There’s no doubt that pregnancy puts your body through the wringer, but we can count on most of the changes to return to normal once the baby’s born. You might be surprised to hear, though, that pregnancy can have a lasting impact on your body in ways you never expected. Here’s a collection of 16 changes you might see after you deliver your first bundle of joy:
1. There’s a mental connection.
We all know that moms develop an incredibly special bond with their babies that’s unlike any other, but did you know that it can actually verge on the psychic? We’re going out on a limb, here—never trust a writer who uses the word “psychic”—but it is true that one study found that cells from the baby’s body migrate all the way to the mother’s brain. We have no idea what those baby-cells do up there, but it’s tempting to think they could contribute to the connection between mom and baby. What we do know is that the mom’s brain actually changes during and after pregnancy. The Atlantic reports that regions of the brain associated with empathy and almost obsessive-compulsive levels of anxiety are way more active in pregnant women, even before they give birth. Once the baby is born, moms get an extra dose of oxytocin—a hormone associated with love and bonding—when they look at their babies. In short, the mom’s brain turns into a baby-caring machine.
2. You could need new shoes.
Swollen feet are a pretty common part of pregnancy, but many moms are surprised to find out that their foot size can remain altered even after they’ve given birth. Apparently, all of the extra pressure put on your feet during pregnancy can actually alter the arch of your feet and make it flat. With that little bit of additional length, you may need to start buying shoes a half-size larger than you did before you were pregnant.
3. Feelings just aren’t the same.
No, we’re not just talking about feeling super high one minute and super low the next, although we’re not saying that’s out of the question. After giving birth, many mothers begin to see and experience the world in a different way because they are their child’s ultimate protector, and this tends to make them feel the full weight of the world’s most tragic events. Every car accident they pass is no longer just an inconvenience to their morning commute—the person in that car is someone’s baby who’s in trouble. The child reported missing on the morning news could’ve been theirs, and the toddler who ran in front of a car while playing gives them a sense of dread and sadness they’ve never experienced before. On the other hand, not all the emotional changes are bad. Remember that thing about the oxytocin? And some moms report increased joy after they give birth, at least some of the time.
4. The soreness is real.
We’re bringing this up with much difficulty because, even for those of us who won’t be experiencing childbirth soon, the very thought of this happening to our bodies is worthy of a good cry. We’re talking about the possibility of a perineal tear, which—prepare yourself—is a nice way of saying that the skin below your lady bits has split open while giving birth. Sometimes doctors even have to perform a procedure called an episiotomy, in which they go ahead and make an incision before the tissues can tear. Even if you don’t have a vaginal birth, there’s also the recovery required after having a c-section, which involves cutting through the muscles in your abdomen. Spoiler alert—either option is going to hurt for a while.
5. You could get a little leaky.
In addition to typical aches and pains—and possibly larger feet— women’s breasts also experience a lot of changes throughout and after pregnancy. “It is true they will never be exactly the same as they were before.”
“It is true they will never be exactly the same as they were before.”
6. Modesty? What modesty?
We’re sure there are a lot of women out there who will agree that as you get older, going to the gynecologist becomes less and less of an awkward experience, though never what any of them would consider an enjoyable one. Giving birth seems to be the point when many women decide modesty is no longer a thing, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an experience that women have no choice but to surrender to, both mentally, physically and emotionally. Oh, did we also mention that pooping yourself during birth is an incredibly real possibility?
7. Baby got [your] back.
It might not come as that much of a surprise that your back would hurt while pregnant, but don’t be surprised if it keeps hurting long after you’ve had your baby. One study found that 44 percent of women suffer from back pain a month or two after giving birth. Your muscles can take quite some time to get back to their normal range of strength and flexibility, and it may even be awhile before you stand with the same posture again, too.
8. You might feel a bit…bound up.
By this point, you know that pregnancy has some sort of impact on every part of your body, whether it’s good or bad. Your digestive system is no different, as pregnancy can often slow your digestion down. Instead of just suffering with it, try to do something to treat it beforehand by using a laxative or upping your fiber intake. It’ll help you avoid those dreaded hemorrhoids.
9. Did we mention getting leaky?
Pregnancy can place a lot of pressure on a lot of different parts of your body, and your bladder is one of them. We all know that pregnant women can have trouble staying away from the bathroom because of it, but did you also know that this could be caused by your baby’s head pushing on your bladder. Unfortunately, it can often take awhile for them to return to their normal strength, so don’t hesitate to pay your doctor a visit to get some help
10. ‘Rhoid Rage
No, they’re not just for old people. Just like pregnancy can put some extra stress on your bladder, it can also add that same stress to your rectal area. Combine that pressure with the occasional constipation pregnancy can cause and you’ve got a perfect storm for swollen rectal veins—in other words, hemorrhoids. You may not notice right away if you have an internal hemorrhoid, but you’ll definitely be able to tell if there’s one closer to the surface—you might be swollen, feel itchy, or even see blood when you go to the bathroom. Get thee to a physician.
11. The Downsides of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding doesn’t always work for every woman and, even when it does, it isn’t always that pleasant of an experience. Getting your baby to latch on and feed properly can feel really odd and can even hurt sometimes, and women often feel pain when they go too long between feedings or pumping their breast milk. It can be especially painful for women who don’t breastfeed because they really have no way to alleviate the pressure. Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin which then causes the uterus to shrink, which can make women feel like they’re having bad period cramps.
12. It’s a hairy issue.
You know how they say pregnancy will make your hair thicker and longer than it’s ever been before? Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but you shouldn’t get too used to it. The hormones that were making your extra thick and luxurious hair possible will start to fade away after you give birth, and it could make a lot of it fall out in the process. Don’t worry, though. Everything will eventually even itself out and your hair production will start to go back to normal. The hair growth you experience from that surge in pregnancy hormones isn’t just limited to your head, as unfortunate as that is. While pregnant, you may begin to notice that new or extra hair starts to develop on your chest, stomach, back, upper lip, and even on your chin. Thankfully, your newfound body hair should also go back to being less noticeable after birth.
13. Get the maxipads ready.
You probably thought your days of using pads ended when you were 13 years old, but guess again. Aside from the possibility of a leaky bladder, there are lots of other things coming out of your body after having a baby, including blood. In fact, many women underestimate how much blood they may pass after giving birth, and it can persist for as long as six weeks. Women who’ve had a c-section will likely have a lot less to deal with, but anyone going through a vaginal delivery should go ahead and stock up beforehand.
14. Learning to love the changes.
Consider the case of Kenna Cook, a sex educator, columnist, and mother of two. “After I had my two sons (now ages 4 and 7), there was a huge focus on getting my ‘old body back. The idea [was] that my pre-baby body was somehow the ‘better’ body,” Cook tells HealthyWay. However, Cook came to accept her “new” body over time. There are benefits to embracing the post-baby changes, she says. “My new body had stretch marks and more cellulite but I also felt more connected to my body because I watched it grow and change in ways that I didn’t have total control over,” Cook explains. You may already be thinking of ways to shrink down your belly after birth, but don’t be so quick to think you won’t like it. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles actually separate to each side of your body and, for some women, they’re actually able to achieve more definition in that area than they were before. “When I choose to love my post-baby body for myself, instead of how others see and value my body, it makes me feel more connected to accepting where I am in my body journey,” says Cook.