“Bleeding, stretch marks, someone else’s breasts for sure, baby fat that just won’t go away… Will I ever get my normal body back?”
Let’s take an honest look at what to expect about your body after giving birth.
Having a new baby is great, right? Having a post-pregnancy body… not so much!
For example, if it hadn’t hurt so much, you’d wonder if you really did give birth since you still look pregnant!
And how do you feel about those wet circles on your t-shirt since you forgot to put nursing pads in your bra? Not to mention the bleeding that goes on and on…
Well, it all passes!
The most common advice I read for new moms worried about the appearance of their post-pregnancy body is to be proud since it delivered a baby.
To me, that’s about as helpful as telling an exhausted new mom to sleep when her baby sleeps. Not very useful at all! (If you need effective sleep tips for new moms, read this article.)
The first time you give birth, you might be a bit shocked over how much your body has changed and how it looks directly after childbirth. It is hard to know what to expect and what is normal.
I think knowing is always better.
Remember, with a bit of effort and with the help of time, your body will return to a more normal state to a large extent, probably within a year.
Don’t despair! Instead, read all about your post-baby body below.
The Post-Pregnancy Body Changes Revealed
In this article…
- Belly Still Looks Pregnant
- Stretch Marks Hard To Get Rid Of
- Linea Nigra Disappears
- Your Breasts Will Change
- Your Private Parts Will Recover
- Postpartum Bleeding Continues
- Skin Goes Dry
- Varicose Veins Improve
- Swollen Feet and Extremities
- Larger Foot Size and Flat Feet
- Wider hips
- Period Changes
- Weight Loss May Come
- Stronger Arms
- Love Life May Suffer
Belly Still Looks Pregnant
I had heard so many mothers say that their bellies looked awful right after giving birth. But I still didn’t realize that it would look this bad!
Our oldest son kept asking if he could squeeze my very soft belly.
Trust me, for a few weeks or so; you will continue to look pregnant, and more likely than not, you will also experience loose skin on your belly.
Your uterus contracts slowly during six weeks, and your stomach muscles are so stretched they aren’t really there. Your belly will improve a bit faster if you breastfeed since this helps the uterus contract more quickly. However, even if you don’t breastfeed, your uterus will reach its pre-pregnancy size after six weeks or so.
Your belly will not get back to normal without some exercise. The muscles are simply too stretched. But wait until you have stopped bleeding; your body has to heal before you start exercising.
Commonly, during pregnancy, the two muscles that run down the middle of your stomach separate. As your uterus grows, it pushes the muscles apart, making them longer and weaker. Although some separation is always normal, it is considered that the woman has diastasis recti when the gap is significant. However, this condition is still very common.
Your stomach muscles will probably return to normal by the time your baby is eight weeks old. In case this doesn’t happen, it is best to contact your doctor.
Your doctor should always check you, but you can also check the size of the separation yourself. To do this:
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and put your feet flat on the floor.
Curl your head off the floor, raise your shoulders slightly, and look down at your tummy. Your abdominal muscles should be engaged.
Use the tip of your fingers to feel between the edges of your muscles, above and below your belly button. Try to determine the width of the gap by seeing how many fingers you can fit in the gap between the muscles—1-2 finger-width is normal; more than that may be a sign of diastasis recti. You would also want to assess the depth of the split.
It is really important to consult your doctor before you start working out after giving birth. You should have a check-up (usually after around six weeks) to confirm everything is okay and that it is safe to exercise.
Exercise may help you feel better and have more energy. It is good for your physical but also mental well-being.
Moderate cardio will help you burn extra calories and lose weight. It is advisable to start gently with exercise after birth, especially if you didn’t regularly exercise before pregnancy. Some activities you may consider in the beginning include walking, yoga, low-impact aerobic workouts, swimming, light weight training, cycling, etc. It is best if you don’t start with high-impact exercises. Instead, start with lower impact and then gradually increase it when you are ready while keeping in mind your body’s need to heal properly.
You should also consider stomach exercises to help strengthen your core and tone your muscles. Some stomach exercises you could do, which are also safe for diastasis recti, are bridges with belly scooping, lying heel taps, toe taps, leg extensions, pelvic tilts, heel slides, etc.
If you have diastasis recti, it is advisable to avoid doing planks, traditional sit-ups, crunches, or push-ups until you have regained some of the core strength. Workouts that are too hard may make the separation worse.
This video safe core exercises if you have diastasis, but honestly, they are good for any new mom!
It is also important to do pelvic floor exercises, which, in conjunction with stomach exercises, can help reduce the separation between the stomach muscles.
You’ll find instructions for safe postnatal exercises here.
Allow yourself enough time to heal and start slowly. As mentioned above, always consult your doctor before you begin any workout routine.
Stretch Marks Are Hard To Get Rid Of
Did you get stretch marks (striae) during your pregnancy? Most women do. They can appear on your belly, your breasts or thighs, and your buttocks. If your mother got them, chances are you will too.
The good news is they fade over time. The bad news is they don’t go away completely. Stretch marks creams are available for you to try, or if you are desperate, you can get rid of them with plastic surgery.
But wait at least a year or so before considering any drastic solutions (surgery) to see how much of the stretch marks disappear naturally. This delay may save you some money.
If you don’t feel like just sitting around waiting for improvement, you can give time a little bit of help. Don’t expect miracles, but there are a few proven options to reduce stretch marks somewhat:
- Needling. Sounds terrible, don’t you think?! I tried it on my face for melasma, and it worked well. It is proven to work for any type of scar too, including stretch marks. Your best bet is to visit a saloon for it, but there are home treatment options, too: Here is an example of a microneedle roller to try. Make sure to read up carefully on how to use them!
- Creams and oils to reduce stretch marks. These are usually not as effective, but here are two with good reviews: M3 Naturals Stretch Mark Cream – Collagen & Stem Cell Maternity Skincare Oil and Embrace® Minimize™ Scar Treatment. (Links to Amazon).
Linea Nigra Disappears
What about the linea nigra – the brown line some pregnant women get on their bellies during pregnancy?
Well, here is the good news – the line will disappear completely!
The bad news? Nope, no bad news here!
Did you know the old wives’ tale – that a short linea nigra, only to the navel, means a girl, and a long one means a boy. Have you checked yours? Mine stopped at the navel whether or not I was carrying a girl or a boy.
Anyway, the linea nigra will disappear from your post-pregnancy body within a few months. If you breastfeed, it may take just a little bit longer.
Your Breasts Will Change
One of the biggest changes you might notice with your post-pregnancy body is your breasts.
Your breasts change during pregnancy and from breastfeeding. Most expecting mothers get bigger breasts while pregnant and even larger ones while breastfeeding because of increased blood flow and milk.
Your breasts will probably not stay bigger but will become longer – and flatter. They might get some of their original pre-pregnancy shapes back after a while, but most likely not entirely. It is also possible that the breasts become smaller after the lactation stops. Your breasts will lose elasticity and won’t be as full as they once were.
Usually, the breasts return to their original size once the body returns to its pre-pregnancy weight. But, as mentioned above, their shape may permanently change.
For many women, breast change is the hardest aspect of a post-pregnancy body to deal with because the change is so significant. You’ll find a long discussion on post-pregnancy breasts here.
What should you do about it?
Wear a good bra and do push-ups to strengthen the muscles. And – hmm – get used to it! At least it should motivate you to buy gorgeous, expensive bras, right?
Or, of course, plastic surgery is an option if the shape makes you very miserable. But don’t do anything until after you have stopped breastfeeding and you are sure you will not want to have any more children. At least not for long.
If you breastfeed, your breasts may also be sore for a while and may leak when your breasts are engorged or between feedings.
Not nice, but at least it should stop hurting within a few weeks. If it continues to hurt or your nipples start bleeding, consult a lactation expert quickly. Your baby might be sucking improperly.
“Has anyone told you that you will resemble a baboon “down there” after giving birth?”
Your Private Parts Will Recover
Before giving birth the first time, a very dear and very honest friend asked me:
“Has anyone told you that you will resemble a baboon “down there” after giving birth?”
No one had informed me of this not-so-nice fact about my post-pregnancy body.
To be honest, I didn’t check. But it sure felt like she was right!
No matter how many stitches, if any, you got from giving birth; you will be sore!
But the soreness should disappear within a week or two if you don’t get any infections. Actually, if you had wounds that were too small to be stitched, you can be sore for a longer period while they heal.
And then there’s the other issue.
A baby’s head came out that way, meaning the muscles and tissue were stretched as much as possible. To get the muscle tone back, these muscles need to be exercised just like any muscle. They need to be exercised not only for your own (and your spouse’s) pleasure but also to prevent urine leakage. Actually, urine leakage is a very common problem for women after pregnancy, but few talk about it.
It should go away gradually as your body heals, but if you continue to have such problems, don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor. A quite simple surgery can help you get rid of this condition.
Squeeze as often as you can!
I heard somewhere that three orgasms per day would do the job for you. It must have been an impatient man who came up with that idea! Even if it would work (please tell me if you try it), who would feel like it and have the energy to try it just after giving birth???
Postpartum Bleeding Continues
If you haven’t noticed it already, I can tell you that you will continue to bleed after giving birth for at least one month, probably more. The bleeding may stop faster the second time you give birth but don’t count on it. Eight weeks of bleeding is normal. But of course, quite soon, the bleeding should not be red anymore, but rather brownish and not very abundant.
It doesn’t matter if you gave birth or had a cesarean; you will bleed anyway. The blood comes from the wound where your placenta was attached to the uterus.
If you’re at all worried, talk to a healthcare provider.
Skin Goes Dry
Many women have very healthy complexion during pregnancy. Bad news – your skin will go back to normal after giving birth. Also, if you breastfeed, your skin and hair might become very dry for a while.
Good news – if you suffered from skin pigmentation changes during pregnancy (sometimes called ““the mask of pregnancy” or chloasma or melasma), these changes will often fade away after giving birth.
And if they don’t disappear to your satisfaction or fast enough, creams or serums can help. One cream that consistently get great reviews is Meladerm by Civant Skincare. This product can actually give nice results even in just a few weeks, which is good, especially since the company has a 30-day repayment guarantee.
If you have sensitive skin, talk to a dermatologist before using any skin-lightening products. Also, remember that you should not use such products while breastfeeding.
Another option is to use a serum. This organic Vitamin C serum is great and improves skin pigmentation, wrinkles, and dark circles. It can even be used under the eyes, which I think is perfect!
Varicose Veins improve
Up to 40% of women develop varicose veins during their pregnancy. Varicose veins appear because your body produces more blood during pregnancy, which leads to your veins working harder to circulate the blood – especially in the lower extremities. In addition, hormone changes lead to the relaxing and weakening of the vein walls. Plus, there is added pressure on the femoral veins in your thigh, and your growing uterus puts pressure on the pelvic blood vessels. The combination of these factors leads to the development of varicose veins.
Luckily, varicose veins disappear in most cases after a few months to a year. In some cases, though, they may not go away. If this happens, there are some treatment options you can consider, but only after you consult your healthcare provider.
Many women develop hemorrhoids after giving birth, especially after vaginal delivery. Symptoms of hemorrhoids include pain, swollen area around the anus, rectal itching, and bleeding after having a bowel movement.
Hemorrhoids usually go away on their own after a few days or a few weeks. However, there are some things you can try to reduce discomfort and also speed the recovery: drink plenty of water, eat a high-fiber diet, avoid straining, try a sitz bath or a bath to soak yourself in warm water, sit on a pillow to relieve pressure, use a stool softener, apply witch hazel, apply a cold pack and avoid sitting for too long.
You should talk to your doctor if your hemorrhoids don’t go away after several weeks or are extremely painful.
Swollen Feet and Extremities
Swollen feet and extremities after giving birth usually result from your body trying to get rid of some excess fluid accumulated during pregnancy. This condition usually resolves within two weeks as the extra fluid dissipates through sweat and urination. In the meantime, you can try to bring the swelling down by keeping your feet elevated when possible, drinking enough water, reducing caffeine intake, eating potassium-rich foods and avoiding salty food, moving around, wearing compression stockings, and wearing comfortable clothes and shoes.
If you notice sudden swelling, experience pain in your legs along with swelling, experience pain while walking, notice that one leg is more swollen than the other, or notice a red hot area on one leg, you should contact your doctor.
Larger foot size and flat feet
Many women experience an increase in foot size during pregnancy. This is the result of the relaxing and loosening of the ligaments in the feet, which occurs because of hormonal changes. Additionally, weight gain may lead to stretching of the joints and widening of the feet. The extra weight flattens out the arch of the foot, which may lead to pregnant women developing flat feet.
One study found that the women’s arch height and arch rigidity declined considerably from the first trimester to five months after giving birth, resulting in their feet size increasing by between 2mm to 10mm. Interestingly, these changes are often more pronounced during the first pregnancy.
Unfortunately, any spreading caused by loosening ligaments is permanent. Therefore, if your feet grow during pregnancy, they won’t return to their previous size.
During pregnancy, your hips may widen. This is normal and happens due to the hormone relaxin loosening the pelvic joints and ligaments to prepare for the delivery and make it easier for the baby to pass through the birth canal.
The pelvis usually returns to pre-pregnancy within 12 weeks, although sometimes it may take a few weeks longer.
It is not unusual to experience changes in the period after pregnancy. For some women, their periods will go back to how they were before the pregnancy, and they will experience the same period symptoms as pre-pregnancy.
In other cases, changes may go either direction—periods may improve or worsen. While some women may see a positive change and experience less severe cramps, others may experience longer, heavier, or more painful periods after pregnancy.
It may also take some time for your periods to become regular again, which is even more likely if you breastfeed.
Weight Loss May Come
Your post-pregnancy body is likely to be bigger than before.
The body stores fat during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding.
If you do breastfeed, you might lose some of that weight quite easily. Some women even become very skinny during breastfeeding. As your baby grows, you actually need some 500 – 800 extra calories per day to produce the milk.
The problem is that you will be so incredibly hungry! If you had difficulties eating during the last part of your pregnancy, these problems will be gone now! You will be starving!
So if you want to lose some weight, you have to think through what you eat. It is very easy to stuff your poor post-pregnancy body with lots of unhealthy snacks when you have so little time and are so hungry!
Of course, if you don’t breastfeed, you’ll have to work a bit harder. But on the other hand, you won’t be so hungry! To learn more about losing weight while breastfeeding, read this article.
Some of the weight will come off naturally. For the rest, you may need to try a bit more by ensuring you eat healthy and exercise. However, make sure you are gentle towards your body, take your time, and don’t overdo it. Give your body enough time to heal.
The one part of your post-pregnancy body that really should improve naturally is your arms. Or at least your left arm if you are right-handed…
You will carry your baby a lot and will get stronger and stronger with beautiful biceps developing.
Love Life May Suffer
Was sex the first thing you thought of after giving birth? Or after studying your new body in the mirror? No? Why am I not surprised…
Most doctors advise waiting at least four to six weeks after giving birth to have sex. However, this is just a recommended minimum. That doesn’t mean you need to start having sex that soon if you don’t feel ready. It is important to let your body heal; in some cases, recovery will take longer than six weeks.
For many, it even seems a bit scary to have sex the first time after giving birth, considering how sore you are, that you might have a lot of stitches, that you are bleeding, and so on. Not to mention being exhausted and having a new baby in your arms around the clock.
But, if you want to try it, remember to use a condom if you are still bleeding to prevent infections (and new babies…). Breastfeeding can be effective as birth control, but you must breastfeed exclusively and on demand. And it is not 100% safe.
Also, use lubricants! Lots of it. Your mucous membranes are fragile, maybe a bit torn, and often very dry due to hormones.
Without lubricants, I can almost guarantee you that your first try will be a really bad experience. So unnecessary!
For more information about sex and breastfeeding, click here.
And if you are curious about when other moms started to have sex after childbirth, check out this poll.
Well, this was the truth about your post-pregnancy body. Some things change, and some stay the same. Almost everything can be fixed with some effort and with the help of time.
If you want to share something regarding your post-pregnancy body, write a comment below.
Read Next About The Body After Baby
- What happened to my post-pregnancy breasts?
- Poll: When did you start being intimate after childbirth?
- Poll: How does breastfeeding affect your libido?
- Safe and sensible post-pregnancy exercising.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing are based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians who assist in reviewing and writing articles.