Your Postpartum Body: What to Expect
Your body undergoes many changes during pregnancy, and it can be hard to maintain a regular exercise routine when you’re focused on a successful pregnancy and delivery. Understanding how your body changes during pregnancy and how you can take care of it will help make your pregnancy a smoother one.
Below are just a few ways that your body can change after birth, and what you can do to treat it.
During your pregnancy, you may not have the opportunity to exercise as much as you’d like. In addition, the female body produces relaxin during pregnancy, a hormone secreted from the ovaries and the placenta. This hormone may cause joint pain, muscle weakness, and weight gain.
With a few exercises, you can regain your upper body strength. Consider purchasing an exercise band to supplement your workouts. Stand up straight, hold the band in front of your chest, and then pull the band apart at shoulder level until your arms are stretched out in a straight line. For other simple upper body exercises to try during your pregnancy, check out this page.
Swelling, or Edema as it is medically referred to, is actually very common in most pregnancies. This is because the pregnant female body circulates 50% more blood and bodily fluids than usual, for warmth and hydration, but does not actually use it all. After the kidneys route the bodily fluids to the necessary body parts, it either flushes excess liquids through urine, or stores it in the hands and feet, resulting in swelling.
To combat this, try drinking more water to hydrate yourself and signal your kidneys that you don’t need the additional water. In addition, you’ll want to avoid excess caffeine and salt, as they tend to cause dehydration.
At approximately 6 to 8 weeks into your pregnancy, you may start to notice that your breasts and areolas (the pigmented circles around the nipples) are growing bigger. This will continue through your pregnancy. Your breasts may also grow 1 to 2 cup sizes. Due to the enlargement, you may notice some stretch marks around your breasts after your pregnancy.
During the third month of pregnancy, your breasts will start producing the milk your baby needs, also called colostrum. Some women may experience a leaking of the yellowish liquid, while others may never experience this.
For a more comfortable pregnancy, try investing in a maternity or nursing bra. These bras are specially designed with wider straps and softer lining, which give your breasts additional support.
To no one’s surprise, your belly will likely go through more changes than any other body part. Even after you give birth, your belly will retain some of that weight and show stretch marks. Be patient! The baby weight does not go away immediately. You may lose 12 pounds or so after the birth from the baby and other fluids, but it can take 9 months to return to your previous physique. Every woman is different, so don’t be too critical of yourself.
There are a number of simple exercises you can do to burn that excess fat. One move is called the Pelvic Tilt. In this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place one pillow between your legs, and another under your hips. Take a deep breath, then exhale, holding your ab muscles and squeezing your buttocks. Do this for 5 seconds, 10 times. For a more detailed instruction and for other post-pregnancy workouts, check out this page from FitPregnancy.
After giving birth, sitting down can sometimes feel sore or painful. This is because during labor, some women tear or damage their perineum, the area between the vagina and the rectum. Some women may also have an episiotomy, where a surgical incision is made through the perineum to aid a difficult delivery. The perineum and surrounding area usually takes 3-7 days to heal, but it could take as long as 6 weeks.
Administering ice packs to the sore area can help alleviate the pain in the first few days. As weeks pass, some patients may switch to a sitz bath, a warm bath that cleanses the perineum either over a bathtub or a shallow basin added to a toilet seat. You can purchase one online or at a local pharmacy.
Surrogacy and pregnancy are both emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences. At the end of it all, what you should focus on is the gift of life. Your body can heal, if you give it time and attention.
For more pregnancy related resources, check out our pages on Staying Safe with Seafood While Pregnant, and Staying in Shape During Pregnancy. For more news, guides, and resources for intended mothers, surrogates, and egg donors, check out ConceiveAbilities’ blog today.