9 post-delivery surprises you won’t see coming

Expect many things to change after baby arrives ― your freedom, your sleep but most importantly, your body!

Your body will go through many strange and mysterious changes during pregnancy you should expect these changes to continue after you’ve given birth.

While celebrity mums seem to end up with amazing postnatal bodies, the hoi polloi usually have to settle for bodies that are a far cry from those magazine-worthy physiques. To allay your worries, Mount Elizabeth Hospital ob-gyn Dr Tan Eng Kien and ob-gyn Dr Peter Chew have expert advice on how to manage these postpartum “surprises”

1) Urinary Incontinence

WHY? Usually, the nerves, ligaments and pelvic-floor muscles work together to support the bladder and keep urine from leaking out, notes Dr Chew. Because your pelvic-floor muscles must stretch to accommodate bubba during childbirth, this added pressure may injure parts of your vagina, which prevents the muscles from functioning properly. On the bright side, stress incontinence usually becomes less frequent within a few weeks of delivery, Dr Chew explains, “Occasionally, it can persist in varying degrees for several months or even longer.” If this is the case, you’ll usually be advised to seek help from your doc.
HOW TO COPE It is vital that you do your Kegel exercises regularly, especially before giving birth. Done correctly and often enough, this can strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles and boost bladder control. Your pelvic-floor muscles are the same set of muscles you use to stop the flow of your urine when you pee. Contract these muscles for 10 seconds, then release. Do this exercise 10 or 20 times in a row, two or three times a day.

“Your faeces will [only] get drier and harder to pass if your delay [going to the toilet] daily.”

2) Constipation

WHY? Your hospital meals can give you constipation, especially if you are not taking sufficient fibre. The confinement tonics you take also tend to be on the “heaty” side, which impacts your bowel movements. Sometimes, the medication you get during and after delivery may contain codeine, which can also slow your bowel movements, Dr Tan points out.
HOW TO COPE Don’t skip loo visits just because you are worried that your episiotomy wound would get infected. Dr Chew cautions, “Your faeces will [only] get drier and harder to pass if you delay [going to the toilet] daily.” Increasing your diet of fruits, vegetables and fibre, along with drinking plenty of water, will help with bowel movements. Dr Tan stresses that postnatal mothers should not stay in bed all day but should get up and do light exercises — such as taking short walks within the hospital or around your house. 


3) Acne

WHY? Your pregnancy acne breakouts, thanks to the increased androgen level, may persist even after you’ve delivered. These acne breakouts are caused by the greater production of sebum — an oily substance — on the surface of your skin. When bacteria and dirt mix with the sebum, it can cause the skin surface to swell, resulting in acne.
HOW TO COPE Wash with a mild soap to keep your face clean and free of oil, suggests Dr Tan. “Many of the oral medications to speed up acne recovery are not suitable during pregnancy or for breastfeeding mothers.” To repel dirt, use a good facial moisturiser to tighten your pores. Dr Chew adds that you should stick to a healthy diet to help your hormones restore their balance. Avoid high glycaemic foods like white bread, white rice, and other sugary processed foods, as these tend to spike blood sugar and hormone production, leading to a greater production of sebum and acne.

4) Hair loss

WHY? You have pregnancy hormones like progesterone and oestrogen to thank for your glossier and thicker tresses when you’re pregnant. However, because your body’s hormone levels decline sharply after you give birth, you may suffer hair fall. On average, a woman sheds about 100 strands of hair a day, notes Dr Chew. So, don’t be shocked to see clumps of hair on your hairbrush or strands of hair on your pillow after a good night’s sleep. The good news is that “the hair loss is not permanent, as you are only losing the extra hair you’ve gained during pregnancy”, Dr Tan assures.
HOW TO COPE You won’t need special treatments to speed up your hair growth. Just reduce possible hair damage by minimising use of your hairbrush and switching to a mild shampoo and conditioner. A good cut not only lets you try a new hairstyle, it’ll help you manage your hair, suggests Dr Chew. Ask your hairdresser for a style that adds volume to your hair. Dr Tan adds, “In addition, a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits will provide the antioxidants and vitamins needed to protect hair follicles and promote growth.”