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5 Surprising Postpartum Facts

Photo by: iStock

You’ve probably done a fair amount of internet searches throughout your pregnancy, and there’s no doubt that the questions and curiosity will continue after you’ve given birth and in the years that follow. While many articles outline the basics of what you can expect postpartum, we dived a little deeper to relay lesser-known mental, emotional, and bodily changes you may be surprised to experience after delivering your baby.

Heightened Anxiety
Though new mothers expect to feel nervous as they enter parenthood, the level of anxiety they feel can often come as a surprise.

“Bringing home a new baby is stressful and the nervousness, confusion, excitement, and anxiety that may come with this event can be overwhelming,” said Dr. Kameelah Phillips, a board-certified OB/GYN. “The anxiety in these situations is typically multi-factorial, and caused by postpartum hormone fluctuations, sleep deprivation, relationship, family, or economic stress, and recovery pain.” Additionally, an idealized postpartum period that doesn’t go as perfectly as you’d hoped can contribute to your anxiety.

Dr. Phillips said these emotions typically fade over the first few weeks, and that it’s perfectly OK to feel this way. “It helps to convene with new and older mothers to share and learn from experiences and validate what you are going through, and to start building your community of support prior to the arrival of the baby,” she said.

A Weakened Pelvic Floor
Postpartum vaginal pain is to be expected, but many women are caught off guard by a general weakening of their pelvic floor.

“You may experience ‘feeling loose,’ and discomfort with intercourse or feeling like air gets trapped in the vagina. Additionally, when you walk, you may feel pain in your hip joints, or even pubic bone,” said Dr. Jennifer M. Browning, a Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FACOG). “These symptoms can even occur if the woman had a cesarean section, as this is her body’s natural preparation for childbirth.”

Dr. Browning noted that these symptoms will often get better with time, though it can take up to half a year. Pelvic floor exercises, such as kegals, may help.

Hair Loss
“While pregnant, your hair sheds less and therefore appears thicker and fuller,” said Dr. Phillips. “After pregnancy, the levels of hormone decrease and this triggers the follicles to re-enter a normal shed cycle, causing significant shedding and hair loss.” This postpartum hair loss can be traumatic and scary, but Dr. Phillips explained that even in severe cases, it’s only temporary.

“It is important to be patient with the hair loss and gently handle your hair and scalp,” she said.

A Permanently Different Shoe Size
Many women expect swelling to quickly subside after baby’s been born, but that’s not always the case. “Many women experience significant swelling of their lower legs and feet, which typically resolves in a few weeks after delivery,” explained Dr. Phillips. “However, some women find that after pregnancy their favorite flat or heel doesn’t quite fit the same. Your shoe size may even increase by up to one full size after pregnancy, and the size increase is often permanent. On the bright side, it gives you a legitimate reason to update your shoe selection.”

Relentless Fatigue
You read about how tired you’ll feel postpartum, but you may be caught off guard at just how relentless the fatigue is once you’re living it. Accompanying fatigue is the anxiety we discussed before, and sadness and even depression can occur, as well.

“Having a baby is a beautiful, wonderful time in a woman’s life, but also a very stressful time,” said Dr. Browning. “She is often not sleeping enough, compounding all these feelings. I tell all my patients to make sure they are taking care of themselves, that they need to eat a healthy diet, and to avoid processed foods and sugar.”

Further, she advised against self-medicating with alcohol or prescription drugs, and to set aside time to exercise after you’ve been given the green light from your physician. Also avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and screen-exposure, which can exasperate fatigue and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Wendy Rose Gould is a writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including InStyle, xoVain, Refinery29, Revelist, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or at

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