What permanent post-pregnancy body changes to expect

It’s no secret that a woman’s body changes after pregnancy. Issues like postpartum weight gain, breast sensitivity and constipation usually go away in the months and year following the birth of a baby.  What can be surprising for new mothers to learn is that there are many permanent body changes that follow a pregnancy. Here are some of the more common changes:

Larger feet

Many women will need to buy new shoes after having a baby. According to a University of Iowa study, 60 to 70 percent of women had longer feet and shorter arches after childbirth. The increase in shoe size may be due to weight gained during pregnancy, which can flatten out the foot’s arch. Also, hormones produced during pregnancy loosen up the joints and ligaments, which can also cause feet to change.

Changes in shape of breasts

Changes in the shape of a woman’s breasts are a permanent side effect of pregnancy. Changes are caused by the stretching of the ligaments and elastin that holds the fatty tissue in that area in place. Weight gain and additional pregnancies can worsen the impact on breast shape but good news—breastfeeding does not.

Pregnancy Mask

Pregnant women often develop areas on their face that darken or become hyper-pigmented. Melasma, or “the mask of pregnancy,” produces blotchy, irregular shaped patches on the face.  Elevated levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone trigger the dark spots to appear. Melasma often gets worse with sun exposure. While there are many treatments available, these dark patches will stick around forever if left untreated.

Tooth lost

The American Journal of Public Health found that the more children a woman has the more likely she is to lose her teeth. Women between the ages of 35 and 49 who have had one baby lose an average of two teeth.  Mothers with four or more children lose an average of seven teeth. Acid from morning sickness can wear away tooth enamel and hormonal changes can also impact the bacteria in the mouth. That is why it is a good idea for expecting moms to keep up with their dental visits.

Abdominal separation

One very common and permanent change associated with pregnancy is abdominal separation. This happens in late pregnancy to make room for a woman’s growing belly. The condition causes the abdominal muscles to separate and creates a gap between the stomach muscles.

Loss of bladder control

Childbirth puts women at an increased risk for incontinence or a loss of bladder control. A vaginal birth can weaken the muscles needed for bladder control and can damage bladder nerves and supportive tissue. Women who have very large babies or deliver vaginally are most at risk for a long-term problem.

New moms who are worried about any postpartum changes to their bodies should contact their Legacy physicians or OB/GYN providers.  Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.

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