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First-time moms (and even veteran mothers) are often amazed at how much their bodies change in the space of nine months. In that time, a mother's body grows a child from a few nondescript cells to several pounds of adorable chubbiness, it stretches to accommodate that growing baby and its nutrition source, the placenta, and it prepares to nourish baby in the months to come.
All that growing, stretching and changing doesn't vanish overnight. In fact, most womens' bodies never completely return to their pre-pregnancy size and shape. Here are some changes you shouldn't be surprised to see stick around for some time after delivery, and some changes that may be permanent.
1. Black line from pubic bone to belly button
If you are one of the 75 percent of women who develop a linea nigra or black line extending from your pubic bone to your belly button and possibly higher during pregnancy, you can expect the line to stick around for up to a year after childbirth.
If the line bothers you, try rubbing a little lemon juice on it but, "Stay away from bleaching creams, as they often contain hydroquinone, which has not been proven safe to use if you are pregnant or nursing," Vaneeta Sheth, M.D., told Fit Pregnancy. The linea nigra is considered cosmetic and should not affect your health in the slightest, though it may return in successive pregnancies.
2. Muscle Separation
Diastasis recti is a fancy term for the abdominal muscle separation that can occur in as many as two-thirds of pregnancy women. As your belly grows, the muscles supporting it may move apart, leaving a gap in the middle.
Once you've delivered your baby and your stomach starts to shrink, the gap will slowly close, but until your doctor has confirmed that the diastasis recti has been repaired, you should be careful how you exercise your abdominal muscles. Pushing yourself too hard too soon can cause further damage to the muscles and may prevent them from ever healing properly said physical therapist Karen S. Weeks in an interview with U.S. Health News.
3. Loose tummy skin
It shouldn't surprise you that after being stretched beyond what you thought humanly possible, your tummy skin will need some time to revert to its previous shape. Plan on leaving the hospital in clothes you wore when you were about six months pregnant and don't put too much pressure on yourself to fit in your pre-pregnancy clothes right away. You'll need to give your body time to recover from the rigors of labor and childbirth before you start hitting the gym again.
During pregnancy, many women notice an increase in the thickness of their hair. This is due to changes in hormonal levels that control hair growth and loss. Once the baby is born and your body's hormones return to normal, you'll start shedding all that extra hair.
Don't worry, you're not going bald. "This excessive shedding is temporary, and you do not have to do anything to remedy it. Most women see their hair return to its normal fullness by their child's first birthday," says the American Academy of Dermatology.
5. Wider feet
Are you still struggling to fit into your old shoes? This is one change that may be permanent. When you were pregnant, your feet spread because of hormonal changes that caused your ligaments to relax. Sometimes these ligaments never tighten up to their previous size. Use it as an excuse to do some therapeutic postpartum shoe shopping.
6. Thicker fingers
If you had to take your rings off at the end of your pregnancy or risk having them stuck on your hands, don't expect to slip them back on the day after you deliver. Due to swelling and weight gain, your fingers may not return to their more slender form for weeks or months. Some moms eventually choose to resize their wedding rings when it becomes apparent that thicker fingers are here to stay.
7. Engorged breasts
You likely noticed your breasts becoming larger and firmer throughout your pregnancy in preparation for breast milk production. Whether you plan on breastfeeding or not, plan on dealing with breast engorgement for the first days and even weeks following childbirth.
During this time, your body is learning to regulate how much breast milk should be produced based on demand. Due to the overproduction that usually happens at first, you can expect to experience redness, soreness and significant breast enlargement. Try not to overexpress the milk or you'll be signaling to your body that it needs to produce more.
8. Changes in body shape
Pregnancy does more than rearrange your organs, it can change how your body stores fat, too. You may find that you naturally store more fat in your legs, buttocks or abdominal region after pregnancy than you did before. Other than maintaining a healthy weight and proper nutrition, there's usually little you can do to change your body shape. Try to embrace your new body as a reminder of the little miracle you were able to create.
Many women experience some level of incontinence during pregnancy from the weight of the uterus pressing on their bladders or from well-placed kicks by their adorable little womb-dwellers. Unfortunately, this is one pregnancy side effect that can persist after giving birth.
"Childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles, which can cause an overactive bladder," explains WebMD. Incontinence can also be caused by damage to the urethra or the nerves surrounding the bladder sustained during childbirth. Your doctor can prescribe exercises or other therapies that will help you regain your muscle tone with time.
Following birth, you'll be astounded by how quickly your baby continues to learn and grow. The Strolly grows with your little one, changing its shape to fit each new stage of development as it comes (from stroller to tricycle) not so differently than your body did for those long nine months of pregnancy. Strolly was even nominated for "Toddler Toy of the Year." Vote for Strolly to win "Toddler Toy of the Year" by clicking here!