It’s been 11 weeks since Stella came into our world, and I feel like my body has settled into its new post-partum reality. It’s definitely a new body, one I am having to adjust to and learn about. From my head to my toes, some of the changes have been a surprise to me…and there are so many to talk about that I’ve split this post into two parts!
Let’s start with the obvious. You kind of think pregnancy is all about your belly. It grows and grows and grows, and blip out comes the baby (honestly, just like that…blip! Haha!), and you wonder what you are going to be left with.
Reality check: You still look 5 months pregnant for about 2 weeks after giving birth. Don’t burn your clothes with stretchy waistbands just yet!
I wore a belly wrap (I got mine from Breastmates) in a size M for the first few weeks, and I really do think it helped shrink my uterus and tighten things up a bit. I moved down to a size S and wore that for another 10 days. The belly band also helped provide support to my lower back – you have to remember that you no longer have a fully functioning core and abdominal muscles. In my case, I have minor diastasis recti (where your abdominal muscles separate) and needed to be careful when bending and lifting until those muscles came back together.
My belly now resembles pizza dough. You can pick up a pouch (yep, it’s definitely a pouch) and jiggle it. It’s not like when I was overweight, the extra stuffing around my middle was harder and you could prod it. Now you press my belly and your hand keeps going, it’s soft and squishy. My overall weight gain is around 3kg and it really all is in my belly area, so I am confident that with time, a better diet and some increased exercise, I’ll be back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But will I ever have the same pre-pregnancy belly and body shape though? I highly doubt it, and I’m ok about that…I created a freakin human with this body, that’s pretty darn awesome!
I thought I was doing well not to have any stretchmarks until the last few weeks of pregnancy. Those stretchmarks have created lovely dark purple lines all over my lower belly. The good news is – I can’t see them, my belly is in the way! The bad news is – it’s going to take a while for them to fade, and I’m pretty sure I am stuck with them forever.
41w Pregnant Belly vs 4w Post Partum Belly
I injured my tailbone badly during birth. With six hours of pushing, I basically pushed my tailbone out of the way, an injury which is called coccydynia. It’s super painful, in fact, more painful than 3 days of induced labour and birth. The first couple of weeks it was excruciating, I had to try and sit on pillows and rolled up towels. Nearly 3 months on, it’s eased to be in the “sore but manageable” category. It hurts to sit, and for some reason, driving is the most painful position for me to be in. I tried seeing my osteopath about it and unfortunately, the treatment made it worse, and for about a week I had to take diclofinac (voltaren) for the pain. I really don’t like taking medications, especially as I am breastfeeding – so I now only take something if it’s really really bad. Most of the time I sit sideways, on the side of my thigh, if I can.
I did go and see my GP and try and get my injury covered by ACC so I could afford more treatment. ACC declined my claim, and even with extensive health insurance it’s not covered, so it means I just have to suck it up. It’s the type of injury that there isn’t much you can do about, it’s a time thing…
It’s a bit of a side rant of mine that while our pregnancy care is AMAZING in New Zealand – sadly I feel we are signed off way too early by our midwives, only 4 weeks after giving birth – and there is no ongoing care. Our babies are cared for SO well by the health system, but my poor broken and battered body has to stump up to pay to see the GP, and pay to see specialists. I definitely didn’t feel back to normal after only 4 weeks!
While we are talking about the backend, it took about 4 weeks for my extremely painful haemorrhoids to clear up. Did I mention 6 hours of pushing? I pretty much pushed my insides out. A few things helped: pads soaked in witchhazel (and put in the freezer if you can be bothered) and drinking huge amounts of kiwifruit juice to keep things regular and soft. I had ultraproct in my bathroom from pregnancy and so used that for 2 weeks to help as well. Epsom salt baths are great too.
Without going into toooo much detail, things are OKAY down there, despite the trauma of pushing out a baby (or in my case, having her pulled out!). I had an episiotomy which is a surgical cut through the perineum – which was stitched, and I also had stitches on another graze. The stitches weren’t painful at all, just swollen – and they dissolved, I think after a couple of weeks. You do have to be careful to try and avoid any infections, but the midwives regularly checked the stitches for me and luckily everything healed up fine. Filling a plastic drink bottle with water and tea tree oil, and then spraying a bit on yourself when you go to the bathroom actually feels like bliss. It cooled and soothed a lot! Also…dab, don’t wipe. I do have some scar tissue there that I can feel, especially when wearing certain clothing and underwear, or sitting in certain ways. But on the whole…not too bad really.
They tell you in antenatal class about the post-partum bleeding. It’s worse than you imagine (best advice I was given…when you get off the bed immediately after having your baby and walk to the bathroom – do NOT look down, keep your eyes straight ahead), so stock up on maternity pads and change them regularly. Most only bleed heavily for a couple of weeks and then spot for a few more. My bleeding didn’t finish until 8 weeks post-partum though – lucky me!
I had heard that your feet can increase in size due to pregnancy, and I was already mourning not being able to fit into my running shoe collection. Luckily it appears my feet have stayed the same size – damn, there goes that shopping trip (I am absolutely drooling over the new Adidas Ultra Boosts!).
What I DIDN’T know about what the post-partum swelling, which lasted nearly three weeks! Due to the amount of fluids I was given through an IV, I swelled up like a complete Michelin man. It was painful to walk, my toes were the size of sausages and I could press on the top of my foot and create a dent in the skin. My knees disappeared and my legs were like huge shanks. I kept asking “is this normal?!” as no one had warned me about it – but none of the midwives seemed concerned. I was told to wear compression stockings, massage my legs upwards (yeah, like I could even reach my legs!) and to drink plenty of fluid. The only way that fluid retention was coming out was to pee it out, or sweat it out.
I’ll cover my upper body changes in the next post, needless to say there haven’t been quite as many changes as my lower half!
What parts of your body changed after pregnancy? Is there any part of your body changing that you did or would struggle to deal with? I feel that I have accepted the changes better than I thought I was going to!