Ever wondered if your body would go back to your pre-pregnancy look?
Yes…you will never be the same. The first 6 weeks post-delivery is considered the period where your body recovers and reverts back to pre-pregnancy state. Each individual is different and the changes you may experience after delivery depends on the type of delivery that you had.
- Tummy size
Don’t expect to look immediately slimmer after birth, as it takes about 6 weeks for the womb to return back to its normal shape and size. Coupled with the fact that abdominal muscles and skin were stretched, it will take effort to regain back the tone.
- Weight loss
You will start passing out more urine and your body weight starts to decline over the next few months or so. How much weight you will lose depends on your pregnancy weight gain, diet and exercise. Afterall, it took 9 months to gain that extra pounds. It will take the same amount of time, if not more to shed the extra pounds.
- Urinary incontinence
It is normal to leak some urine involuntarily in the months following a natural delivery, especially during sneezing, coughing and laughing. This is because pregnancy, labor and delivery weakened the pelvic muscles and ligaments responsible for bladder control. Performing Kegel’s exercise will help in regaining the pelvic muscle tone and urinary incontinence should recover gradually.
- Vaginal soreness and pain
Vaginal delivery puts an enormous amount of pressure on the perineum, which must stretch to accommodate your baby’s head. During childbirth, the perineum may tear or an episiotomy may be performed to facilitate delivery of baby’s head.
If you gave birth vaginally without an episiotomy or a tear, your perineum may be swollen or tender afterward, but it will likely feel fine within a week, perhaps in just a day or two. Healing times vary from woman to woman, but in general, the deeper the cut or tear, the longer the recovery time. A small, “first-degree” tear generally heals quickly and cause little discomfort.
A typical episiotomy or second-degree tear usually heals in two to three weeks. (The stitches dissolve on their own during this time.) Some women feel little pain after a week, while others have discomfort for a month.
If you have a more serious tear that extends to the rectum (a third- or fourth-degree laceration), you may have pain and discomfort for a month or even longer. (These tears can happen to anyone, but are more likely to occur if you have an episiotomy.) In the first few days after birth, you may have trouble urinating and passing bowel movements. You’re also more likely to have incontinence of gas or feces that lasts for months or even years.
- Vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge (lochia) changes color from dark red to pink, brownish and finally whitish.
- Caesarean section
You may experience numbness and pain over the incision site if you had a caesarean delivery. The skin numbness may take months to recover as skin nerves were cut during caesarean. Recovery from a caesarean may take 2-3 months. Wound pain may start to get better after a couple of weeks. Lumpiness will also start to become less obvious after a few months, as the scar tissue undergoes remodeling.
- Hair loss
Shedding more hair than usual in the first few months after giving birth is perfectly normal. Normally, about 85 to 95 percent of the hair on your head is growing and the other 5 to 15 percent is in a resting stage. After the resting period, this hair falls out and is replaced by new growth. An average woman sheds about 100 hairs a day. During pregnancy, increased levels of estrogen prolong the growing stage. After birth, estrogen levels take a tumble and a lot more hair follicles enter the resting stage. Shedding will taper off and hair will be back to its pre-pregnancy thickness about six to 12 months after birth.
This article was first published in The New Age Parents online magazine Mar / Apr 2013 issue.
By Dr Ben Choey
Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
A gynaecologic surgeon who has been committed to women’s health for more than 10 years, Dr Choey obtained his Master of Medicine (O&G) and became a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (United Kingdom) in 2007. He was also appointed Clinical Tutor in Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School
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