Some women sail through pregnancy and emerge the other side looking just the same. Others end up with physical scars, a wobbly tummy and stretchmarks. Everyone's different.
The only thing you can say for certain is that it takes a good 18 months for your body to get over the birth of a baby (and it all gets pretty confusing if you get pregnant again in the meantime).
Some changes last for a few weeks (it takes about six weeks for your uterus to change back to its pre-pregnancy size, for example), while others may have settled in for the long term.
So what changes might you expect - and what can you do if you're not happy with them?
1. A bigger bust
Everyone knows that breasts tend to get bigger in pregnancy. If you breastfeed, you can end up with a stunning cleavage. But some women find this new, bigger bust doesn't ever disappear and end up - somewhat to their surprise - with a 36DD.
2. A smaller bust
Equally common and equally unnerving is the D cup diminishing to a C or even a B. Women who worry that they've ended up with a flatter chest usually find that exercise helps to strengthen the supporting muscles - and that they now have a much wider choice of pretty bras.
3. A Caesarean scar
Some women end up with a tiny mark just below the bikini line. Others end up with a more obvious scar and a tummy bulging over the top. The answer to this is sit-ups, crunches and strict discipline over chocolate biscuits.
4. A flabby tummy
All the celebrities who are photographed in bikinis six weeks after giving birth have probably worked very hard to end up with flat tummies. But it's important to remember that: a) Photoshop helps b) they might not be breastfeeding, which can make you very hungry c) they have personal trainers d) they have cooks preparing delicious balanced low-calorie meals, and e) they have enough childcare to allow them to sleep at night (you tend to hang on to the weight if you're exhausted). So enough guilt. A flabby tummy will slowly shrink if you eat healthily and start gentle exercise, but it may take up to a year before you get back into your old jeans.
5. Bigger feet
Denise van Outen said recently that her shoe size had gone up from a five to a six since having a baby - and she'd had to give away all her designer shoes. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormone relaxin which softens joints and ligaments in your body to make it easier to give birth. Maybe her feet are still a bit swollen. But lots of women report a changing shoe size (unless it's just a good excuse for a bit of retail therapy).
6. An amazing ability to do without sleep
After you have a baby, you develop an extraordinary talent for managing to get through weeks and even months on a few hours' sleep a night. That's why lots of women find action movies a bit dull - because daily life is already about achieving mind-boggling goals despite incredible physical difficulties.
7. A wider ribcage
You may find that your ribcage, which gently expanded as your baby grew, never really goes back to its original size. No one will notice this, but you may find yourself having to move over a few buttons on your favourite shirt.
8. A loose pelvic floor
Your pelvis floor muscles run horizontally like a hammock from the bottom of your spine to your pubic bone. They support your bladder, your uterus and your bowel. But during pregnancy and birth - especially after a forceps or ventouse delivery, or a very long labour - they may get stretched and less able to work efficiently. This may mean the odd wee in your knickers if you laugh or cough (and, sometimes, a less satisfying sex life). Luckily, this is usually completely reversible by learning to do pelvic floor exercises - there's a brilliant explanation of these on the Bladder and Bowel Foundation website. If you're having problems, talk to your GP or practice nurse, or ring the specialist helpline of the Bladder and Bowel Foundation on 0845 345 0165. Most women see some improvement after three months, but it may take at least six months before you get maximum benefit.
9. Straight hair going curly
This one is weird but well-supported by anecdotal gossip. Maybe it's hormones?
As you put on weight in pregnancy, you can end up with stretchmarks on your tummy, your breasts, your thighs or your bum. It's a widely held belief that you'll probably end up with stretchmarks if your mum had them, but that's not always true.
No one knows how to prevent them, although massage with any of the specialist creams you find in pharmacies might help.
Stretchmarks fade in time - and if you carry on living in the rain-soaked, windy and cold UK, you won't have to show them off in public very often.
11. Well-toned arms
You start off cradling a tiny newborn, but quite soon you're carrying a chunky six-month-old baby, and then you're scooping up a toddler who's trying to run into the road or pat a slavering Rottweiler. As a result, you'll end up with beautifully toned biceps even if you never set foot in a gym.
12. Receding gums
The increased circulation of progesterone in your body during pregnancy means that your gums respond more quickly to the presence of plaque. You may find your gums bleeding. It's very important, says Peter Hodgkinson of the British Dental Association, to keep brushing and flossing and to visit your dentist (free when you're pregnant, and until your baby is one), or you could end up with established gum disease - which could lead to receding gums.
13. Changes to the way your skin behaves
Expect mad skin changes in the weeks and months after you've had a baby. As your hormones settle, you may end up with anything from dry skin to spots - and the lack of sleep won't help. None of this is permanent. Some women also report changing reactions to sunlight - they either burn or tan more easily - and this seems to stay.
14. Looking lopsided
Sometimes you have to hold a baby or toddler while you get on with making a phone call, cooking, putting on the washing or writing a shopping list. This means propping your son or daughter on your hip so that your other hand is free. After a while, one hip tends to droop down because of carrying so much weight and you start looking lopsided. (Osteopaths tend to see a lot of mums with six-month-old babies.) This change is, luckily, completely reversible.
15. Tingling breasts whenever you hear a baby cry
Even if you've stopped breastfeeding and the baby isn't yours, you may well end up having an automatic response to hearing a newborn baby cry for years afterwards. Luckily, you can keep this completely private.
16. A bigger nose
Some women swear their noses get flatter or wider in pregnancy. If you feel any part of your face has changed - bigger cheeks, perhaps, or a wider jaw - it's probably going to revert back to what it was once the massive physical upheaval of pregnancy and birth is a distant memory.
17. A damaged perineum
A tear or an episiotomy in childbirth usually heals with no lasting problems. But some women suffer in silence for weeks, months and perhaps years afterwards because of particularly bad tears, stitching that was too tight, or scar tissue. If this is the case, go back to your GP and ask to be referred for specialist help.
18. Hair falling out
If the plughole in the bath is a mass of matted hair, don't despair. It's not that you're losing loads more than you should, just that you lost much less while you were pregnant, and now your body's getting back to normal.
19. Changes to skin colour
When you're pregnant, you often get a thin dark line called a linea negra that runs from navel to public bone. This usually disappears completely once you've had your baby. If you get a pattern of changing skin colour on your face - called chloasma - this again will disappear or fade. But if your nipples, or the areola round them, get darker, this will probably stay.
20. Getting thinner
We hear a lot about carrying extra baby weight after the birth, but equally common is losing weight - sometimes so much weight that you're thinner than you were before you got pregnant. Breastfeeding can sometimes trigger this, as can stopping breastfeeding if you've been happily feeding your baby for several months. Some women lose weight because there's so much to do they never sit down. This is not good. Ask someone to make you a cup of tea.
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