PARENTS

8 Post Pregnancy Body Changes No One Warns You About

18/03/2015 20:55 | Updated 20 May 2015

post pregnancy body changes

There's no denying that carrying a baby around for nine months can wreak havoc on our bodies.

But following all that labour 'fun' the final insult is surely that some of this pregnancy weirdness can sometimes take months if not years to finally shift.

As Roger Marwood, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, says: "Pregnancy affects every single system in the body and it's certainly different afterwards. The hormones could even alter your eye prescription!

"Quite simply hardly any pregnant woman escapes without any marks."

Parentdish takes a look at some of the prime body changes – and what you can do to relieve some of the symptoms.

Varicose/thread veins

Some women go through several pregnancies and never see a lumpy vein, while others suffer from the first whiff of oestrogen. If you're unlucky enough to be prone to them you'll know varicose veins can ache terribly and cause much distress, especially in recurring pregnancies.

"The cause is partly genetic, partly hormonal – you're more likely to get them if your mum did," Roger Marwood says. "Progesterone, the hormone that keeps your pregnancy safe, relaxes the muscles in your veins and your uterus so there is delay in blood returning to them.

'The legs are the most common place to develop them but the pressure of your womb on your pelvic veins can lead to the discomfort of swollen veins around the perineal area."

For most women the situation dramatically improves in the first week after delivery but around 10 per cent can be left with remnants of their varicose veins. And while it shouldn't affect your daily lifestyle the veins can still ache and may be dark blue and bulgy in appearance.

"Sadly there isn't much you can do," Roger Marwood admits. "You should remain active and can try support tights, or your GP may be able to prescribe a course of injections. In serious cases you can also undergo an operation to remove them."

Skincare therapist and beauty expert Louise Thomas-Minns says you can also develop thread veins on your face from the straining that occurs during labour and also from high temperatures associated with pregnancy.

"Essentially this is when the capillaries in the face, which are only one cell thick, rupture," she explains. "They can be successfully treated with an advanced cosmetic procedure where a heat current is gently tapped along the capillary to seal it off and calm it."

Swollen feet and legs

Known as oedema, about a third of us experience this during pregnancy. Most women get it below the knees but it can spread up to the waist, or even your face and fingers.

"It's caused by the physical pressure of the uterus delaying the return of fluid to the heart causing swelling in the lower body," Roger Marwood reveals. "Plus subtle hormonal changes can increase the amount of water within our body tissue exacerbating the problem.

"For the vast majority it's just really annoying and is reduced by putting your feet up, but this is much easier said than done if you work or have other children. A lot of women I've seen end up wearing their husband's shoes, but your shoe size won't change permanently after you've given birth.

"The good news is that the vast majority of women recover quickly and everything will return to normal within two weeks of having your baby."

"Keeping the body's circulation moving by flexing and pointing your toes and circling the ankles can also help," adds pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert Joanna Helcke.

Acne

Forget 'pregnancy glow', annoyingly even if you've always had a clear complexion having a baby could lead to you being coated in spots and pimples. These can occur anywhere but typically you'll get clusters on your chin and jawline as this part of the face is associated with the ovaries and hormones.

"Our skin is an organ of excretion and this is one way our body gets rid of excess hormones, but it can be really upsetting," Louise Thomas-Minns explains.

"It also tends to carry on after birth. It takes up to nine months for the body to get back to some sort of normality after giving birth and acne can linger for up to 18 months.

"You should avoid touching or picking your spots to prevent scarring. The worst thing you can do is squeeze them, especially cystic ones that sit under the surface of the skin as these are caused by deep infection in the pores.

"Sadly treatment won't solve the problem overnight but a recommended course with a qualified therapist can really help. They may incorporate natural or enzyme peels and possible red light therapy which is also very uplifting.

"Look for products that contain lactic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid or you could also try a home-made remedy by mixing cow's or goat's milk powder with water to make a face mask."

Pigment patches

Known as 'melasma', this is also sometimes referred to as 'pregnancy mask' and again is caused by those irritating hormone changes. It doesn't disappear in all woman after they've given birth and can also recur during the summer months.

"It's almost like a butterfly effect on the cheeks, nose and top lip," says Louise Thomas-Minns. "It's also more visible on people with olive skin tones. You should wear sun protection every day and other courses of treatment can be started six months after having your baby."

These can include taking Vitamin A, products containing Coffee Berry that helps to whiten and brighten skin and calm the skin cells that stimulate pigment, or Dermaroller skin needling treatment.

This is where the ring and little fingers on your hand go numb during pregnancy as a consequence of swelling below the wrist joints.

"This can press on the nerves that supply blood to those two fingers which leads to pins and needles, stiffness and clumsiness," says Roger Marwood.

"Ninety to 95 per cent of women will get better after pregnancy but a few are left with this disability. It's quite a common problem and can be eased by wearing special splints and not putting extra strain on the nerves. Or if it's persistent you may need an operation to relieve the pressure."

Expanding bra size

It's not uncommon to go up a bra size following pregnancy – and it's all do with your expanding ribcage. We're not talking cup size here. "This happens because of your bump basically," Joanna Helcke reveals. "As you get bigger so does your ribcage as it lifts upwards to accommodate the baby – and it doesn't always go back down. The best thing is to get your bust re-measured after having your baby."

Back pain

This is very common during and after pregnancy. Usually any past niggles will rear their head even before you have a big bump.

"Our ligaments get looser and more flexible during pregnancy, plus as you grow the body's centre of gravity changes," Joanna Helcke says. "You tilt your pelvis forward, arch your lower back more and round your shoulders – all of which isn't helped by being stuck in an office or standing at work.

Our abdominal muscles are like a corset protecting the back and when you're carrying a baby these get loose making you more prone to pain. They're still loose after birth which is why problems often continue.

"Add to the mix constantly changing nappies and leaning over the cot and it's no wonder back complaints can become permanent. A great course of treatment is post natal pilates which is heavily adapted to strengthen both posture and the abdominals."

This can start at any point during your pregnancy but in some people continues to worsen, even after giving birth. It tends to be known by the umbrella term 'PGP' or pelvic girdle pain.

"There are lots of factors that can cause PGP and hugely varying severity, but it's generally to do with those weaker abdominal muscles and the softening of the pubic bone as it prepares for giving birth," Joanna says.

"Sadly pelvic pain can often continue after pregnancy and take lots of time to heal. After giving birth it's all about what you can do to minimise it, and this generally involves building up the muscles surrounding the pelvis and the front and back of your legs. Classic exercises like squats and lunges are good but you have to start with the basics."

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