Pregnancy has a way of making you feel like your body has been hijacked by a tiny dictator who decides well, everything. Between the weight gain and the constipation and the random pains and the morning sickness and the beating your hormones put on your emotional well-being, it probably feels like your due date can't arrive soon enough. Don't stress, because regardless of how it feels I promise won't be pregnant forever. Try to keep in mind though, that just like there are things you need to know about your pregnant body, there will also be changes happening with your postpartum body, too. Just because your baby has exited from your being, doesn't mean that you'll feel like you got your "body back," so-to-speak.
Your body did an amazing thing. Growing and sustaining and birthing an entire person is a major, physical undertaking, and though it causes some major changes that you may or may not feel comfortable with, you shouldn't hide your postpartum body. You should be proud and appreciative of it and all that it's given you. Staying body positive during pregnancy is difficult but important, and the same goes for your postpartum body. It's going to look different and feel different and maybe even move differently for a while, maybe even forever, but that doesn't mean that it's any less worthy of your love and respect than it was before.
Struggling with body image is, unfortunately, a common difficulty among many women, especially those who have had children and have watched their body change in a way that may not coincide with the ridiculous, unhealthy and unrealistic beauty expectations society perpetuates. However, there are plenty of ways to combat your body blues and learn to love your body if you're having trouble doing so, even after it has gone through such a massive change that only pregnancy, labor and delivery can provide. One way to cope with possible body image issues is to be prepared for what's to come. There are a lot of changes (many that are pretty insignificant) that will happen with your postpartum body, and understanding those changes and how they might impact you ahead of time, could really save you some unnecessary stress and help you to learn to give your body the love and nurturing and respect that is deserves. So, with that being said, here's 11 things you need to know will happen to your postpartum body.
Your Body Is Going To Be Sore, And Stay Sore
Whether you had your baby vaginally or via c-section, you're going to be very sore for a little (or even long) while. There's just no avoiding it. As long as you're able to rest (I know, it's a laughable concept after you've just had a baby that needs you constantly), the soreness should subside in just a few weeks. In the meantime, do your best to take it easy so that your body has the time to heal.
Your Body Might Begin To Swell
Even though your belly might not be quite as swollen after delivery, the rest of your body might retain fluid after giving birth. When you're pregnant, you retain more fluid, especially during the last months of pregnancy. After you deliver your baby, you may swell even more, but your body will begin the process of eliminating all of that excess fluid postpartum. Your kidneys will assist with the bulk of that elimination, so you'll be taking more trips to the bathroom than usual (which sucks and is super painful) but after a week or so, you should notice that your fingers and ankles are returning to their normal size, so you won't be burdened with extra trips to the bathroom for too terribly wrong.
Your Body Might Feel Like It's Going Through Menopause
In addition to having to pee more frequently, you will also sweat more after you have your baby. Your body will eliminate some of the extra fluid you're carrying around through your pores, causing you to sweat more, and the sudden drop in your hormones after you deliver your baby can result in excess sweating, too. The sweating is, thankfully, temporary, but it might make you feel like you're experiencing early menopause until it subsides.
Your Body Is Going To Leak
Again with the excess fluid! Enough already, right? You will need to wear a pad for a few weeks after the delivery of your baby (whether it was a vaginal delivery or a c-section), because you're going to bleed quite a bit, and your body is continuing to eliminate the excess fluid it produced for your baby during pregnancy. Also, your bladder might be a little weaker than usual, so crossing your legs when you sneeze (if it's not too painful, of course) is a great precaution to take if you're out in public.
Your Breasts Will Fill With Milk, Possibly Too Much
Once your supply of breast milk comes in, your breasts might leak. This is totally normal, but the normalcy might not make up for the fact that it's also super annoying. If your baby isn't emptying your breasts by breastfeeding, it's a good idea to pump so that you don't become engorged. Engorgement can become painful, and even lead to infections if not relieved, so pay close attention to your breasts those first few weeks postpartum. If they become very hard and tender, you might need to take extra precautions to extract your breast milk.
Your Body Will Still Look Pregnant
Even if you don't gain a pound throughout your pregnancy, you're still going to look pregnant after you deliver your baby. At least for a little while. Your uterus spent nine or more months growing and stretching to accommodate your baby, so it's going to take some time for it to return to it's pre-baby size. It will go back to normal, but in the meantime, yoga pants are your friend (well, they're actually always your friend, but especially after you've just had a baby).
Your Feet Might Be Bigger
One sort of odd side effect of pregnancy is the increase in shoe size that some women experience. Again, blame it on the hormones. Relaxin, the hormone responsible for loosening your joints to prepare your body for your baby's journey through the birth canal, also loosens the joints and ligaments in your feet, causing your foot bones to spread. You might find that you need new shoes postpartum to accommodate that necessary growth, but hey, that's a great excuse to treat yourself.
Your Body's Menstrual Cycle Might Be Different
Again, due to the major change in your hormones, your postpartum periods might change. They could be heavier and longer, or much lighter, shorter, and more tolerable than before, but either way, it's likely they'll be different than before you got pregnant. If you're breastfeeding, it can take months for your period to return, so it's important that you use some form of birth control if you aren't yet ready to expand your family again, because waiting on your period for months can be stressful.
The Size And Shape Of Your Boobs Will Change
Your boobs most likely got bigger during pregnancy, and if you're breastfeeding, they might continue to stay that way for a while. However, the skin will have stretched out quite a bit to accommodate your growing girls, and it probably won't completely return to it's normal, firm state once you deliver your baby. Gravity gets the best of all of us, but if you're bothered by these changes, there's a ton of bras out there to give you the lift you want.
If Your Body Has Stretch Marks, They Won't Go Away But They Will Fade
There's really not much you can do about stretch marks, as they're hereditary. They will never go completely away (at least, not without surgery), but they will fade quite a bit. They might even fade so much that you don't even notice them anymore. Stretch marks are definitely nothing to be ashamed of though, a ton of women get them to some extent, and they should be worn as a badge of honor.
It's Going To Take A While For Your Body To Return To Its "Normal" State
Truthfully, your body might never look exactly the same as it did before you got pregnant, but your entire life will never be the same either, so why worry about some stretch marks or a few extra pounds? Your body did an incredible thing. It gave you your baby, and it deserves all the love and respect that you have to give. It can take some time to adjust to your new shell, but keep in mind that you're so much more than just a body. You're a lover and a friend and, thanks to your body, you're also a mother, and your body deserves to be thanked and treated with kindness for giving you the greatest gift of all.