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Pregnancy and childbirth is a momentous life experience, so there is no surprise that after months of growing a tiny baby inside of you, your body changes significantly in more ways than one. Whilst of course this experience is completely unique to every individual body, if you would like to hear how my body changed after pregnancy and giving birth, read on to find out.
I was lucky enough to have briefly discussed how my body might change after pregnancy and giving birth during an NCT course, however I must admit that this did not fully prepare me for all of the changes I experienced, nor did I adequately prepare my body for pregnancy in the first place. So many of them were completely unexpected and quite frankly, not spoken about enough, and I want to change that and empower women by giving them knowledge of how their body will change after pregnancy and birth.
After pains from birth are mild contractions that are commonly felt when breastfeeding. They feel similar to period cramps or mild labour contractions. You can take pain relief for this, so seek advice from your midwife or medical practitioner if you need to. If you have a TENS machine from labour, you can use this to ease the pains too, but again – always seek medical advice first.
If you have an episiotomy, third or fourth degree tear, or a caesarean during childbirth, then you will have stitches that you will need to maintain. Stitches will take weeks, or even months, to heal. Be sure to ask the midwives in hospital for guidance if you receive stitches, and always reach out to your community midwife or GP if you have any concerns about how your body is healing.
Being significant wounds, this will likely become a permanent body change after pregnancy – you will probably be left with some kind of scar tissue once the wound itself has healed, but don’t let this scare you! Personally, I had an episiotomy with Arthur, but my scar is now barely noticeable – despite being a rather large, horrific, gaping wound at the time.
After giving birth, you will bleed from your vagina. Bleeding after birth will be heavier than a usual period, and can take a few weeks to stop. At first, it will be bright red, but over time, it will fade to brown and then stop altogether.
It’s important to change your pad as often as needed, especially if you have stitches, as you’ll need to keep your vaginal area as clean as possible. You’ll need super absorbent maternity pads – your usual sanitary towels most likely won’t be absorbent enough for the first couple of weeks. In my opinion, the Boots & ASDA maternity towels are practically the exact same and were my favourite. Lilets are much thinner, so more like sanitary towels, but they do have wings so these maybe better if you’re worried about leaking. You can also use bed pads which are good for armchairs or under your bedsheet if you’re concerned about ruining your furniture, or want to free bleed.
If you notice any large clots, or you are still bleeding at your 6 week postnatal check up, then be sure to let your GP, midwife or medical practitioner know.
After pushing a head through, it’s no surprise that you may experience changes to your vagina after pregnancy and giving birth. Some people may notice their vagina feels wider, or less tight than before. Others may notice changes in their vaginal discharge or experience postpartum vaginal dryness. These changes are all completely normal, but there are things you can do to combat them – such as using lubricant or changing your birth control. Try not to fret and speak to your health visitor, midwife or GP for advice.
Not every body develops stretch marks from pregnancy, but it is very common to develop stretch marks in areas such as your stomach, breasts and thighs. During pregnancy, these may feel itchy and uncomfortable, but after birth, when this skin is no longer stretching, the discomfort will ease.
Stretch marks in pregnancy can be purple, red or brown in colour, but over time, they will gradually fade to silver, pink or light brown.
I personally experienced quite severe stretch marks in pregnancy that covered the entirety of my stomach and breasts, and despite feeling anxious that they would never fade, I can assure you that over time, they have! Now, I wear those silver stripes with pride, because you know what? My body grew a baby, and that is a bloody impressive.
My favourite product to moisturise my stretch marks both during and after pregnancy was the Palmers stretch mark tummy butter.
When we think about how our body changes after pregnancy, we expect some level of changes in hormones. One hormone I had never heard about, though, was relaxin. In fact, I never knew what the relaxin hormone was until I attended a postnatal buggybeat fitness session, and the trainer spoke about ensuring not to over stretch due to the relaxin in our bodies. Seeing as she did such a great job of explaining it at the time, I asked Emma Staples of Bodyblitz Fitness to provide a summary about what relaxin is and ow it affects women after birth. Here’s what she said:
‘During pregnancy, the hormones relaxin and progesterone relax the muscles and loosen joints. Relaxin is produced in the ovary and placenta, and plays a huge role in pressuring the body for childbirth (allowing the baby to fit through the birth canal) by loosening the ligaments in the pelvis as well as widening and softening the cervix.
However amazing this is, unfortunately softened ligaments put our joints at risk – that along with increased pregnancy weights and body changes can cause discomfort and possibly even lead to injury.
Relaxin can stay in our bodies for around 5 months after birth, so new mums must take extra care in looking after their bodies after such a major event occurring (birth). New mums need to be looked after and encouraged to gradually return to fitness, keeping impact low, not pushing their bodies too far, as in doing so can cause themselves damaged, weaknesses and imbalances that can impact areas like their back, knees, hips and of course general core strength.
It is essential that when exercising, we are careful, keep impact low and if attending instructed exercise that the leader is qualifies in pre and post natal fitness.’
Emma says she feels really passionate about this subject – especially in our current social media saturated lives where there is so much pressure on women, let alone new mums who can be very vulnerable, and have unrealistic expectations put upon them. Emma is trained in postnatal fitness and leads zoom fitness classes as well as in person classes around the Swanscombe, Kent area, so if you’re a new mum in need of a qualified and passionate trainer that will ease you back into fitness safely then get in touch with her!
You might like: the busy mum’s guide to weight loss.
When a woman is pregnant, her breasts begin to prepare for breastfeeding, and as a result, many women will experience larger breasts throughout pregnancy. Unfortunately, however, when breastfeeding subsides, breasts will shrink in size, and possibly even become saggier as a result of losing the functional tissue that had been gained.
Top tip from me: take a pic of your boobs once your milk comes in. You’ll never have boobs like that again, so you’ll want to document it!
Throughout pregnancy, women are constantly reminded to do kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor. The physical stretching of the birth canal, vagina and surrounding muscles during pregnancy and childbirth means that your pelvic floor will become weaker than it used to be without regularly exercising it. That being said – don’t stress about it. New mums have enough to stress about, and there’s plenty of time to do some pelvic floor exercises in the queue at the supermarket to be losing sleep over missing a day (or week!).
I feel as though I personally have a fairly strong pelvic floor, although, don’t make me laugh TOO hard, or I might just have to run away to the loo!
Some women experience haemorrhoids, also known as piles, during pregnancy or after giving birth. Haemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels that protrude around your anus, and can make activities such as sitting or going to the toilet uncomfortable. You can use an ice pack or swelling to reduce the discomfort, as well as many over the counter ointments. Haemorrhoids in pregnancy are more common than you might initially think, but don’t let this deter you from seeking advice from your midwife or GP if your piles after pregnancy do not improve over time or are causing you excessive discomfort.
One of the advantages to pregnancy hormones is that your skin, hair and nails may have had a little boost and been feeling amazing during your pregnancy. I for one definitely felt as though my hair was thicker and growing more rapidly than before I was pregnant. Unfortunately however, as your hormone levels decrease, you may experience a body change after pregnancy that isn’t so glamorous: hair loss. For me, this presented mostly when brushing my hair or shampooing in the shower – I would find worrying amounts of postpartum hair loss in my brush or fingers. I won’t lie – this is of course distressing to experience, however be rest assured that after a few months, you will begin to notice new hair regrowth, and if you’re anything like me, you might even be lucky enough to experience regrowth which strengthens your hairline. WINNING.
Another possible gain from those beautiful little pregnancy hormones, is that you may experience the pregnancy ‘glow’. For many women, their skin improves, becomes blemish free, radiant, and exudes the pregnancy ‘glow’ you so often hear about. Whilst I personally was not lucky enough to receive a ticket to glow town, I most definitely experienced the crash of the hormones afterwards, leaving me with blemish central postpartum skin. Don’t be alarmed if you wake up with a new friend on your face every day or so for a couple of months after pregnancy and giving birth – your hormones will eventually return to normal, and yes – it is common! In the mean time, keep on top of a good skincare routine – I swear by using products with tea tree in for acne.
You often hear about women’s feet swelling during pregnancy, but did you know that their feet may change size forevermore? I can personally vouch for this one – prior to pregnancy, I was always a reliable size 5, however now, size 5 feels far too tight and uncomfortable, so I’m more of a 5.5 or 6.
This obviously isn’t at all an exclusive list – there are literally hundreds of other changes to your body after pregnancy and giving birth. It’s also important to note that whilst this post discusses changes to your body, there are of course many changes to your mind, too. If you’re feeling anxious, upset, depressed, having difficulty processing your birth, experiencing flashbacks, or noticing any other areas for concern in your mental state following pregnancy and birth then please reach out to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
If you’re currently pregnant and looking for more information about actually giving birth, check out these 10 honest truths about giving birth.