6 Post-Pregnancy Body Changes You Didn't Expect

The top 5 post-pregnancy body changes that you never saw coming.

Medically Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 25, 2015
4 min read

When you found out you were pregnant, you knew your life was going to change forever! So much to look forward to: bringing your baby home, seeing their first smile, hearing their first coo.

And you knew your body was in for some changes, too -- gaining weight during pregnancy, bigger breasts, maybe swollen ankles if you stayed on your feet too long.

But there are some changes that might surprise you. Here are five of them.

If you're not in the mood, you're not alone -- many new mothers see a drop in their sex drives.

"It can take up to a year to feel like you are really back in the mood for sex," says Hope Ricciotti, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School and a practicing obstetrician at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. "You are so focused on your child and your family that you have little to no time for yourself, and that includes sex."

You’re also tired and may not have any romantic moments for the first few months after baby is born to even think about the act that conceived your child, she says.

Mix these with estrogen levels that bottom back to normal post-childbirth, and sex drops to the tail end of your priority list. The good news: It will move back up.

"Estrogen levels rise during pregnancy, and fall abruptly after you give birth," says Silvana Ribaudo, MD, an obstetrician at Columbia Medical Center in New York. "The change in estrogen levels means a woman’s sex drive is probably pretty low. It rebounds, but it does take time."

You give birth, you lose your belly, right? Well, not that fast.

“After you give birth, lots of women expect that their belly will return to its normal size almost immediately,” Ribaudo says. “It takes about 6-8 weeks before the uterus is back to its prepregnancy size.”

Amanda Ezman of Oneida, N.Y. was among the new moms surprised by the size of her belly after she gave birth.

“I used the bathroom the day after my daughter was born, and looked in the mirror,” Ezman says. “I thought I would look a little different, but I still looked almost nine months pregnant.”

During pregnancy and after delivery, exerc and a healthy diet are key to getting your body back in shape (under the direction of your ob-gyn, of course).

“It takes time,” Ricciotti says. “Core exercises that focus on your belly do help in toning your baby bulge.”

Think the changes you experience from pregnancy happen mostly in your mid-section? You forgot about your feet.

"Yes, a woman’s feet swell during pregnancy,” Ricciotti says. “But after her baby is born, she may have a permanently different shoe size.”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that average-sized women gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. That extra weight puts your feet under pressure.

"The additional weight you carry may flatten the arch of your foot,” Ricciotti says. “With the arch flattened you might find that you need an extra half-inch larger shoe size to be comfortable.”

Hormones play a role here, too -- in particular, one called relaxin.

"It does just what it sounds like,” Ribaudo says. “It relaxes the muscle ligaments in your body to help prepare you for childbirth, but it’s not exclusive to your pelvic area. It also affects the rest of your body, including your feet.”

With loosened ligaments in your feet and an increase in body weight pushing down on your arch, your feet are primed to flatten and lengthen.

On the bright side? It's a great excuse to go shoe shopping.

A lot of women expect their breasts to get bigger before and after birth, especially if they continue breastfeeding. But just remember: what goes up…

"After you give birth and stop breastfeeding... that can leave your breasts looking not only saggy, as most women expect, but smaller as well," Ricciotti says.

It’s not uncommon for women to drop a cup size after pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it’s not over yet.

"The more children you have, the more your breasts tend to sag," Ricciotti says.

Don’t blame breastfeeding, though. A 2008 study of 93 women found that history of breastfeeding was not linked to their odds of having sagging breasts. Instead, the risk factors for sagging breasts were higher BMI, greater number of pregnancies, larger bra size before pregnancy, history of smoking, and older age.

Most women have fuller, shinier locks during pregnancy. After delivery, your hair goes back to normal -- and that may mean it looks like you're losing more hair than normal. But don't worry -- it all evens out.

During pregnancy, Ribaudo says, higher estrogen levels keep your hair from falling out at its normal rate.

So after pregnancy, when estrogen levels drop and return to normal, your hair has to catch up -- by falling out.

Your heavy shedding period happens one to five months following pregnancy, according to ACOG. Most pregnant women have this hair loss, but the good news is that it’s temporary. Hair loss peaks around 3-4 months after birth, but usually returns to normal within 6-12 months.