Baby is here and while all is well and good with the little one, there are a few things you may be discovering about your post-pregnancy body that may come as quite a shock.Here are some things you wish someone had taken the time to tell you.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
Now that you’ve given birth, what felt like a never-ending pregnancy – especially in the last few weeks – is finally over. There are a few things you may be discovering about your post-pregnancy body that may seem a little weird – why didn’t anyone tell you your hair would fall out or that your feet would look like Shrek’s?
To prepare you for some of the shockers, or just so you know you’re not alone, here’s a list of a few things you wish someone had taken the time to tell you. Don’t fret; know that what’s happening to you is completely normal.
Make the Bleeding Stop!
After a good nine-month break from your menstruation, Lady Red is back and with a vengeance. “Lochia” is the discharge you get after your pregnancy. It consists of blood, uterus debris and sometimes meconium. In the first two to four days post childbirth, lochia is at full flow and is likely to be a brighter or deeper red. After, most women can expect the blood to lighten in quantity and volume until finally, your discharge is minimal and white or yellowish-white.
In a paper titled The Duration of Lochia published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, four researchers published findings on how long the process took till its completion. In their survey of 236 women, they found that, “The median total duration of lochia was 33 days”. However, this was highly variable and “Lochia persisted to 60 days in 13 per cent of women”. One interesting finding was that “The duration of lochia was shorter in parous women (women who have given birth before) and women with smaller babies”.
According to Dr Seng Shay Way, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Consultant at Raffles Fertility Centre and Raffles Women’s Centre, the flow of lochia is a sign that your uterus lining is healing. If your perpetual bleeding is making you wonder when you’d be able to get intimate with your partner again, Dr Seng says, “When the lochia flow is no longer bright red, it signals that healing is near completion, and it's probably safe to have intercourse again. However, if you're still healing from an episiotomy or vaginal tear, you'll need to wait longer still.”
It can also take a while for you to get your proper period back as your body adjusts after not bleeding for nine months. It is equally common for your period to be heavier, lighter, shorter, longer or more irregular than before. Expect your menstrual cycle to change slightly.
It’s normal for your hands and feet to swell during pregnancy. What might surprise you is that even after pregnancy, for some women, their feet never go back to their pre-pregnancy size.
This just means that for some women, you have a perfectly legitimate excuse to go on a shoe shopping spree after pregnancy.
If you’re wondering what happened, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends average-sized women to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. All that extra weight has to be carried by your feet which may flatten the arch of your foot, causing it to spread out a bit. The hormone ‘relaxin’ also has a part to play – relaxin helps the muscle ligaments in your body to loosen up to prepare you to give birth. Unfortunately, this effect is not exclusive to your cervical area. The loosening of ligaments in your feet also helps to flatten and stretch it out. On the bright side, for many women, the change is not permanent so don’t throw out old shoes until a few months have passed.
You’ve given birth. There’s nothing in there anymore so your tummy should flatten out… right? Sorry to break it to you, but… no. Especially not in the beginning! Most women expect their tummies to shrink fairly quickly. The reality is that it’s taken nine months for your belly to go through some impressive expanding to accommodate a full-grown baby, so it only makes sense for the shrinking process to last months.
First-time mum Joyce Tay is among those who are surprised at the still-squishy post-pregnancy mid-section. “I didn’t understand it. After my boy was born I looked at myself in the mirror and still looked like I was nine months pregnant. It’s been six weeks now and I have shrunk a bit, but I still look like I’m six months pregnant. Sometimes I look at myself and want to cry.”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Celebrity mums who shrink within weeks or months have had a lot of help. Rare is the lucky woman who gets her toned abs back immediately.
How quickly you progress is highly dependent on your usual body size, how much weight you gained during pregnancy, how much exercise you do and the genes you have. Don’t worry, though, although the process is a slow one, it is usually a steady process. If you are doing exercise and watching what you eat, you’ll end up close to what you were before your pregnancy… eventually. Just give it time and patience – stressing can be counteractive.
Where’s My Hair Gone?
No, you’re not imagining it. Yes, your hair really is falling out. Sally – not her real name – says, “I started to freak out after a while! So much hair was falling out… At one point I thought I might need to get a wig at the rate it was going.”
Don’t panic. The human head is continually losing hair. During pregnancy, your changing hormones caused more hair to grow and less to be shed. According to a paper published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology titled, The Effect of Pregnancy on the Human Hair Cycle, “Hair loss seems to decrease during pregnancy and increase after delivery because the conversion of hair from anagen to telogen is slowed down during pregnancy and is accelerated postpartum.”
In other words, you are losing all the hair you didn’t lose during your pregnancy – but don’t fret, it’s all going to even out. Hair loss generally reaches its peak at the third or fourth month postpartum, but dermatologists say that your hair should return to normal within six to 12 months.
If you’ve managed to avoid haemorrhoids during pregnancy, it is possible (and common) to get them from all the pushing during labour. If they don’t go away on their own one to two weeks after labour, consult your doctor about what to do. There are both home remedies and medical ones for this common problem – there’s no need to suffer in silence.
No one really talks about this because it isn’t strictly medical… but many mothers claim to feel flutters and movements in their belly, much like baby’s kicks even after delivery.
These “kicks” some say are imagined, but for others, there are a couple of theories to explain them. First is that the uterus could take a while to settle down and the movements you feel are remnant contractions. The second theory is that after spending the last few months paying such close attention to your body, you now notice the random twitches that happen that have always been there.
Either way, if what you’re feeling isn’t causing pain and if they are rare, it’s nothing to worry about. Otherwise, be sure to consult your doctor.