Narrator: With the joy of pregnancy often comes the worry about what having a baby will do to your body.
How long will it take you to lose the baby weight? Will your breasts change? What other things might happen?
The truth is, you should be prepared for anything. Many moms experience lasting changes, but some seem to bounce back completely.
To give you an idea of what to expect, we talked with an ob-gyn and five moms about common body changes after pregnancy.
Sarah and Cynthia each have one child, and Cathy, Laura, and Cinnamon each have two.
A very common concern is post-pregnancy weight.
Cathy: I blew up as big as a house and it was just an acceptable part of being pregnant.
Narrator: Will you lose all the weight you gained? How long will it take?
Cinnamon: With my son I gained a good 80 pounds and I lost about 40 of the pounds so I still had 40 when I got pregnant with my daughter and I think I gained a good 80 with her.
Narrator: Dr. Maria Tucker is an obstetrician and gynecologist with Women's Health Care Group in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
Ob-gyn Maria Tucker: The first week or two after delivery, a woman will immediately lose about 5 or 6 pounds of just water weight that they retained throughout the pregnancy.
Narrator: Some baby weight comes off right away, but it can take months to lose the rest of it.
Losing weight can be harder if you're an older mom, if you gained a lot more than your doctor recommended during pregnancy, or if your genetics make weight loss challenging.
For Sarah, a mom in her mid-20s, weight loss has been easy.
Sarah: I feel really lucky to have gotten back to a more normal size right away. I think breastfeeding is helping with that or my good genes.
Narrator: Cinnamon, in her 30s, is still working to get to her pre-pregnancy weight.
Cinnamon: It’s time for me to go to the gym, work all this stuff out!
Narrator: Today, Cathy, in her mid-40s, weighs less than she did before her pregnancies. It's taken discipline, dieting, and exercise to lose the weight.
Even if you get down to your target number on the scale, that's not always the whole story.
Doctor: What some women may notice is that the redistribution of their body shape maybe be somewhat different.
Narrator: For example, you might carry more of your weight in your hips and bottom than you used to.
Many women want to know what their belly will look like post-pregnancy.
Sarah: Right after birth, my belly was like a bowl of Jell-O and just slushed all around when I walked.
Doctor: This is as a result of the skin and the connective tissue and muscles being stretched over the uterus for the entire pregnancy. The excess tissue sometimes just becomes a permanent condition.
Narrator: Not everyone ends up with changes like these. Some women regain their firm belly. To look at their stomach, you'd never know they'd been pregnant.
If you have a c-section, the incision on your abdomen – and the layers of muscle and tissue below – will take a while to heal. A couple of months after delivery, your doctor will probably let you begin abdominal strengthening and exercise.
Doctor: Let me just take a look and see how things are healing.
Narrator: Typically, a c-section scar softens and becomes less noticeable with time.
Laura: The biggest change that has happened in my body since I had children is the little pouch above my incision. Maybe it will go away eventually, and if not, it doesn’t bother me that much.
Narrator: You might develop stretch marks on your belly, breasts, bottom, or other areas as they expand during pregnancy. Stretch marks come in a variety of colors, from red to purple, brown, or silver.
Even when your skin shrinks back after pregnancy, these marks may stick around. They can change color or fade over time.
Cynthia: In the beginning, I wasn’t too happy with the stretch mark, but I look at my daughter, I could not be more happier.
Narrator: Many things can affect the appearance of your breasts – including pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain, weight loss, and simply getting older.
When your breast milk comes in after your baby's birth, your breasts will become even bigger than they were during pregnancy.
Your nipples and areolas, which probably got darker during pregnancy, may lighten up again in the months after delivery.
Once you've stopped breastfeeding, your breasts will likely return to their pre-pregnancy size.
Doctor: Once the breast goes through an involution, which is the shrinking down of those milk-producing tissues, the breasts often times are left looking very deflated, flat, and saggy.
Narrator: These changes might require you to wear a different bra size than you used to.
Many women come to accept their changed breasts. For others, like Cathy, they're unhappy and want to do something about it. Cathy decided that breast augmentation was important to her.
Cathy: After I was done nursing, I realized how much my upper body had changed. I wanted clothes to fit better, I wanted something more in proportion with my body, and this was something I was able to do for myself, kind of like, “Hey, way to go, you had two kids, now here’s your boobs!”
Narrator: Pregnancy and childbirth can affect your vagina and bladder too.
Right after a vaginal delivery, your vagina will be stretched and sore. But within a few weeks, it begins to shrink and recover.
Several factors influence whether your vagina will return to its original size, like the size of your baby, the number of children you've had, and whether you do Kegel exercises regularly to restore vaginal muscle tone.
Cynthia: When I laugh too hard, I don’t have a total control of my bladder.
And I was like, “Oooh! Okay, that needs to stop!”
Narrator: Whether you give birth vaginally or by c-section, you may have urinary incontinence for a few days to a few weeks. Some women experience it for longer.
You might leak into your underwear or not feel the usual urge to pee, because of the stresses and stretching that occur during childbirth. Fortunately, the nerves and muscles usually recover fairly quickly. Kegel exercises can help too.
Cynthia: But after two months of Kegel exercise it went away.
Narrator: Other post-pregnancy changes might surprise you.
Your hair can get thicker during pregnancy, thanks to high estrogen levels that slow the rate of hair loss. But what happens to your hair afterward?
Sarah: I would brush my hair when I was pregnant and not lose like one hair. Now it’s starting to release a little bit more.
Narrator: You'll start shedding more hair as your estrogen levels go back down, but don't worry – you're not going bald.
Within a year or so, you'll be back to your pre-pregnancy locks.
Pregnancy can also alter your menstrual cycle.
Cathy: After my second child, it got exponentially worse.
Doctor: Menstrual cycles do change. Whether it be some women who did not flow as heavy are now having heavier periods or the opposite sometimes is true.
Narrator: After pregnancy, you might experience some joint pain.
Sarah didn't have any joint pain during pregnancy, but she does now, two months after delivery.
Sarah: All my joints really are aching. My fingers and my knuckles, and my shoulders and my back and everything!
Doctor: During pregnancy, women produce a substance known as relaxin. It allows for the joints and the muscles to accommodate the changes that will occur in the pelvis area. Once a woman is postpartum, it does take time for these joints and ligaments to retain their normal strength.
Narrator: Some women report other types of post-pregnancy changes, ranging from a new shoe size to altered sexual sensitivity. Some changes are welcome, and others not so much.
If you experience body changes after pregnancy that you're not happy with, there are things you can do.
First, try not to compare yourself with other women. Remember that the things you're dissatisfied with now may improve with time.
Second, talk to your doctor about your feelings and possible solutions. Some kind of regimen, treatment, or surgery could help.
Finally, remind yourself that a mother's beauty is more than skin deep.
Doctor: I often encourage them not to focus on the negative aspects of these body changes and focus on the beauty and the relationship that you’ll have with your children.
Sarah: I feel really lucky that I don’t have any stretch marks at all. So, and this is my first baby maybe it will be different if I have more children, but I’m counting my blessings.
Laura: What I would say to moms who are having c-sections is don’t worry about the slight imperfections of the scar or the little out pouching, you’re going to be too busy worrying about and chasing around the kids that you have.
Cynthia: The reality is it’s a natural process and there is so much happiness you have from children.
Cinnamon: You wake up, you see these kids and they’re looking at you and they love you so much, and it’s just unconditional love, so if I got to get a couple stretch marks, get a bigger tummy or a muffin top, I would definitely do it again.
Cathy: Look to the bright side of pregnancy because with all the changes that you’re going to experience, you end up with something incredibly precious in the end and that is why we do it.