Before I had my kids, I honestly thought I knew what could possibly happen to my body post-partum – I picked the brain of my doctors and midwives, sought the advice and wisdom of friends and family, and admittedly did my share of browsing health pages via Dr Google.
Well… after having had two children, I now realise I didn’t really know all that much, nor had I anticipated the many irreversible, lasting changes to my body that followed each birth.
I therefore thought it might be helpful to highlight a few of these ailments—or battle scars, however you choose to phrase it—sustained from the process of creating life, and to hopefully raise more awareness around these very common, albeit not often talked about conditions:
1) Prolapse: I put this one first because it’s the probably the one thing that has had the greatest impact on my life as a result of having babies, and which has inhibited my ability to do certain activities, in particular, exercise, which is a huge passion of mine.
I’m yet to have my prolapse properly diagnosed (it’s thought that I either have a cystocele or vaginal vault type prolapse) but basically there are different variations and degrees of severity with each type of prolapse and to put it rather simply, the whole condition basically involves some part of your insides pushing down (or protruding out of) your vagina or bottom.
It’s also my understanding that prolapse is most commonly sustained after vaginal delivery as opposed to a c-section and I’m therefore convinced that mine was a result of pushing Audrey out incorrectly, as I had an epidural and could not feel/didn’t know where/how I was supposed to push. That’s my theory anyway.
In addition to the birth, I also think I commenced high-intensity exercise much too soon post-birth (I started at five weeks) despite getting clearance from my doctor. If you ask any pelvic floor specialist or physiotherapist, they will likely advise you to avoid any high intensity form of exercise like running, jumping, squatting, heavy lifting etc. for at least one year post-birth and if you have any known prolapse issues, then they will definitely advise against doing any of these ever again, period. This leads me to my next point;
2) Diastasis Recti or abdominal separation: this is what occurs when a woman’s stomach muscles separate to accommodate their growing baby and is a very normal part of pregnancy. What most women don’t know, however, is that unless you heal this separation properly post-birth, then doing any kind of abdominal exercises can potentially permanently worsen/damage the separation. It is therefore in my opinion, IMPERATIVE to seek the advice of a physio with regards to exercise post-birth and/or a specialised health professional who can check your abdominal and pelvic floor health.
3) Uneven boob syndrome: Okay, that’s not really an official term as such, but one I coined myself. I’ve never had large breasts, but while I breastfed Audrey I had a rather nice set of even, full breasts and was admittedly one of the perks of breastfeeding. You can therefore appreciate my dismay as I eagerly awaited a beautiful, even full bosom this second time around, only to receive one large boob (aptly nicknamed “Ginormatron” by one child health nurse) and one not so large, yet functioning boob. So while it’s not a problem per se, aesthetically it’s still been a little awkward.
4) Memory loss a.k.a “baby brain”: This one frustrates me to no end, especially being someone who used to pride herself in remembering all sorts of things and juggling multiple balls in the air at one time. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I remember what I did over the weekend.
5) Post-partum bladder/urinary retention: This is another one I had no idea about, but which I now know all too well. It’s basically where you have problems voiding all the contents in your bladder (pee) and if not properly managed, can lead to permanent damage and incontinence further down the track.
So my final words of “wisdom”? Be patient and gentle with your body post-baby, it’s just created life and that in itself is a miracle. And while these changes may mean the end of some things, it also means a new way of looking at life and the potential to try things you may never have imagined.
How has your body changed post-baby (if at all)?
Were you surprised/frustrated/concerned by these changes?
How have you dealt with these changes?