Giving birth radically changes your body in so many ways, on the surface of your skin, and inside on a cellular level. And to top it all off, you have a new human being as the biggest change of all. My body bounced back more quickly after SuperBoy, and still isn’t quite normal 8 months after SweetPea. (Of course, the caramels and real cream in our mashed potatoes doesn’t help.) This is my little guide to loving your post-baby body.
1) Remember that you share(d) your body with another person–with that comes many changes.
Your child grew inside you. What you ate affected them. The sounds around you when they were in utero affected them. Your stress levels affected them. It wasn’t just your body during pregnancy. It encompassed both of you. That alone is mind blowing. And worthy of just saying wow. And then after all this growing inside, you delivered them into this world. So, keep all this in mind as you run through the litany of physical changes to your body because of your child inside. It’s a real privilege and a gift to be able to conceive and carry to term a baby. Not to be taken for granted.
Love your body. Love it for its lumps and bumps. Its pouches and pooches. Its veins and stripes. Its balloons and leaks. It’s the only body you get for this life. Appreciate it before you have to leave it someday!
2) Short term changes.
Lochia: the bloody discharge from your uterus closing up shop down there slows down and peters out by 6 weeks or so.
Afterbirth pain: your uterus contracting its way back to pear-size from a whole-lot-bigger can be really painful, but also peters out. Breastfeeding makes the uterus contract and therefore there’s less work for your uterus to do unaided.
Perineum pain: after a vaginal delivery is normal for a period of time.
Breast engorgement: milk supply comes in and tries to regulate itself according to how much your baby needs (nurse frequently or hand-express a little to get through this PAINFUL process).
Swollen all over: your body had almost 50% more blood in it while pregnant, and all the extra fluids if you had an IV can cause edema in your legs–it will go too!
Hemorrhoids: totally normal during pregnancy from the weight gain (and person sitting on your down-there-ness), and also common from pushing during delivery–will go away too usually.
Discomfort during intimacy: don’t go for it before 6 weeks. Closed for repairs! And you may be dry for a long time. That’s totally normal and will go back to your pre-baby levels at some point.
3) Longer term changes.
Weight. Baby weight. Maybe you gained 20 pounds. Maybe you gained 50 or 70. Any way you gained it, don’t worry! You’ll lose about 12-15 upon delivery (baby plus placenta plus amniotic fluid). And breastfeeding really helps not only burn calories, but to contract that uterus back to where it belongs. Now is not the time to diet. Now is the time to eat healthfully for you and for your little one. Give yourself the first 4-6 months to just find your feet. If you feel like the weight is staying and not melting off, assess your fitness program (ahem, note to self, devise one!!) and take care of your body.
Stretch marks. If your mom had them, you probably will. But! thankfully they will fade over time and you can slather yourself in nummy oils and creams while pregnant and slow down their movement over your belly, breasts, or thighs. Think of it this way: this is your gift to your children, already making sacrifices starting from the time of your carrying them. And that we all have unique topography to our bodies with scars, marks, and vast physical changes of some nature. And those who don’t aren’t very interesting.
Shape & size of breasts. They will get big, and then they will deflate. They will be more tear-dropped shaped. They may hang a little lower. But, if you do breastfeed for any period of time, give them credit as they produce a complete food for a totally dependent person. And breastfeeding lessens your chances of cancer significantly. See Dr. Sears on it here. So yes, pregnancy alone, not including whether or not you nurse, will change your breasts. Love them despite, or because of, their new look.
Kegel. Do your exercises down there. Enough said.