Despite the ever-changing modern times where people are breaking barriers on things once considered taboo, we as a society still struggle with openly discussing some vital topics, particularly when it comes to women’s reproductive health, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
Unfortunately, this lack of openness can cause various issues for women. From the lack of necessary education in specific areas to creating a sense of isolation, loneliness, and fear during the time when a community and support system is especially vital.
When it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood this can be especially concerning as our bodies are going through the most drastic changes of our lifetime — and yet the majority of women feel they are alone in these changes.
Why does this happen?
The problem stems from our portrayal of pregnancy and motherhood as something that is only a beautiful blessing, without discussing the reality of all the drastic changes that will happen to both your body and mind. Once you give birth your child becomes your life, so much so that it’s easy to forget any difficulties or struggles you might have had. Which might also be one of the reasons most women end up glorifying pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, not really mentioning any of the worries they might have had previously.
There’s definitely such a thing as pregnancy glow and a good reason for it. Your skin will look rosy and shiny due to increased blood circulation. Along with that, your skin might be a bit more oily than usual, adding to the glowing appearance. Other than the so-called ‘healthy glow’ there are some additional changes that could happen to the appearance of your skin — all completely normal! Due to an increase in melanin, which gives skin its color, some women might experience brownish patches of darkened skin, particularly on their face, around the eyes, over the nose and cheeks. In case you are prone to acne, you might find they’re more frequent during pregnancy. For many women, the (unnecessary) cause of worry tends to be getting stretchmarks — even though it’s something completely natural, and happens to most of us during pregnancy and childbirth. Some women also report having increased sun sensitivity during pregnancy, that can also remain after birth.
HAIR & NAILS
During pregnancy, you might notice your hair is becoming more thick and lush as estrogen increases your hair growth. However, this hair growth isn’t only limited to your head, so you might notice increased hair growth all over your body as well. Just like your hair, your nails might grow faster but could become a bit more brittle, soft, and prone to splitting more easily.
You’ve probably heard, either from a friend or from various movies and TV shows, that feet and toes tend to swell up during pregnancy as your body produces more fluids than usual. The swelling tends to go away once the pregnancy is over, so don’t despair if your feet seem a size bigger. Also, don’t get scared if you notice your veins becoming more distinctly visible through your skin, it’s completely natural as well.
Naturally, as the new source of food for your future newborn, your breasts will progressively grow in size from the very start of your pregnancy. Due to that, they’ll also feel more tender and your nipples might be more sensitive to touch than they usually are. Your areolas, the skin surrounding the nipples might also enlarge and become darker in color. During the third trimester, it’s also possible for your breasts to start leaking colostrum, a milky fluid.
Women tend to focus on their weight gain during pregnancy more than any of the other things. Weight gain is natural. It happens to everyone. Even if you gain more than the recommended weight gain number it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, nor should you feel bad about it. You’re not alone in this, women around the world struggle with the same thoughts and worries. It’s okay. You’re doing great!
Everyone is different and unique, especially when going through something as magnificent as creating life inside of your body. That means that not everyone will gain the same amount of weight or have the same exact changes happen to their body. No matter how your body changes though remember one thing — it’s perfect! You’re creating life, you’re giving life to your special little human. So don’t look down on the body that’s creating this miracle just because you have expectations set on you by society. Your body is a masterpiece, whether you gain 10 pounds or 40 pounds. Whether your feet swell double the size and your hair grows into a lion’s mane. You’re still equally perfect. Always remember that.
It might come as a shock to see your hair falling out once you give birth but it’s completely normal! The same way that your hair growth rate increased during pregnancy, due to the change in hormone levels, your hair might fall out in surprisingly large amounts. On the other hand, even after their pregnancy ended, some women do note their hair changed textures, such as become more curly, straight, or thick, so if the same applies to you and you notice your hair is different, it’s completely normal as well. Whatever changes you notice happening to your hair, they’re natural and there’s no need to worry!
Once you give birth, it’s quite possible your skin will end up shedding more than usual as you shed your pregnancy weight. If you had a sensitivity to the sun or darker spots on your body during pregnancy, it’s also possible (and normal!) if these changes stick even after pregnancy. If you’re worried about your skin, you can always reach out to your dermatologist for advice and guidance.
Unfortunately, you might have to go shopping for new bras because the ones you got during pregnancy are going to be a bit too small now. Once you give birth the level of estrogen and progesterone drops while prolactin, which is the hormone that helps you make breast milk, starts kicking in. This causes your breasts to further swell up in size as they start producing milk. The peak is 2-3 days after birth when your breasts will likely be very hard and sore — once your baby starts breastfeeding the swelling will go down a bit once.
WAIST & HIPS
Surprisingly enough, you might notice (even if you’re back to your pre-pregnancy weight) that some shirts simply don’t fit you the same way. This is because your rib cage might have expanded in size during pregnancy and childbirth. Again, it’s nothing to be alarmed about and is completely normal. It’s possible for your hips to become a bit wider as well. Some women also struggle with their self-esteem as after pregnancy it can be hard to get rid of the ‘baby belly’, no matter how much they exercise or diet. In case you’re one of them, it’s time to stop being hard on yourself. This isn’t something you can just easily fix with exercise. During pregnancy, it’s possible the distance between your left and right muscles ab muscles will grow — it’s called diastasis recti and it happens to quite a few women. To avoid this happening, you should be careful not to strain during pregnancy and be careful during exercises. There are many recommendations on how to possibly prevent diastasis recti, so if you’re curious, make sure you search for some recommendations online!
LEGS & FEET
Naturally, the swelling on your feet will go down post-pregnancy, but it’s possible for them to still stay slightly bigger in size than they were before you were pregnant. As mentioned, during pregnancy you could also develop stretch marks, spider veins, and varicose veins. These will become less prominent or noticeable over time, but it’s possible they might never completely go away. In those early post-pregnancy days, your leg pain can be lessened by using leggings or compression socks.
First, once you give birth, you can expect to have Lochia, which resembles a very heavy period. You’ll need to use ‘maternity pads’ which are thicker than usual. Using tampons could cause an infection so even if you’re usually not a fan of pads, you should use them during this period. The bleeding would be bright red at the start, slowly fading in color to a brownish red, and could last from 2 weeks to 6 weeks.
We all know your hormones go wild during pregnancy, women being ‘hormonal’ during pregnancy is one of the stereotypical tropes for any TV or show. But it’s the same post-pregnancy! After giving birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which explains the sudden and sometimes overwhelming feeling of sadness, anxiety, irritability or general mood swings. Normally these feelings will resolve after a week or so, however, if you feel as if they are lasting longer consult a medical professional as it could be signs of postpartum depression. Feeling this way isn’t a sign of your failure as a mother, or any other depressing thoughts that might be crossing your mind. It’s just your hormones being out of sync with your heart. It’s not your fault. You did something amazing, you gave life to a human being, so don’t be hard on yourself and your emotions if they’re not what you think they should be.
Naturally, the process of being pregnant and becoming a mother has its own rocky paths, but when you know that at the end you’ll be able to look at your very, very special little human and fully understand the meaning of love — it all becomes worth it. We think it’s important to talk about all aspects of becoming a mother, even the things that might not have been pleasant because we’re in this together. It’s easy to feel alone, going through such big changes in both your body and mind. Feeling as if you’re the isolated case going through these changes — because everyone only talks about the good things, so the problem must be you for having any negative thoughts or worries. We tend to let our thoughts wander more in that direction rather than giving ourselves the space to accept our feelings and thoughts as natural. Knowing that a lot of women around the world have gone through, are going through or will go through the same experience and the same struggles.
And here’s another important thing to remember: Don’t be scared or embarrassed to ask for help or accept the help you’re offered.
Accepting help doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ mom nor will it make anyone else think less of you. In fact, it might make you an even better mom, because you will take care of both your child and yourself. You won’t push past your limits and get pinned down by exhaustion and despair after taking everything on by yourself. You’ll have some time to breathe and enjoy those beautiful first moments of motherhood that always seem to flash by. Being offered help is just another blessing you should always welcome with open arms.