There are loads of things we share after we’ve given birth: the baby’s name, their gender, their weight, our delight. But there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happens to our bodies after growing and delivering a newborn into the world, and some of it ain’t pretty, and as a result, we don’t discuss it nearly as often as we should.
The truth is, we should talk about this stuff — loudly and frequently — because our bodies do change after we’ve given birth. A lot. Regardless of whether you deliver via the boot or the sunroof, we all experience the aftershocks.
Postpartum hair loss
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I developed the most glorious mane of lustrous hair. It was shiny and thick and barely shed — until the baby was out, that is. Suddenly, every time I washed my hair, I lost clumps of it. Handfuls.
So much hair came out that I often stepped out of the shower expecting to see a whopping great bald patch in the bathroom mirror. I’d forgotten all about it until a discussion just recently with my friend, Natalie, who had her first baby earlier this year. And it turns out, she has experienced the exact same thing.
What to do about it
As Natalie and I both discovered, there’s not much you can do but ride it out. Dr. Google quickly reassured me that it was a common hormonal condition, and that it would level itself out again eventually (which it did).
You tend to avoid brushing your hair because you don’t want to encourage hair loss, but brushing regularly can help to manage the “shedding” so that you don’t end up pulling out huge handfuls in the shower.
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“I would brush my hair, and there on the brush would be a cricket-ball-size clump of hair — it’s freaky the first time you see it. I thought, what is wrong with me? Am I sick? Has pregnancy given me some strange hair condition?” Natalie confides.
“I spoke to a doctor who assured me it was normal. It’s to do with hormones while you’re pregnant; you don’t shed as much hair, so it builds up — hence the shiny locks — but then it all sheds post-pregnancy. It happens a lot; us ladies just don’t seem to talk about it. It does settle down after a few months. And I think it’s important to remember that you are a different person post-pregnancy — you’re a mum. So your body, hair, skin and even personality will likely be different, too.”
After our chat, I began talking to other friends about the different ways that childbirth has irrevocably changed our bodies. Another friend, Kelly, can relate to the great hair fall-out; for an extra dose of fun, she also developed haemorrhoids during the third trimester of her pregnancy.
Haemorrhoids are engorged veins that can be internal or external (the latter look like grapes) and they can be slightly uncomfortable or downright painful. They develop due to increased blood volume and increased pressure on all of your organs, due to the weight of pregnancy.
What to do about it
The good news is, after pregnancy — once your blood flow returns to normal and the physical pressure is gone — haemorrhoids generally disappear. If any do remain, you can apply a topical treatment to help with pain relief.
“Thankfully, the pain went away after Sienna was born, but the haemorrhoids never vanished completely,” Kelly says. “It sounds gross, but they look like deflated grapes. I should be grateful that they don’t hurt, but they look awful.”
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If your haemorrhoids still hurt or you want to get rid of the excess skin after delivery, you can have haemorrhoid surgery. It sounds scary, but it can be a simple procedure — you may even be able to do it in your doctor’s office, without anaesthetic, although some types will need to be performed in a hospital.
Light bladder leakage
Light bladder leakage is incredibly common: According to Poise, almost one in three women over 35 will experience it. My friend, Emily Jade, is one of them. She confesses that playtime with her 2-year-old, Millie, has a few conditions attached.
“I can’t jump on the trampoline without wetting my pants — laughing can be risky, too,” she says. “I had to be cut to deliver Millie and, although I laugh about it now, I’m not sure they sewed everything up quite right. She was worth it; we both wet our pants, it’s a bonding thing!”
What to do about it
Doing kegel exercises can definitely help to strengthen your pelvic floor, and in the meantime, you can use a product like Poise Microliners to manage unexpected leaks. My old co-worker, Mel, never leaves the home without a stash of liners, after suffering some serious bladder issues when her catheter burst out during labour.
“I was not prepared for that. After my bub was born, I had little to no bladder control at all,” she says.
“It took many months of daily exercises and physio appointments to get control back. Nearly two years later, I still have a weakness there. But as long as I don’t sneeze, laugh, jump or run, it’s like it never happened.” In the meantime, there’s always Poise!
SheKnows Expert Emily, from Have A Laugh On Me, shares her experiences on how her body changed after she became a mum: