postpartum urinary incontinence is the involuntary leaking of urine that new moms often experience, usually while laughing, sneezing, coughing, or performing any strenuous activity.
It is actually very common occurrence after giving birth and expects say that it could happen as a of result of damage to the muscles and structures that support the bladder during pregnancy.
How long does urinary incontinence last after childbirth?
As per Baby Centre Uk, “postpartum incontinence varies. Incontinence may go away within a few weeks of giving birth. But if you’re still experiencing leaks when you have your postnatal check at about six weeks to eight weeks, tell your doctor, nurse or health visitor.”
How can I regain bladder control?
Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and help with incontinence after birth.
So, what is a Kegel exercise? Think for a second if you really have to pee but have to hold it instead. The contraction that happens in our efforts to hold the urine in place is a Kegel.
Here are the instructions Sutter Health recommends you follow:
- Gently tighten and then relax the muscles of your perineum (you can do this lying down or sitting)
- Start with 2-3 seconds per tightening, then 5-10 seconds
- End by holding your contraction for 20 seconds
- Begin with 2-3 contractions per session and build up to holding 5 contractions several times per day
7. Postpartum Hip Changes
Do your hips get wider after having a baby?
Another noticeable postpartum, and possibly permanent body change is wider hips.
Although not the case for some moms, some others say that they feel like their hips got wider after childbirth.
According to experts this change might be attributed to a shift in pelvis bone structure. All throughout pregnancy and particularly when you have a baby go through the birth canal, it changes your bone structure slightly, making your hips feels wider and making the fit of your jean feel, well… different.
How can I realign my hips after pregnancy?
To help reduce postpartum hip changes, some women look to hip binding exercises and/or using hip binding bands.
Binding the hips immediately after birth it said to help stabilize loosened pelvic joints, and help hips return to their pre-pregnancy position.
The most popular hip binding product is the Ultra Shrinkx Hips.
As per the manufacturer, this hip band was specifically designed to help in narrowing hips post-pregnancy by providing constant pressure to help gently guide areas back to their pre-pregnancy position.
★ Postpartum hip care
However, the best personal advice I can give you is…. Embrace your new curves!
That’s it. As simple as that.
8. Postpartum Hair Loss
So, where did the beautiful, lush pregnancy hair go?
During pregnancy, higher estrogen levels keep your hair from falling out at its normal rate. But, after delivery your hair has to catch up, by falling out.
It might seem really scary in the beginning seeing all that hair in your hairbrush or in your shower drain when you wash your hair.
But don’t worry, it is all part of the process and it will all start to even out soon.
How long does postpartum hair loss last?
Experts say that postpartum hair loss peaks around 3-4 months after birth, and usually returns to normal within 6-12 months.
★ Postpartum Hair Care
1. Take postpartum vitamin and mineral supplements (check with your doctor first).
2. Go natural. Dyes and harsh chemicals in hair products could make it worse.
3. Try using a postpartum hair loss shampoo (it is fortified with biotin and other hair nourishing essentials).
9. Postpartum Weight Loss and Management
How much weight do you lose after you give birth?
As per the Mayo Clinic, “Most women lose about 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms) during childbirth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During the first week after delivery, you’ll lose additional weight as you shed retained fluids.”
How can I lose post pregnancy weight fast?
Postpartum weight loss timelines differ for every woman based on a number of factors:
- how much you gained while pregnant
- breastfeeding or not breastfeeding
- your diet
- exercise habits
With that said it will come as no surprise that surviving the newborn stage is hard! Therefore, focusing right away on your postpartum weight might be pushing it a bit much.
In addition, despite multiple efforts on your end to loose the extra baby weight, know that it might take a while.
In fact, despite their kids age, moms can tell you that they still carry around post baby weight.
The reality is that life happens, and after a child joins the party time is limited for a lot of things. In turn, putting self-care in the back burner for a while.
With that said it is important to take care of ourselves and our bodies to be the best versions of ourselves for ourselves and them.
★ Postpartum Wight Loss and Management Tips
- Try to breastfeed (if possible)
- Eat a balanced diet
- Eat regularly to keep your metabolism going
- Incorporate light exercise (walking and swimming- if approved by your doctor)
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid added sugars and refined carbs
10. Postpartum Skin Changes
Skin changes are also a surprising aspect of the postpartum phase. Most postpartum changes happen as a result of hormone fluctuations during pregnancy after birth.
A few noticeable skin changes include:
- Loose skin
- Postpartum acne
- Stretch marks
- Itchy and dry skin
- Changes in skin pigmentation (Melasma)
How long does postpartum acne lasts?
Some new moms might notice that right after birth the beautiful pregnancy glow they once has been flushed down the toilet.
If postpartum acne has made an unwelcome appearance on your skin, don’t be alarmed.
Postpartum acne happens as a result of the sudden drop in hormones after birth.
Good news is that postpartum acne, as well as most of the other postpartum skin related issues, should start to fade away as the postpartum hormones level out. Approximately 6-8 weeks after birth. Melasma (hyper-pigmentation of the skin) however, might take a little longer to go away completely.
Can you tighten loose skin after pregnancy?
As a Healthline article explains, “Skin is made of collagen and elastin, so it expands with weight gain. Once stretched, skin may have trouble returning to its original shape. But it’s important to remember that this can take time.”
A few things they recommend in helping your postpartum skin tighten is:
- Incorporating cardio in your exercise routine will help burn fat and tone muscle
- Protein and healthy fats diet
- Strength training
- Massage affected areas with oils
- Try skin firming products hat contain collagen, Vitamin C, and retinoids
★ Postpartum Skin Care
Besides the aforementioned skin care routines, also consider incorporating in your daily skin care routine:
- A daily moisturizer to help with dryness and itching
- Gentle cleansers and exfoliators
- Drink plenty of water
11. Postpartum Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectal area. When these blood vessels become unusually swollen, you’ll feel a soft mass which may stick out of your anus. (Source)
They happen as a result of added pressure during pregnancy and/or as you push during labor.
I can attest to this firsthand!
I might even dare say that the two weeks that followed the birth of my first child felt more painful than childbirth itself! All because of postpartum hemorrhoids!
Postpartum hemorrhoid made it so hard to even sit down, breastfeed, sleep… I mean you name it, it was all a struggle!
When do postpartum hemorrhoids go away?
In most cases, hemorrhoids that developed during pregnancy will shrink and go away on their own.
Some go away a few days/weeks after you give birth, but some might linger for a bit longer.
In fact, some women who experienced hemorrhoids during pregnancy could continue to experience hemorrhoid related symptoms down the line. Especially if they are trigger by secondary causes such as recurrent constipation.
★ Postpartum Hemorrhoid Care
1. Witch Hazel pads in combination with analgesic creams prescribed by my OB were heaven sent!
4. Sit on a pillow or a doughnut-shaped cushion.
5. Soak in a warm bath.
6. Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
7. Drink lots of water.
8. Try not to strain when you’re having a bowel movement
12. Postpartum Feet Growth
I always thought that growing feet postpartum was a total myth.
It turns out, that for some women, is a real thing.
Why do feet grow after pregnancy?
Some women notice up to ½ a foot growth postpartum.
With loosened ligaments in your feet and an increase in body weight pushing down on your arch, your feet are primed to flatten and lengthen. (Source)
★ Postpartum Feet Care
Nothing much to do about this possible permanent postpartum body change other than:
1. Using it as an excuse to you get yourself a few new pairs of shoes.
2. And get yourself a nice, long, relaxing foot massage and pedicure.
You my friend, deserve every minute of it.
- The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit (All-Natural and Non-Toxic)
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- 11 Things to Expect After Birth and Tips to Heal Faster
If this postpartum body changes list doesn’t put into perspective the incredible warrior that you are, I don’t know what is!
Let the extra weight, couple of stretch marks, and loose skin be a forever reminder that you are strong, and capable of carrying and bringing to fruition a human life.
You my friend, have a God-given strength that you can tap into at any time.
Keep doing what you do and be proud of every single part of you and your postpartum body, because you mama, are nothing short of magnificent!
What postpartum body changes caught you by surprise?
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