Let the rest of the world obsess over losing the weight after having a baby. You have more important things to focus on, like your baby -- and a number of other postpartum changes to your body that could be more serious than a few extra pounds. "It's a massive physical challenge" to have a baby, says Jessica McKinney, director of the Center for Pelvic and Women's Health at Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, in an article that looks at several postpartum challenges women face. The little aches and pains you feel right after birth may not be temporary. Untreated, they could grow into larger problems.
Here's some of what can happen to your body during pregnancy and childbirth:
- Bones may become misaligned.
- Muscles can be strained.
- C-sections can create scar tissue.
- Your pelvic floor (which supports organs and bones) can stretch and tear.
- Your "six-pack" abdominal muscles often separate during pregnancy, but they may not heal back together after birth.
If you ignore your body's warning signs now, you could find yourself on the road to chronic, debilitating pain and incontinence. The article is a serious wakeup call to women. Motherhood shouldn't take this big a toll on your health.
I grew up listening to the other mothers around me describe their aches and pains, the way they'd get a little leak sometimes when they laughed. It was one of the things I dreaded about motherhood. But I think I also assumed these conditions were inevitable, just part of motherhood. I don't remember hearing anyone talking about how you're supposed to keep taking care of yourself after having a baby. You were supposed to be a martyr to motherhood, sacrificing even your health for the sake of your kids.
My generation of moms said "no" to that. I think we know more now. We know that a little bit of treatment can prevent a world of pain later on. We're less likely to wear our suffering like a badge of honor. And we know that a healthy mom is a more effective mom. At the very least, we should be caring for our health for the sake of our kids.
It's still hard to make our health a priority, especially right after having a baby. All the other changes can be so overwhelming. And yeah, there's all that noise about losing weight that drowns out everything else. But here's our chance -- tell your friends and family: If you're pregnant, talk with your doctor about preventing health issues. If you've just had a baby, get a physical soon after and go over any possible physical challenges. And don't assume those aches and pains and leaks are just "normal" for a postpartum body.
Have you suffered any long-term health issues after having a baby?
Image via Zack Seckler/Corbis