Your Body After Having a Baby

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If you are getting ready to welcome your first baby or have recently given birth, you may be wondering what to expect for yourself. Sure, a lot of people talk about what to expect during pregnancy and how pregnancy changes your body, and even what to expect about your baby, but they have been a little fuzzy on the details of what you, the mom in the situation, are going to encounter.

Chances are you've already experienced some significant changes in your body and during the postpartum period, but there can be even more changes that you might not necessarily realize—and they're all normal.

Your Breasts

During pregnancy, your breasts probably significantly increased in size and your areolas (the area around your nipples) probably become larger and darker in color. After birth, if you are nursing, your breasts will continue to be larger in size as your mammary glands kick into production. You will notice that your breasts change in size based on how much milk is inside of them, but your areoles will also reduce a bit without those pregnancy hormones churning in your body.

After nursing, your breasts may also significantly change in shape and appearance—you may notice stretch marks, thinned skin, and some sagging, but this is generally due to the extreme size change that your breasts undergo throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding and are not a direct result of breastfeeding itself.

Your Bones

It might sound kind of crazy, but your bones can literally widen during pregnancy to accommodate the growing weight of your baby and your altered size. (Hey, you wouldn't want to fall over all of the time, right?) Two of the most common places that women notice this change is in their hips and feet. Even if you weigh the same after having a baby, you may not wear the same clothing size or shoe size, as your hips and feet can widen permanently after pregnancy and birth. I wear a full shoe size larger now after four children! It happens.

Your Temperature

The first time I had a baby, I woke up drenched in the middle of the night a few days after giving birth and I thought that something was horribly wrong with me. No one had warned me about postpartum night sweats and I had no idea that what I was experiencing was very, very normal.

After you have a baby, a few things happen that can cause you to have pretty severe night sweats

  • Your body is actively trying to flush out all of the extra fluid that you accumulated during pregnancy and birth
  • Your hormones are all over the place and trying to regulate themselves again
  • Your temperature regulation in your body is adjusting to the fact that it is no longer heating another human being, so think of it as a furnace with some extra fuel for a while—it just needs to burn down the fire for a while.

Rest assured that the postpartum night sweats do not last forever, but they can be scary if you're not expecting them. Try to sleep in cool, thin layers and consider adding a fan to your bedroom to keep your temperature down, too. As an added bonus, fans have been linked to reducing the rate of SIDS, so if you're following the American Academy of Pediatric's recommendations for room-sharing, you and your baby will both benefit. 

Your Hair

Most women have heard that you can expect to lose hair after pregnancy, but this can be misleading. You are not actually losing hair, but you are losing the extra hair that you may have put on during pregnancy. During pregnancy, you develop extra hair follicles, so it gives the appearance that your hair is thicker and more lustrous. (Hello, pregnancy glow!) After pregnancy, those hair follicles gradually disappear, so any excess hair that you grew will fall out. So yes, you will lose hair after pregnancy, but it's nothing to be concerned about because it was just extra to start out with anyways. 

By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in long-term, critical care, and obstetrical and pediatric nursing.