Expert explains how a woman’s body changes post-pregnancy

Women experience a host of changes after pregnancy. Supplied image.

Women experience a host of changes after pregnancy. Supplied image.

Published Apr 3, 2024


Bringing a child into the world is one of the biggest blessings in life.

But for many women, giving birth is not only a major responsibility, but it also comes with a range of physical changes, health care provider Affinity Health believes.

Its CEO Murray Hewlett added that this journey doesn’t end with childbirth.

“From conception to delivery, a woman’s body undergoes incredible transformations to nurture and support the growing life within,” he said.

“While there is ample information about the stages of pregnancy, the postpartum phase is sometimes neglected,” Hewlett warned.

“Understanding how the body changes post-partum and giving your body the time it needs to replenish nutrients, balance hormones, and recover muscles will greatly influence your early days as a new mom.”

Affinity Health has listed the following changes that a woman can experience after pregnancy:

Weight fluctuations and body image

One of the most noticeable changes after pregnancy is the weight loss associated with giving birth.

The baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, and excess water retention contribute to a significant drop on the scale, Hewlett explained.

This initial weight loss is often followed by a period of weight fluctuation and sometimes even weight gain, especially in the first few months.

Hewlett suggested that women give themselves “grace and patience during this period”.

“Try to maintain a balanced diet and exercise when your healthcare provider gives you the green light.”

He also urged against crash diets or extreme workouts, as they can be detrimental to both your physical and emotional well-being.

Changes in breast size and shape

Your breast size increases during pregnancy, and you might become tender or sore.

Hewlett said that after childbirth, when milk production begins, they can become even more engorged.

“This change is natural and necessary to provide nourishment for your baby.”

But once breastfeeding ends, he said that women may notice a decrease in breast size, and the skin may not regain its pre-pregnancy elasticity entirely.

“It’s common for women to experience sagging or a loss of fullness.”

Hewlett suggested that women, post-pregnancy, wear supportive bras and that they practise chest exercises, which he believes can help maintain breast health and appearance.

Skin changes

While some women experience a radiant pregnancy glow, others may develop skin conditions such as melasma (darkening of the skin), acne or stretch marks.

“Stretch marks are prevalent on the abdomen, breasts, and thighs due to the skin stretching as the baby grows,” Hewlett explained.

He suggested using moisturisers, staying hydrated, and practising good skincare, which he said can all help alleviate some skin concerns.

“Over time, many of these changes tend to fade or improve.”

Pelvic floor and abdominal muscles

Hewlett explained that as a woman’s body prepares for delivery, the abdominal muscles separate to make room for the growing baby. This is a condition known as diastasis recti.

“The pelvic floor, which supports your uterus, bladder and rectum, can also weaken during pregnancy and childbirth.”

He added that engaging in post-pregnancy exercises like Kegels can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

“Physical therapy may be necessary for more severe cases and core-strengthening exercises can also help in the recovery of separated abdominal muscles.”

Hair changes

Some women experience thicker, shinier hair during pregnancy due to increased blood circulation and hormone levels but post-pregnancy hormonal shifts may lead to hair loss or changes in hair texture for others.

“Hair loss, often referred to as post-partum shedding, can be distressing for some women.”

It is usually temporary loss and resolves on its own.

Emotional and psychological changes

While physical changes are often the most visible, the emotional and psychological changes accompanying motherhood are equally significant, Hewlett warned.

“Transitioning to motherhood can bring about many emotions, including joy, love, anxiety and even inadequacy.”

He believes that it is essential to prioritise your mental health during the post-pregnancy period.

“Seeking support from friends, family or a therapist can be immensely beneficial.

“Remember that asking for help and taking breaks is okay when needed and that embracing the emotional changes is part of motherhood’s beautiful and challenging journey.”

Menstrual changes

It’s common for some women who breastfeed to experience delayed or irregular menstrual cycles, as breastfeeding can suppress ovulation.

“Once you stop breastfeeding or reduce nursing frequency, your menstrual cycle resumes its usual rhythm.”

But he added that other women may experience heavier or more painful periods post-pregnancy.

“These changes are often temporary and should be discussed with your healthcare provider if they persist or become problematic.”

Changes in libido

Many new mothers find that they have a reduced interest in sexual activity during the post-partum period.

He said that it’s important for them to communicate openly with their partner about their needs and feelings regarding intimacy.

“Remember that these changes are temporary, and your sexual desire may gradually return as you adjust to your new role as a parent.”

He also believes that prioritising self-care and finding moments of intimacy with your partner can help maintain a healthy connection.

Sleep disruption

A lack of sleep can profoundly impact physical and emotional well-being, exacerbating feelings of fatigue, irritability and stress.

To mitigate sleep disruption, Hewlett suggested that women consider enlisting the help of a partner or family member to share care-giving responsibilities at night.

“Establishing a regular sleep schedule for your baby may also help them sleep better and provide you with more peaceful nights.”