About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

 

What You Need to Know About Postpartum Body Changes

Lately it seems every magazine is filled with pictures of celebrities and models who have recently given birth and are already rockin’ their tight jeans and looking better than most of us before we got pregnant. These images emphasize unrealistic expectations not only for how quickly a woman should get back to “the way her body was,” but they also overlook some of the very real bodily changes that result from giving birth.

During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles lengthen; your spine moves into an exaggerated S curve; your pelvic floor muscles get stretched and sometimes tear; and if you have a c-section it can create internal scar tissue. More and more women in the United States are having babies at a later age, which adds to the wear and tear on their bodies. Also, an increase in fertility treatments means more women are having multiple births, which puts additional strain on a woman’s muscles, ligaments and bones.

Potential problems from these physical changes can have negative health implications later on, including pelvic pain, back problems, and incontinence. For example, something called diastasis recti, which is the separation of a woman’s “six-pack” muscles, occurs during most pregnancies and often does not resolve on its own. A woman may dismiss the fact that her body isn’t the way it was before pregnancy, or that it isn’t working as well as it used to, but the musculoskeletal issues that can be a result may mean to problems later.

As a result of this new understanding of how the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can affect her long-term health, healthcare professionals are adopting a new way of assessing a woman’s progress after giving birth. It isn’t just about whether you’ve lost that extra twenty pounds, it’s all about working with your body to strengthen your core, strengthen your pelvic floor, and help resolve any diastasis recti that occurred during your pregnancy.

What You Need to Know About Postpartum Body Changes

Exercising too hard right after pregnancy can exacerbate pelvic floor problems. Running or pounding forms of exercise can be problematic when it comes to resolving separated six-pack muscles in your abdomen. Ask your AOA healthcare provider to check your pelvic floor strength at your 6 week postpartum checkup. Kegel exercises are important, but check with your doctor to make sure that you are doing them correctly.

Since this perspective on the long-term impact of pregnancy on a woman’s body is a relatively recent development, it’s important to be mindful of your own condition. You may be tired and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a new baby, but listen to your body. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, back pain, or other nagging conditions, be sure to talk with your AOA physician about these issues at your postpartum visits. Learn more about how you can help your body fully heal and gain strength. Forget about the size 2 jeans and focus on your long-term health.

Learn more about how to help your body heal after giving birth: