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21 Shocking Things That Happen To Your Body after Pregnancy

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Welcome to postpartum recovery.

We know there will be exhaustion, tears and even peeing our pants but until you have actually experienced these things, it is VERY hard to comprehend how challenging the changes to your life AND your body can be.

I’ve been down this postpartum journey three times in four years.

I will never call myself an expert but I will say that I have had a lot of experience.

And with that experience comes A LOT of things I wish I would have known prior to giving birth so I was better prepared.

I truly believe that many of the postpartum emotions and struggles we feel are due to unrealistic expectations of what happens to both our lives and our bodies after having a baby.

My hope is that you are not left feeling blindsided, frustrated and defeated when the reality does not meet your expectations like I was!

Disclaimer: The information I share below is based on both personal and profession experience. However, if you have any concerns after having a baby, PLEASE do not be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider!

Why Is The Fourth Trimester So Hard?

The fourth trimester refers the the period of time immediately after having a baby, also known as “postpartum”.

In all three of my postpartum journey’s, I have been blindsided with pelvic organ prolapse, crazy hormones shifts, a gaping hole in the middle of my stomach and I peed my pants every single time I sneezed, let alone exercised.

I was left feeling completely broken and scared that my body and life would never function or feel the same again.

Please notice that I did not say that I was scared my body would never look the same again.

When we don’t share the raw and difficult truths of what to expect during labor and postpartum, we are only setting up other moms for a lot of frustration in feeling like they are doing something wrong.

This message is not to fill you with fear but rather help you feel prepared!

It is simply a fourth trimester survival guide to help you not feel blindsided when you are wearing diapers longer than expected and you can’t make any sudden movements without slightly peeing your pants. (Which is not normal, by the way!)

Related: 6 Exercises to Help You Stop Peeing Your Pants After Having A Baby

The Reality of Your Postpartum Body

As a well educated mom with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Exercise Science, I am incredibly disappointed that none of the physical side effects of pregnancy and childbirth such as “Diastasis Recti”, pelvic organ prolapse or pelvic floor weakness were ever talked about in my classes.

These things should be treated as any other injury to our bodies that requires physical therapy!

So be aware that you might experience one or all of the following.

1. You May Have A Gap In Your Belly

There has been a lot more awareness being brought to the process of abdominal separation during pregnancy known as “Diastasis Recti“.

However, I see and hear from so many moms who are terrified of what happens to their core during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles must stretch in order to accommodate the growing baby.

Unfortunately, we simply cannot prevent.

However, you can do things to reduce the severity of separation both during and after pregnancy.

What You Can do

Be mindful of your weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Excess weight gain can put excess pressure on the connective tissue that holds the two hemispheres of your abdominal muscles together thus worsening the degree of separation.
Avoid certain movements until you have proper core engagement
  • Avoid movements that cause your belly to “cone” such as crunches or anything in the plank position if you cannot maintain proper core strength.
Strengthen your core the right way!
  • Most traditional “ab” exercises after having a baby are not beneficial to helping heal your core. Take the time to retrain your core to function properly.

Related: Peace out Mummy Tummy-How To Heal Your Core After Baby

2. Your Belly Will Be Squishy

I did not expect to leave the hospital still looking eight months pregnant with hips that were three times wider than when I arrived to the hospital.

I actually liked my seven month pregnant belly better because it wasn’t soft and squishy like it was after giving birth.

Keep in mind that it takes time for your uterus to shrink after delivery and you will still be swollen for a little while.

What You Can do

Start healing your core and pelvic floor muscles as soon as possible
  • Your doctor will probably advise you to wait 6-8 weeks to resume exercise postpartum. However, there are exercises that you can do as soon as you feel ready to start healing your core and pelvic floor.
Where a postpartum girdle but with caution
  • I do believe that postpartum girdles can help in shrinking your uterus as well as provide support to a weak core from pregnancy. However, they should not replace core strengthening exercises! Think of your core as a built in girdle. If you strengthen it correctly, you will not need support.

3. You May Feel Unnatural Bulging in Your “Undercarriage”

Have you ever seen bridesmaids?

The term “undercarriage” cracks me up!

Pelvic organ prolapse seems to be an embarrassing topic which is probably why it is not discussed often.

I had absolutely no idea what pelvic organ prolapse was until after the birth of my second baby.

About ten days after she was born, I felt a “bulge” in my undercarriage.

Come to find out, my bladder had slightly prolapsed.

The combination of her size, straining to push and the doctors aggressively trying to free her from my pelvis in a rush to save her life had caused a lot of trauma to my pelvic floor.

I was so angry that no one had mentioned this to me during pregnancy so I was prepared and not blindsided when it felt like my lady parts were falling out!

What You Can do

Strengthen your core and pelvic floor during pregnancy
  • Strengthening your pelvic muscles and core during pregnancy can lower your risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
Talk to your doctor about getting physical therapy
  • Did you know there are physical therapists strictly for pelvic floor and core rehab? Neither did I! A pelvic floor physical therapist is a great option if you are unable to heal your core and pelvic floor on your own.
Start rehabilitating your core and pelvic floor after delivery as soon as possible
  • While most doctors advise waiting 6-8 weeks to exercise after having a baby, there are certain gentle “movements” that can be done as soon as you feel ready. These exercises are strictly to help teach you to reconnect your core and pelvic floor to prevent chronic incontinence, pelvic pain and back pain.
Avoid straining to lift heavy objects
  • Lifting heavy objects with a weak core and pelvic floor can cause a lot of intra-abdominal pressure which may increase your risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse or make it worse.
Be cautious how you wear a postpartum girdle
  • If the girdle is too tight, it can put a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor which can worsen incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. I think some of my prolapsed bladder was from wearing my girdle a little too tight.

Related: 5 Exercises To help You Stop Peeing Your Pants After Birth

4. Your Hips May Look Wider

During labor, your pelvis expands in order for the baby to descend through the birth canal.

And just like your tummy, the expansion does not go away immediately after delivery.

I could not believe how wide my hips looked after my second baby!

Despite being a little terrifying, it is normal.

What You Can do

  • Some postpartum exercise specialists may not agree with me on this. However, wearing a postpartum hip support helped me TREMENDOUSLY after the birth of my second and third babies. Not only did it help provide support to my achy hips but it also helped them to shrink back down more quickly. I just wore it on and off for a couple hours a day. Remember, this is not to replace strengthening your core and pelvic floor!

5. Your “Undercarriage” will be sore and swollen

You will likely be very sore and swollen for a few days or weeks after delivery.

However, things will eventually go back to normal…or close to.

Standing, sitting, walking and sleeping can be very uncomfortable for a week or so after delivery.

What You Can do

Soothing Balm or Pain Relief Spray
  • My hospital sent me home with a pain relief spray that helped relieve some of the pain. However, this balm felt much more soothing so I used both!
Padsicles
  •  You can make homemade padsicles or Frida Mom has ice packs specifically for your lady parts after delivery! Isn’t that amazing? They also serve as a pad to help absorb the blood. These are much easier to pack in your hospital bag than a homemade padsicle.
Sit on a donut
  • Sitting on a special donut can make you much more comfortable, especially when sitting for long periods of time snuggling with your baby.

6. Peeing Might Make You Scream

The first time I peed after giving birth, the nurse said, “this may hurt a little.”

While peeing, I wanted to scream and wring her neck at the same time!

I wasn’t expecting the amount of pain that came from peeing after having babies.

I would have much rather her said, “this might hurt like H*#% so be prepared!”

What You Can do

Use pain relief spray every time you pee
  • I used this pain relief spray every single time I peed before and after. If you’re reading this while you’re pregnant, I highly suggest ordering it BEFORE the baby comes.
Postpartum Sitz Bath
  • I personally never tried a postpartum sitz bath but many moms I’ve talked to have benefited greatly from them. This mommy shares everything you need to know about how to take an effective postpartum sitz bath.

7. Pooping Might Make You Cry

The first time you poop might feel like labor all over again.

The combination of constipation from the pain medications and an extremely sore undercarriage made me want to cry at just the thought of pooping.

What You Can do

Take a stool softener
  • I learned my lesson after my first baby and started taking a stool softener as soon as possible after delivery. I personally prefer the powder over pills but they both work. The “pooping” experience after the birth of my second and third baby was not nearly as bad.
Try magnesium
  • Sometimes stool softeners don’t always help relieve constipation. Magnesium Calm was a lifesaver both during pregnancy and postpartum.
Drink a lot of water
  • Water not only helps with constipation but it also helps with breastmilk supply and weight loss!
Walk
  • Walking after having a baby has so many benefits such as helping to speed up your recovery, boost energy, reduce some aches and pains as well as help with constipation. The fresh air is great for you and your baby.

8. Night Sweats Can Be Brutal

I love a good sweat session but NOT when I’m trying to sleep.

I am almost one year postpartum from my third baby and I STILL wake up with night sweats a couple times a week.

Between waking up to feed a baby and changing your clothes, it can feel like you may never sleep again.

However, like most postpartum side effects, this too shall pass!

What You Can do

Forget Fancy Pajamas
  • Personally, less is best. For me, a tank top and undies are perfect. I also keep a couple spare shirts next to my bed so I can just quickly change if I get sweaty without having to get up.

9. Breastfeeding Can Suck

Before you bite my head of thinking, “breast is best”, hear me out.

Breastfeeding my first baby came pretty easily.

I never had nipple pain, trouble producing, or difficulty with the latch.

However, breastfeeding my second baby gave me so much anxiety that it made me miserable.

She was an incredibly aggressive eater and pulled my nipples like a stretch Armstrong doll.

I had an over supply of milk and a very fast letdown which would choke her thus making her very fussy.

She also had horrible reflux and food allergies which left me incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t nourish my second baby like I had my first.

After seven very rough months, the doctors prescribed her a hypoallergenic formula to help with her reflux and food allergies which meant I could no longer nurse.

Breastfeeding was such a struggle that I realized both my baby and I were happier with formula.

What You Can do

FED is best
  • I have BOTH breastfeed AND formula fed my three babies. It makes me very angry when moms make us feel like we are failing if we don’t breastfeed. If breastfeeding makes you and your baby unhappy, THEN IT’S NOT WORTH IT! Trust me. Breastfeeding is an amazing option if it feels right for YOU. However, if formula makes for a happier mom and baby, then that is okay.
Low milk supply is not your fault
  • I was very fortunate to be able to produce thousands of ounces (literally) of breastmilk with my second and third baby. However, I had to work at it. Around 5 months postpartum with my third baby, no matter what I did, I could not get my milk supply to meet my little girls needs and I had to stop nursing. If you have tried everything and still can’t boost your milk supply, your body has not failed you.

10. Postpartum Cramps Can Feel Like Contractions

No one warned me that postpartum cramps would feel like contractions all over again.

The hormone “Oxytocin” causes your uterus to contract after delivery in order to help reduce bleeding.

These contractions can cause a lot of pain during the first few days, especially during breastfeeding while the mothers uterus continues to shrink. (Scientific source)

What You Can do

Embrace it
  • Unfortunately there is not much you can do to prevent the pain from your uterus contracting after delivery. However, I can assure you that the cramping is not nearly as painful as labor. Mine lasted about a day or two however I will say that the cramping was much worse with my second and third baby.
Ask for pain relief
  • I learned after my second baby that these postpartum cramps are typically worse in subsequent pregnancies. Your hospital might off you pain medication. If the cramping becomes too uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • A heating pad comes in very handy after having a baby. Not just for cramping but for neck and back pain as well. I strongly suggest not getting a heating pad that requires microwaving because you’ll likely be trapped with a comfy baby and unable to get up to reheat your pad!

11. You Might Get Hemorrhoids

TMI, I know.

However, you’ve been warned.

They can be painful and uncomfortable but they are normal.

What You Can Do

Use hemorrhoid cream
  • The hospital may provide you with hemorrhoid ointment or pads. This is also a great cream to help sooth your entire “undercarriage” after delivery.

12. Sex Might Make You Cringe

Sex was SOOO painful after the birth of my first baby.

I suffered for months before seeing my doctor.

Instead of getting to the root of the problem, I was prescribed me a “numbing cream” to use before we had sex. Can you believe that? Grrr.

I LOVE my doctor but numbing my undercarriage just to have sex was not happening!

What You Can Do

Strengthen your pelvic floor
  • Instead of using the numbing cream, I learned the importance of properly rehabilitating the pelvic floor after pregnancy. These exercises seriously saved my sex life!

13 . Your Hair Might Fall Out

One of the perks of pregnancy is all the luscious hair you might grow.

However, don’t get too used to it because it might all fall out, and then some.

After the birth of my first baby, my hair fell out in clumps every time I showered.

Despite having naturally thick hair, it felt like I was going bald.

What You Can Do

  • I took Collagen Protein religiously after my second and third baby and experienced very little hair loss. You can drink it by itself or add it to a protein shake.

14. You Will Bleed…A Lot

Bleeding after delivery is normal.

However, if you continue to bleed for an extended period of time, it probably means you are pushing yourself too hard.

Every time my postpartum bleeding would begin to slow down, I became more active which then caused me to bleed more.

My doctor told me this is a sign that I was overdoing it and needed to slow down.

What You Can Do

Nothing, slow Down!
  • Allow your body the proper rest and recovery it needs! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Call your doctor
  • If the bleeding becomes worse or continues for weeks after deliver, I suggest calling your doctor to make sure you are healing properly.

15. Your Joints Might Hurt

Your body releases a hormone during pregnancy called “relaxin”.

The purpose of this hormone is to soften your pelvis in order for it to expand during delivery.

However, this hormone causes all your joints to become more lax which can create some discomforts, especially once you resume your postpartum workout routine.

If you are breastfeeding, the hormone remains in your body until you wean.

What You Can Do

  • If you haven’t noticed, I am slightly obsessed with Collagen Protein. It has so many benefits in your postpartum recovery including helping to reduce joint pain, minimize hair loss and it even helps with aging.

Related: 10 Science Backed Reasons To Love Collagen Protein

16. You Might Experience Anxiety Instead of Depression

Postpartum depression has been given a lot of attention lately, and for good reason.

However, I had not heard of Postpartum Anxiety until I experienced it myself.

As someone who has dealt with depression in the past, I knew my postpartum feelings were different and I did not feel depressed.

After months of suffering from debilitating fears of something happening to my baby or my family, I was finally diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety.

What You Can Do

Get help
  • If you are experiencing abnormal thoughts and feelings such as constant worry or racing thoughts or fears, then it is important to get help. Being honest with my doctor and getting medication made me enjoy motherhood so much more because I no longer lived in constant worry and fear.
Exercise!
  • Exercise is one of the best ways to cope with anxiety. It releases “feel good” hormones that help clear your mind and feel more relaxed. Even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in how you’re feeling.

Related: Postpartum Exercise: Everything You Need To Know Before Getting Started

17. You May Have PTSD

Every mom goes into pregnancy and labor with certain expectations of how they hope things will be.

However, most of the time, these expectations are rarely met and the reality becomes much different than the picture we paint in our minds.

My first delivery was extremely smooth.

Besides getting an epidural I had planned on not getting, the entire process from labor to birth was great.

However, the birth of my second baby was extremely traumatic.

I was unable to talk about it for months without crying and I had constant flash backs of the experience every time I help my baby.

I think I struggled so much more because I had this false expectation of how all my labors would go based on my first one.

This only left me feeling very defeated after delivery.

What You Can Do

Have lose plans and expectations
  • It is always good to be prepared and have a plan. However, be flexible and open minded to the fact that things may not go as planned.
Get help
  • If you are struggling to cope with you birthing experience, it is okay to ask for help. Getting help saved my sanity!
  • Cry!
    • Let the emotions out. Holding in your feelings only amplifies your emotions. Cry and talk about it as much as you need to in order to heal.

18. You May Resent Your Husband

I want to preface this by saying my husband is an amazing father and husband who helps A LOT.

However, this did not come without some very frustrating times and a lot of communication.

There may be times when you feel angry because you feel like the household and parenting responsibilities are not equal.

There may be times when you resent your husband because you feel like your life and body have completely changed and his hasn’t.

And there may be times when you are just flat out angry, sad or frustrated because no matter how hard you try, the burden of the load does not seem to get any lighter.

What You Can Do

Communicate during happy times
  • Communication in marriage and parenting is EXTREMELY important. You both need to have the opportunity to talk about your expectations of each other as parents. However, try to avoid discussing your frustrations in the heat of the moment.
Make a “Honey-Do-List”
  • It took me three years of motherhood before I figured this one out! Most men need to be “told” what to do. They need direction. Once I started making lists, my husband was able to start seeing all the little things that need to be done around the house in order to make our home run smoothly. The “honey-do-list” changed our lives!
Be honest
  • Be open about your frustrations without being angry. If you feel like the responsibilities are 90/10, let your husband know. Holding in your frustrations will only make you more angry and frustrated.

19. Mom Brain Is Very Real

I used to think the term “mom brain” was just an excuse for chronically forgetful moms.

However, then I became a mom and let me just tell you that “mom brain” is very real!

You may find yourself chronically forgetful or always running late but this is simply because moms have so many more things to think about.

Finding your groove and creating systems in your life after becoming a mother is tough.

It took me three years of motherhood to figure out how to create systems in my house and my life in order for things to run more smoothly.

What You Can Do

Declutter
  • The more clutter and “stuff” you own, the more time it takes to maintain all your belongings or find what you need. Clutter also causes visual anxiety making it very difficult to ever feel relaxed.
Treat your home like a business
  • Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, I managed a multimillion dollar hospital based health care clinic. Developing systems to help make sure things ran smoothly and patients were seen on time was one the biggest parts of my job. I like to think of running my home the same way. Getting organized, planning ahead and staying on top of house hold chores before they become overwhelming will help you think much more clearly!

20. You May Struggle With Finding Your New Identity As A Mom

I NEVER thought I would become a stay at home mom.

I had a very successful career and planned on returning after my first daughter was born.

However, when maternity leave was up, my husband and I made the decision for me to stay home.

Despite feeling incredibly blessed for the opportunity to stay home with my kids, I really struggled in finding myself outside of motherhood.

What You Can Do

Find a hobby
  • I started my blog as a hobby way to have a creative outlet OUTSIDE of motherhood. Three years later, I have been able to turn my passion and hobby into a career to help thousands of moms navigate their bodies and lives both during and after pregnancy. Your hobby doesn’t have to become a career but finding something you love outside of motherhood allows you to maintain a sense of identity.
Exercise!
  • If you stick around with me long enough, you will see that exercise is my solution to almost everything! But seriously, building physical strength can help you discover a new sense of identity.

21. The Love You Will Feel Is Indescribable

Having babies is the greatest gift in the world!

The love you feel for your children is indescribable. Being prepared for what life is like after having babies will help you to enjoy the journey so much more!

What would you add to this list?!

You’ve got this, mama! If you feel like you struggle with anything I’ve shared, I am only an email away!

Stay in the loop and follow me on Facebook or Instagram for workout ideas and motivation!

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