Regardless of whether this is your first baby or you’re adding to your family, the changes that come from having a baby can be surprising. Embracing your body after giving birth doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Remember that everybody is different, and your body has done a wonderful job of creating and birthing new life. Whether you love the way you look after giving birth or not, it’s important to understand that whilst some changes may be permanent, like a caesarean scar, others are temporary and some changes take time.
Stretch marks are normal but don’t affect every woman and it depends on how much elastane your skin contains. Some women love their stretch marks and others really don’t. There is little you can do to prevent them or reduce their appearance, but they will fade over time. Creams and oils have minimal effectiveness but may feel soothing.
A caesarean scar is usually just under where your pubic hair starts and can range from around 10 to 20 centimetres in length. Depending on your size, the scar may be hidden within a fold anyway. For most women, the scar fades to almost become invisible over time. As with stretch marks, there is little you can do to reduce the appearance of a scar except for the passage of time. Creams and oils have minimal effectiveness and should not be used while the skin is healing.
Now your baby is often found on top of your bump, instead of in it, you may wonder how long it will take for your bump to start reducing in size. When you aren’t pregnant, your womb is about the size of a pear and it takes about six to eight weeks to shrink back down to that size again. Women who are breastfeeding often find that their wombs shrink back down sooner than women who are not breastfeeding.
Even after this, you may find you have loose skin, weaker muscles and more softness to your belly than before. It takes nine months to grow your pregnancy bump, and it is important to allow time for things to go back. After six weeks you can work on strengthening your abdominal muscles if this is important to you. Sometimes it helps just to remember how amazing your body is for growing a whole new human being!
Many women find that their breasts change during pregnancy and they change again in the post-partum period, when milk production changes and milk ‘comes in’. They may change size several times over the next months. These changes mean you might need to make sure your bras are as comfortable as possible and that they don’t restrict your breast tissue. If you are wearing a bra that is not fitted well, you might find that you get an infection called mastitis, which causes a general feeling of illness and a temperature.
If you had a vaginal birth, then you might be worried about the health and/or appearance of your vagina and/or anus. Many women find that any tears or grazes are feeling better within a few days of birth, but if you are worried about infection or the way things are healing, please contact your midwife, health visitor or GP. You may also have concerns with how things look, feel or work once you have healed. There are often ways to improve things if birth has led to problems or concerns with this area. At the 6-8 week check with your GP, you will have the opportunity to discuss any of your concerns and contraception as well as sexual health issues. It can feel embarrassing, but midwives and GPs are used to these issues and would rather you talk about your concerns.