All humans grow, but a woman’s body transforms the most during her lifetime. From puberty to pregnancy to motherhood to menopause, our bodies change significantly. Most changes happen gradually over a number of years; however, pregnancy into motherhood is a rapid change for our bodies, and probably the most dramatic. Pregnancy is a temporary function – the increased blood flow, fluxing hormones, and weight gain are not necessarily permanent. However, our bodies also will never 100% return to our pre-pregnancy state – mostly because our bodies adjust to their new job… motherhood.
If I was to try and put a disclaimer on the changes I am about to list it would be “results vary,” because humans are all different; however most women experience one or more of these lasting effects after giving birth.
While it may seem that pregnancy is the major cause of our weight gain, studies have found that women on average gain 8 to 10 pounds in any given 10 year period, whether pregnant or never having been pregnant. As women struggle to get their bodies back to pre-pregnancy birth weight, they may find that even when they do hit that magical number on the scale. their bodies never quite fit the same mold. There are a variety of factors to this. Since motherhood demands use of more fat stores, hips and abdomen may become larger as fat shifts to those areas. Muscles that have been stretched past the point of being able to bounce back may not ever hold everything in as tightly as before. This can lead to a misconception of weight gain.
Not everyone gets stretch marks, but there is a high margin of probability that you will. Nine out of 10 women get stretch marks during pregnancy; 7 out of 10 females and 4 out of 10 males get them during puberty. This skin condition does not need pregnancy to occur, however the rate at which the skin stretches during pregnancy can add to the chance of them occurring. And it’s not just the belly that gets stretched. Breasts expand to prepare for lactation, and most never return to their previous perkiness. When a mother is finished producing milk, the glands shrink and breasts are left slightly softer, limp and, in most cases, smaller. Even the muscles that control urination can be affected and traumatized by labor. The majority of women regain most of their bladder control after about a year; however there are a small number of women for whom incontinence becomes an ongoing problem.
Spider and varicose veins can be a pregnancy side effect for legs and groin area. In most cases varicose veins tend to shrink back to size once pressure from the added weight and water is relieved; however, the more pregnancies a person goes through the more chance that they will remain. Spider veins tend to never fully go away without the intervention of a dermatologist, though some topical treatments like Robelyn Labs’ VariClear may have the effect of lessening appearance.
Some women find their feet have gained in size. This isn’t because they have actually grown; the hormones produced by pregnancy relax ligaments, which can cause our feet to spread with the additional weight they bear during the pregnancy.
Our bones will suffer loss. Even if you are an A-plus student and take all your additional supplements, there is a 50/50 chance that your bones will be robbed of calcium. Not a crippling amount, but a slight permanent loss.
All these changes may sound a little overwhelming, but all of this is a unique part of being a woman. We are unique creatures and with each stage of our growth – and the changes that go along with it – our bodies prepare us for the next stage. We may never be able to go back fully, but our new normal prepares us to move ahead.