5 Scary (But Totally Normal) Things That Happen to Your Body After Childbirth

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Thought your baby was the only one going through monumental changes the first year?

Think again!

Mamas go through their fair share of changes during the first few months as well… and most of them are unfortunately not very pleasant (you can thank hormones for that!) The good thing is that these changes are totally normal and don’t last very long. Thank God.

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What Causes It? Your pregnancy hormones keep your hair thick and incredibly lush, but when those hormones drop, so do the extra, beautiful hairs you thought were here to stay.

I thought I was going to be spared when it comes to hair loss… Four months postpartum and still nothing. But boy, was I wrong. Around the six month mark, it was Niagara Falls. I am not even exaggerating. On my hairbrush. In the shower. On my pilates mat! There was nothing I could do but avoid running my fingers through my hair at all costs. It was actually terrifying.

The weird thing is that it stopped for a few months and caught up to me again around the 10 month mark. I guess hormones play some funny tricks on new moms all the way up to the first year… 

What You Can Do: Stick with your prenatal vitamins and be gentle on your scalp (easy on the hair tools, aggressive brushing, and tight ballerina buns!)

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What Causes It? Just your pregnancy hormones telling your body to rid itself of all those extra fluids it previously needed to nourish your baby.

I didn’t experience too much sweating past the first week, but those first few nights were rough, especially at the hospital. I couldn’t stand sleeping with the covers on top of me, and that says a lot… I usually love to bundle up under there! 

What You Can Do: To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of fluids (especially if you’re breastfeeding!), wear loose clothing, and stay cool. You can also take lots of showers throughout the day (if you give birth midsummer like I did, good luck!)

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What Causes It? Hormonal changes can rid the skin of lipids during and right after pregnancy, leading to flaky, dry patches on the face. That “pregnancy glow”caused by estrogen-fueled blood flow to your skin may be replaced by postpartum acne due to hormonal swings, stress, sleep deprivation, and less effort when it comes to skin care. Because duh, taking care of a newborn is a hell of a lot more important!

I definitely struggled with this up until now. My skin is very sensitive and always tends to break out when I’m about to get my period (hormones always take a toll on me), but I wasn’t spared postpartum either! Some women experience dark patches on their skin known as chloasma/melasma (also known as “the mask of pregnancy”), but I suffered from flaky, dry skin and occasional hormonal acne. 

What You Can Do: Cleanse and moisturize! Use a gentle cleanser (no exfoliator) twice a day and moisturize a lot more than you usually would. I used this Neutrogena Naturals Multi-Vitamin Night Cream that worked like a charm to restore my skin’s natural moisture. If you experience chloasma/melasma, stay out of the sun and use sunscreen. Although it may not fully go away, it should eventually fade over the next few months.

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What Causes It? Throughout pregnancy and especially when your milk comes in, your breasts will go through many changes: becoming flushed, swollen, sore, engorged with milk, then sag (when you stop breastfeeding) because of the resulting stretched skin. The linea nigra (the dark line down the center of your lower abdomen) is not new – as a matter of fact, you’ve always had it (it was just called linea alba). Before pregnancy it is too light to spot, but when melanin production increases during pregnancy, the line gets darker and more visible. Even the fittest moms will experience some flabbiness in the midsection after giving birth due to stretching and loss of muscle tone.

I was very lucky to not get a single stretch mark from Liam’s birth, but I definitely noticed changes in my breasts and stomach area. My breasts grew two cup sizes and my stomach was definitely a lot less toned than before my pregnancy. Again, totally normal… but I can relate to the feeling of not recognizing your own body post birth. Even the shape of my belly button looked different! I also had a dark linea nigra that thankfully disappeared fully after the first month or two. 

What You Can Do: Wear comfortable nursing bras (I avoided underwire like the plague) that support your breasts… and work out! This is key if you want your core to regain strength. Diet alone won’t help you realign your abdominal muscles, so make sure you gradually get back to the gym. Want to know a good mom hack? I wasn’t ready to get out of the house the first couple of months so I did a good amount of Blogilates pop pilates workouts at home. All you need is a computer and a yoga mat!

Note: two thirds of pregnant women  have diastasis recti (or abdominal muscle separation) after giving birth and it is very important to spot this condition before working out your core after baby. There are also many modified exercises available to help treat diastasis recti.

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What Causes It? You may experience lochia after giving birth, which consists of blood, and tissue from the lining of your uterus. It may look like a heavy period at first, but you should have a little less discharge each day, gradually lightening in color. It may persist for a few more weeks, but should be very light.

Like every new mom, I experienced lochia and wasn’t pleased. Basically nature’s way of saying “ha, you thought you were going to have a 9 month break without paying for it?” As if sleep deprivation, stitches, and hormonal fluctuations weren’t enough!

What You Can Do: Use maxi pads (not tampons!) and rest as much as possible. It’s only temporary!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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