Pregnancy is a journey. And that’s putting it lightly. After 9 seemingly long months, new mamas may feel like they’re living in a brand new body that they don’t quite recognize, or know what to do with. First of all, THIS IS TOTALLY NORMAL! And to be expected. You ARE living in a brand new body – that created, nourished and birthed a brand new being into this world. Now that’s amazing. But many new mamas are wondering about all these changes related to their new postpartum body so today I’m diving into 10 things you might not expect related to your postpartum body that are actually totally normal.
A new mom’s body and hormones can take a while to adjust and regulate back to our pre-pregnancy normal so it’s quite likely that you’ll experience shifts and changes for several weeks and months following delivery. I know it can feel like A LOT of work at times, but try not to get frustrated. Appreciate and honor each amazing moment with your new bundle of joy, and remember how quickly these initial precious moments will pass.
10 Totally Normal Changes that Occur to Your Postpartum Body
1. HAIR LOSS
When you were pregnant, you may have noticed that your hair looked fantastic. It was full, shiny, and more luscious than usual. Your hormones are to thank for this one 🙂 The increase of estrogen while pregnant causes you to lose less hairs than normal, as estrogen drives your hair to have a longer growth cycle than normal. This contributes to fuller, more voluminous hair! Who doesn’t love that?!
But, sadly, soon after birth, your hair’s growth cycle goes back to its previous pattern, so it may feel like more hair is falling out.
For most women, this process of normalizing takes around three-to-six months before your hair returns to its normal growth cycle. However, if your estrogen levels are especially low, such as if you are breast feeding, then it may take a bit longer. So it is very true that you may lose a lot more hair after birth, rest assured that things will normalize! I promise you won’t lose it all 😉 .
2. FEET MOVING UP A SIZE
For most women, age alone contributes to her feet getting flatter and larger. However, this normal bodily process is typically accentuated during pregnancy.
When you’re pregnant, your body is retaining about 50% more blood and more water than usual to help support both you and your growing baby. But once you’ve delivered your baby, that fluid needs to go somewhere, and much of it will flow directly to your feet. Thank you gravity.
What results is your feet growing half a shoe size or more. And rarely do your feet shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size.
Consider this your excuse to buy those new shoes you’ve been talking about for months ;).
3. CHANGING ENERGY LEVELS
What is unique about this change is that, while most all women feel a rather dramatic shift in their energy levels post-birth – some women feel much more energetic, while others feel more sluggish than they did during pregnancy.
For the women that tend to feel more energy, this increase can be attributed to the fact that a woman’s aerobic capacity can actually increase by 20% in the first six-weeks postpartum. This means that some postpartum women feel like they can keep moving for hours without getting tired, which is especially helpful in those early weeks! Nature is so smart ;).
However, a large segment of women tend to feel more sluggish in the postpartum period, due to the extreme toll that delivery can take on your body, alongside the new task of caring for a newborn. Especially if you’re a new mama or if you have other young children at home to care for, the postpartum time can be really intense. If this is you, aim to manage your energy as best you can by prioritizing SLEEP. The laundry and house cleaning can wait, if it means you’re able to take an hour nap when your baby is sleeping. Sleep is precious in these first few months, and should be priority number one above all else! Also be willing to ask for help. You don’t have to be a superwoman and think you need to do it all yourself.
4. BREAST GROWTH
While your breasts were likely growing throughout your pregnancy, you will notice a dramatic shift in the two-to-three days following giving birth. Specifically, your breasts will likely grow another one-to-two cup sizes as they become engorged with milk.
Your breasts will potentially start to feel sore, swollen, and flushed. You will also likely begin to experience milk leakage for several weeks following your pregnancy, even if you’ve decided that breastfeeding is not right for you.
The size of your breasts will often go back down to what you were used to pre-pregnancy (or even smaller sometimes), assuming that you go back to your pre-pregnancy weight – which, remember, takes TIME.
5. URINARY INCONTINENCE OR LEAKAGE
While a baby pushing on your bladder in utero typically makes you feel like you need to go to the bathroom more frequently during pregnancy, the opposite can be true once you baby is born. Additionally, the large amount of pressure on a woman’s urethra during delivery can make going to the bathroom more difficult post-birth.
However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, a pregnant woman’s Pelvic Floor muscles have largely weakened throughout her pregnancy (unless you’ve been actively strengthening your pelvic floor muscles like I mentioned in this blog post). Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence and/or leakage because your body is no longer trained to stay “tight” in your lower half.
No matter what, it’s really important in the postpartum period to focus specifically on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles (again see this blog post for details), especially if you didn’t do so during pregnancy. Also, be on the lookout for a potential urinary tract infection (UTI), which many women notice after birth, and can cause a burning sensation when you’re going to the bathroom.
6. SKIN DISCOLORATION
Thanks to the extra hormones that flow through our bodies during pregnancy, our skin can have a myriad of reactions. Some women experience heavy acne, while others may have the “pregnancy glow” with a pinkish tone appearing on our skin, especially around the eyes.
Right after we give birth, our skin can go through a massive adjustment period. If you experienced acne or other skin irritations during pregnancy, typically this will start to clear up quickly and go back to normal. Those women that experienced the pregnancy glow thanks to estrogen creating more collagen and elastin in the body, thus making our skin more youthful looking, will also experience their skin going back to normal … which can look like dry, lackluster skin.
Due to the massive drop in estrogen that occurs when a woman gives birth, many women notice that their skin starts to look and feel much more dry than it may have been when they were pregnant. This can appear as a red rash around their mouth and chin.
To combat dry skin, be sure to stock up on clean, organic face oils to help your skin during this transition period. My favorite oil to use is Living Libations Best Skin Ever Sea Buckthorne Face Oil. It’s amazing, and can be used for cleaning your face too which can also help tremendously if you’re struggling with dry skin. Remember that all lotion-based moisturizers will have unnecessary (often toxic) ingredients added, so it’s best to stick to one ingredient face oils instead.
7. BACK PAIN
Unfortunately, many pregnant women tend to have bad posture, especially in their third trimester. While this can lead to severe headaches – as I discussed in my most recent newsletter – this can also be a cause for uncomfortable back pain both during and following pregnancy.
On top of that, our core muscles are often significantly weakened post-pregnancy, which leaves our back muscles to do most of the work in carrying our body weight (and the extra weight of your new little one).
Just like your pelvic floor muscles, it’s important to focus on re-strengthening your core muscles post-pregnancy. But be careful what kind of exercises you’re doing. If your back pain is hindering your day-to-day activities or continues after several weeks, you may want to consider acupuncture or massage therapy to decrease pain.
While it’s not fun to talk about, constipation is quite often a part of the pregnancy journey for many women. Pregnancy hormones slow down the gastrointestinal system, as do many pain medications given to new mothers during birth. On top of that, an episiotomy or hemorrhoids that can develop during delivery may make bowel movements painful. Combine these all together and going to the bathroom can be no fun at all.
If constipation is something that you are experiencing following birth, it’s best to start using magnesium ASAP. Magnesium helps to naturally draw water into the colon, which can make bowel movements easier to pass. Also be sure you’re eating plenty of fiber-rich whole foods such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, fruit, chia & flax seeds, and whole non-gluten grains (like quinoa, buckwheat or rice). And be sure to keep your water intake high. Aim for at least half your body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day.
9. OVERNIGHT SWEATING
As I mentioned earlier, your body tends to take on a lot more water and blood than normal throughout pregnancy. This means your body will need to flush out this excess fluid following birth, which it typically tries to do fairly quickly.
Unfortunately, this can tend to take the form of excessive sweating in the days following birth. If this is something you’re experiencing, it tends to stop within a few weeks as your body begins to normalize, but I’d suggest keeping a fan nearby or leave your bedroom windows open to help you get a good night’s sleep.
10. WEAKER JOINTS
Whether you work out regularly throughout your pregnancy or not, your body will likely feel weaker than it did prior to getting pregnant. During pregnancy a woman’s body creates more of the hormone relaxin to help relax the intrauterine ligaments and give baby a bit more space to live while in your growing belly. However, post-pregnancy often these ligaments are still in the relaxed/loose form which can result in weaker joints following pregnancy.
If your postnatal body is feeling weak, and your doctor has given you the go-ahead, start focusing on gently and slowly incorporating strength training and toning exercises to improve overall body strength and stability. This will also go a long way in protecting your structure as your baby grows heavier and you’re still carrying them around!
Sarah Jane Sandy is a functional nutritionist and women’s health expert. As a hormone imbalance survivor herself, Sarah is passionate about helping women fix their hormonal chaos, get pregnant, grow a healthy baby, and feel happy and content in their bodies. For over a decade she has been researching and studying how the food we eat and the way we live affects our fertility, pregnancy, hormones and post-birth. Sarah works with women all over the world remotely through her 1:1 consultations and online programs. You can read more about Sarah on her website, and find more information about she works with women to optimize health in all phases of life.