10 Things No One Tells You About A Postpartum Body

1) It’s Squishy Not Svelt

No matter how great your intentions are for keeping fit during pregnancy, your body will look and feel like a Mac Truck drove through your abdomen after birth. But fear not, it’s really supposed to look like that.  A pregnant body gains on average 30 pounds during a healthy 9-month gestation. That weight accounts for increased blood supply, amniotic fluid, bigger boobs, placenta, and a uterus the size of a basketball, and of course, that sweet baby. A pregnant body also carries an average of 5 – 10 pounds of extra fat stores meant to supply healthy breastfeeding. There is also the fact that ligaments stretch and thin, muscles and organs are shoved around, and hip bones expand. By the time Junior arrives, you can kiss your once sweet tight ass goodbye. The end result? A squishy body. It takes at least 6 weeks for a healthy woman to heal enough to begin serious workouts and dieting. But honestly, with all the late nights, spit-up, screaming and crying involved with a brand new baby, a workout may not be the first thing on your radar. Perhaps bathing alone or eating a meal while it is still hot will register higher on your priority list.

2) Stretch Marks Are Not A Badge of Honor

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment here is to be proud that my body was capable of producing a life and that the resulting scars, which are indeed ugly, should be seen as a beautiful testament to my womanliness. I call bullshit. The fact that nearly everyone who has seen my scars has uttered the same stupid “badge of honor” line to me tells me that either my scars make them feel uncomfortable or that they assume I am so insecure with my body that I require external validation. Stretch marks fade. Let’s hope stupid does too.

3) Boobs That Once Defied Gravity Are Now Migrating South

After nine solid months of tenderness, your postpartum breasts fill with milk meant to nourish and your brand new babe. Unfortunately, when those same breasts are emptied they look something like deflated balloons. It’s just how boobs work. Push-up bra’s, pectoral exercises, and sometimes just losing some weight and getting healthy can help to alleviate the southern migration, but never again are you likely to have those glorious pre-pregnancy ta-ta’s.

4) Your Hair Falls Out

To be totally honest, this one floored me. After the birth of both of my children, my hair fell out in a weird balding halo around my face. As a woman’s postpartum body begins the hormonal shift from pregnant to not pregnant all of the perks of pregnancy like glowing skin and thick lustrous hair is traded in for dull skin tone and dry falling out hair. All that hair that otherwise would have been naturally shed at a genetically predetermined pace was held onto during pregnancy thanks to the hormone called progesterone. But when the hormones change then hair – all 9 months of it – comes falling out in clumps and in a short and somewhat embarrassing time frame.

5) Thin, Weirdly Wrinkled Old Lady Skin

Just like the hair falling out skin takes a hit during the postpartum period by becoming dry and lose. By getting as much rest as possible, staying hydrated, and eating a well-balanced diet that promotes healing, your skin will tighten back up in almost no time. But for a short period of time it really is kind of lose and squishy and weird.

6) Motherhood Is Back Breaking Work

During pregnancy your back gets quite a workout thanks to the heavy load it has to support on the front end. This weight shift in addition to loosened tendons means that the abdominal muscles have a tendency to become weak. When the abdominal muscles are weak they cannot support the back. You see how this works? One side helps the other. When the front is weak that back muscles have too much work to do and so the natural consequence is back pain. The best advice I ever received was to do pelvic tilts, gentle yoga, and practice excellent posture until my abs were strong enough to support longer duration workouts with more weight.

7) Hips Love Mom Pants 

You have hips now. Get over it. Your jeans will never fit the same way again. But guess what? Hips are sexy. Ask around. True story. Just don’t wear mom pants. Just because you’re a mom now does mean that you have to give up.

8) I Laughed So Hard I Peed My Pants…For Real

Urinary incontinence is a real thing for new moms that can be embarrassing. When any amount of sudden pressure is put on the bladder the pelvic floor – being weak from recently giving birth – leaks. Sneezing, coughing, and even laughing can mean small urinary leaks. Kegels DO NOT help. Please stop doing kegels. They actually make this condition worse. The best way to combat this condition is to do pelvic tilts, lunges, and gentle yoga abdominal work. Once the pelvic floor is strong again then urinary incontinence becomes a nonissue.

9) Mommy Brain

Have you ever found yourself so frustrated that you call your husband by the dog’s name instead? Or you are in the middle of telling a story and in mid-sentence start talking about something else entirely? Welcome to Mommy Brain. You are batty and flighty and this will not ever go away. My mother-in-law once told me that it is because my brain has permanently carved out a huge portion of itself that is entirely and forever focused on my child. Increase the number of children and that portion of brain gets slightly bigger while the other brain functions suffer. The result is that I am now a laughing-stock when I am exasperated.

10) Wet Tee-shirt Contest

Breasts leak. Sometimes a lot. There will be times when you swear it looks like you just entered a wet tee-shirt contest. It is painful and sometimes requires more laundry than you thought you’d have to do, but it is temporary.  Generally at the very beginning of breastfeeding or when babies are experiencing a growth spurt is when leaking occurs. A sense of humor will go a long way.


Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.