The changes that occur in the body are very obvious during pregnancy. The belly protrudes, the back arches, the pelvis expands, and pretty much everything swells. There are awesome changes too, like luxurious hair growth and for many glowing skin.
What surprises a lot of women is how their body changes after giving birth. Some things are immediate, some things are slow, and some things you don’t even realize until a year later when they start giving you trouble.
I want to share with you the 7 surprising ways my body changed – all things that are super common. They are all things that women often end up in walking through our doors for physical therapy or health coaching to address.
Bouncing on a trampoline or doing jumping jacks was not the same!
It’s common for women to “pee their pants a little” in the days or weeks after delivery due to pelvic floor muscle weakness. These muscles were supporting the uterus and baby as well, putting a lot of stress on them.
I had to intentionally strengthen these muscles again to be able to sneeze and exercise without leaking. Nearly all women requiring pelvic floor retraining after giving birth and a physical therapist can help you do this safely.
Obstetricians recommend that average-sized women gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. That extra weight put my feet under a lot of extra pressure.
In addition, the hormone relaxin relaxes muscle ligaments, including those in your feet causing the bottom of the foot to flatten and lengthen at the arch. My foot flattened, but I was able to correct it with an prescription orthotic in my shoe. When not corrected, we find this often leads to foot, ankle, knee, and even low back pain in the future.
Some women find that after having a baby they develop allergies or new food intolerance. This is believed to occur due to the body’s immune system being in a weakened state during pregnancy.
For me, this meant an allergic reaction (hives) when taking penicillin and intolerance to gluten, lactose, and soy. Generally the allergies that appear post partum are not life threatening, but may require some lifestyle changes in order to feel your best.
Sex Drive Dropped
How many women go to their 6 week post partum check up, get cleared to return to sexual activity, and actually feel 100% ready to do so? Very very few. Sometimes it’s due to the body having not fully healed, body confidence issues, hormone imbalances, or just being worn out.
It’s not just a “mood” thing either. Estrogen levels rise during pregnancy and fall abruptly after giving birth resulting in a low sex drive. Hormone balance sometimes returns to “normal” after a few months, but for many women – like me – hormone harmony requires help through nutrition and supplementation.
Our belly doesn’t “bounce back” after giving birth. In fact, it takes 6-8 weeks for the uterus to even return to it’s pre pregnancy size. I have to say I was super lucky – I also attribute it to appropriate exercise throughout pregnancy and genetics – that my pre pregnancy jeans fit pretty soon after giving birth.
However, this didn’t mean my belly was the same. My core muscles were weak due to being stretched and I had a hernia at my belly button that furthered weakened the area. For other women, concerns vary from diastasis recti (a gap between the abdominal muscles), saggy skin, back or pelvic pain, or abdominal fat that just won’t budge. Although things like genetics, posture, and pre pregnancy fitness can play a role here, there is a lot that can be done with the help of a professional to “close the gap” or firm up in the middle.
A big surprise for me was a change in my thyroid hormone levels. – and I am apparently not alone. About 10 percent of women have post partum thyroiditis or an inflammation of the thyroid gland. For me, pregnancy flipped the switch for an autoimmune thyroid disease called Hashimotos.
Symptoms to look for include insomnia, anxiety or depression, unexpected weight loss or weight gain, constipation, or feeling cold all the time. Your doctor should monitor your thyroid levels, but there is also a lot you can do holistically in order to support your thyroid health during this time of transition for your body.
I delivered both of my children via C-section, and I expected my incision to heal in the 6-8 weeks that tissues take to repair. However, years later I still have numbness and strange sensations in the skin surrounding my scar.
In addition, scar adhesion is common. This is when the scar gets stuck underneath the skin and can adhere to other tissues or organs causing pain and dysfunction. This could include pelvic pain, bowel or bladder problems, or difficulty regaining core strength and stability. It’s important for all women to learn correct scar tissue mobilization or massage in order to prevent these complications.
Of course there were many other things that occurred as my body adapted to this new normal of being a mom. These are the things though that most surprised me. Things I wasn’t expecting and no one talked about – not my doctor or my girlfriends.
If you are pregnant or newly post partum, don’t be discouraged by this list. I wouldn’t change a thing about my birth experience or the changes that occurred. They taught me so much about my body, about my resilience, and challenged me to focus on taking better care of myself in order to be the best mom for my children.
One thing I would have changed . . . addressing these problems sooner!
Even as healthcare provider, knowing what I know, I ignored many of these problems far too long and hoped they would “just go away”. Unfortunately, most of these took some adaptations to my lifestyle before I saw any results. This included my choices of exercise, food, supplements, posture, and self care practices.
The good news is that I want to share all my tips and tricks with you!
These are things I learned from my own experience, my clients, my knowledge as a doctor of physical therapy and certified nutrition specialist. I give you all I’ve got in a 5 week Post Partum class focused on healing the body and achieving your ideal post partum lifestyle.
It’s called 4th Trimester ReBoot – because after the three trimesters of pregnancy, we can’t forget about the fourth trimester. It’s time to reboot our body to live our best lives post partum and beyond!
If you want to know more, click the link below ⬇ or if you want to have a personal chat about your questions or concerns, e-mail me at email@example.com