Just a heads up that if you’re a male, you might want to skip over this post, which delves into female anatomy.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I scoured the internet for any information I could find on pregnancy, birth and newborns. During the process, I learned what to expect from my body soon after giving birth: the night sweats, the engorgement, the hair falling out (possibly in clumps). Much of what I read about was true and happened to me. But nowadays, two years after the birth of my third child, I’m still discovering things about my body that have changed since having kids–things I never knew would happen. So in that vein, here are a few postpartum changes that no one may have told you about:
A tilted pelvis is something I just recently discovered as I was working out. The past year, I’ve noticed I can barely do any abdominal exercises on my back (sit-ups, toe touches, floor sweepers) without using a thick padded mat because my backbone is painfully grinding into the ground. So much so, that when I do floor sweepers, I end up with a bruise–or worse, a raw spot–along my spine. A CrossFit trainer recently explained to me that often women experience a tilted pelvis after having kids, which affects how they do certain exercise movements because their alignment has shifted. From the research I’ve done, a tilted pelvis means that a person has tight hip flexors and back extensors (yes and yes), and weak abdominals, glutes and hamstrings (yes, yes and probably). Yoga and glute bridges are great ways to begin correcting this issue so that I don’t have prolonged lower back, hip or knee pain in the future.
I breastfed all my babies for some length of time, weaning them at 9 months, 10 months and 16 months, respectively. It was great to be endowed those several months I was nursing; it was great to fill out a bathing suit! But after my last baby weaned, what I did not expect was that my boobs would be smaller than before I had kids. Maybe they were just overworked and had nothing left to give, but I was totally shocked.
One great benefit to pregnancy is thicker fuller hair, which is an even greater benefit if you have fine hair like me. I knew that hair often falls out postpartum as a mother’s hormones are adjusting–and mine did that from about 4 to 7 months postpartum. But what I did not expect was to become hairier (or maybe it’s just that I have less time for personal grooming). I have noticed that my hair grows faster on my legs, my armpits and even my face! No one told me about this postpartum change–and maybe for good reason.
I’ll admit that my kids were never decent sleepers until they hit 12 months. They did begin to have 6-hour stretches of sleep about halfway through their first year of life, but I can count on one hand the amount of times any of my kids slept completely through the night before age 1. As toddlers, they settled into a normal sleeping pattern.
James Michael was a consistent sleeper by age one. Beau slept well but was sick about half the time as a toddler (especially in the winter) so I was often up in the middle of the night tending to him. And Scarlett went through a spell for a couple months as a toddler when she woke up multiple times. Her sleeping has finally ironed out now that she’s turned two. So basically, I have three kids who now sleep through the night (even if they do get up early). But what I didn’t expect was to still be exhausted myself, two years after my last baby. All I can figure is thatif you add together three little active kids and hundreds of hours of sleep debt you get one exhausted Mama. At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to catch up on sleep until my kids leave the nest.
Ok, so I knew that often a woman’s first menstrual cycle postpartum is often heavier and more painful. It’s also typical that a woman’s cycles are often delayed if she breastfeeds because of all the hormones. Besides bonding with baby, I will agree that a delayed period was a huge perk of nursing for me.
With my first baby, it wasn’t until I began supplementing him around 8 months old that my cycles returned. With my second child, I’m guessing my cycles would have returned between 6 and 7 months postpartum if I wouldn’t have caught the first egg and gotten pregnant before my first postpartum period happened. After my last baby, my cycles also returned at 6 months postpartum.
First off, it was amazing to have only one period in more than 4 years (I had one cycle between my first two babies). Maybe I was just spoiled or had forgotten about PMS, but I will say that when my cycle returned after my last baby, it was and still is a killer. I thought the cramps would subside after my first couple cycles postpartum, but they have kept up so much that I’m often taking a pain reliever for relief. My cycles weren’t near as painful before kids, so I guess this is now my new normal until menopause, which may be decades down the road.
What about you? What postpartum changes did you discover about your body that no one told you about? Moms of older kids, did you finally catch up on sleep? Any natural remedies for PMS?