"Why do you still look like you're 5 months pregnant?" - My mum said this to me on the second day after I gave birth to my first daughter. Prior to this, I didn't read up too much on what happens to a woman's body post birth, so her statement made me question my own body. Am I not recovering as well as others?
Of course now thinking back, it was a silly and naive thought. With more and more mamas speaking out about postpartum struggles on social media, we know that postpartum is not going to be pretty. It's slow, painful, physically and mentally challenging. And here are 3 postpartum body changes that you can't ignore!
1. Pelvic pain
This is called Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP). It could develop during your pregnancy and persist after birth. It's often described as pain around your pelvic area, and can radiate to your thighs. The pain gets worse when you walk, going upstairs, standing on one leg, or when you try to move your legs apart.
What causes it? It varies in each individual, depending on hormones (such as progesterone, oestrogen and relaxin) and the weakness of core, back or hip muscles. It could be caused by misalignment of pelvic joints, poor posture and the weight and position of the baby.
At 37 weeks, I started experiencing pressure and pain on my left side pelvic (inner groin area) when I was walking or standing on 1 leg. I was told it got to do with the weight and position of the baby and the hormone relaxin as my body prepared for labour.
The pain disappeared after the birth but it came back again at 1 week postpartum. And it lasted for 6 weeks! My C-section wound was sore enough, and coupled with intense pelvic pain when walking or bending down, it made the recovery even more difficult.
What can you do about it? Experts say that it will usually resolve in most women within 4 months after giving birth. However, it’s really important to flag intense pain with a professional. Physiotherapy during pregnancy or post birth (after your postnatal check with the doctor) could help to relieve the pain by improving pelvic stability.
2. Ab separation
Also known as Diastasis recti. This is the cause of many post-pregnancy pooch a lot of women are left with. It's caused by the separation of the 2 long, parallel muscles of your stomach.
Your GP, midwife or physiotherapist can diagnose to see if you have abdominal separation.
What causes it? During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles and connective tissues are stretched out from your expanding uterus. Due to this and a combination of factors such as hormonal changes and abdominal weakness, ab separation is common among pregnant women.
Ab separation doesn't just affect physical appearance. It affects the whole body. After the birth of my first, I was diagnosed with ab separation of 2 fingers. It became wider after the birth of my second daughter. Ab separation affects my pelvic stability, lower back and posture alignment. I can feel my weak core muscles particularly when I need the strength to lift toddler, babies, strollers etc.
What can you do about it? See a physiotherapist qualified in postnatal care to create a tailored exercise program. You have to be careful with the types of exercise you do to avoid your ab separation getting worse.
3. Painful sex
What causes it? You may notice pain, caused by dryness, during sex after childbirth. This may be because breastfeeding suppresses oestrogen production, and oestrogen is responsible for producing lubrication. Use a lube and be gentle with yourself.
Pain during sex can happen to women who had vaginal birth and C-sections. It can also be caused by pelvic floor dysfunction, tight or stretched muscles from pregnancy and birth, or scar pain from a tear or episiotomy. If pain persists, don't put up with it and see a professional.
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