Believe it or not, having a baby has a healthy impact on your boobs. Yes, really. “Pregnancy and breastfeeding affect the architecture of your breasts, which reduces your breast-cancer risk later in life,” says Dr Sarah Brewer, author of Planning a Baby: How to Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy and Give Your Baby the Best Possible Start. “This is especially true if you have your babies in your 20s, but the effects are still seen in your 30s.”
As for their appearance, Dr Brewer says that every woman is different. “Some women get bigger, some get smaller, but nearly all get softer.”
TAKE ACTION “Don’t lose weight too quickly after birth as this can make your breasts saggy,” Dr Brewer notes. And make sure you’re measured for a well-fitting bra when you stop breastfeeding.
Forget “baby brain” — becoming a mother makes you smarter. According to a recent US study, having a baby improves your memory. During pregnancy, researchers found that the brain shrinks by up to six per cent, but returns to normal after childbirth. During this re-growth, the brain re-maps itself in a way that boosts memory. “Being a mum also makes you more organised, which helps sharpen the mind,” says Dr Brewer.
TAKE ACTION Eat oily fish once or twice a week. “Diet plays a big part in brain function,” she notes. “Mothers who eat a lot of omega-3 fatty acids have higher levels of DHA, which boosts brain power.”
Once your baby is born, you’ll start to burn the extra fat you gained during pregnancy, especially if you breastfeed. In fact, you might find yourself in better shape than before. One recent study found that 83 per cent of mums improved their diets after a baby, and 65 per cent exercise more (possibly from chasing tot).
“Exercising makes your body look younger because it reverses all the physical things that happen with age, like slackening muscle tone and general weight gain,” says James Duigan, author of Clean and Lean Pregnancy Guide.
TAKE ACTION “Aim to do 20 minutes of exercise twice a day, even if it’s just walking to the shops,” says Duigan.
“Hair is at its best during pregnancy, due to hormones and extra blood that
encourages it to grow,” says celebrity UK hairdresser Daniel Galvin Jr. Post-birth, we start to shed the hair we didn’t lose, so it can look thinner and more straggly in the months after birth. Thanks to hormonal changes, some women can lose even more hair, which can result in thinning patches.
TAKE ACTION Take supplements, especially if you’re breastfeeding, which depletes your body of nutrients. Talk to your doctor.
By delivery, your womb is 15 times heavier than pre-pregnancy. “Once you deliver the placenta, your womb starts to contract to its original size, which takes around six weeks,” says Dr Brewer.
“Even after this, your womb will be different from pre-baby. It can flop around on its ligaments.” While there are no real health disadvantages, it’s weaker and the muscles in the pelvic area will have aged.
TAKE ACTION “Do your pelvic-floor exercises,” Duigan advises. Find your pelvic floor (remember, it’s the pee-stoppers), clench, hold for a few seconds and then release. Build up to 20 sets, three times a day.
“Levels of the hormone progesterone surge during pregnancy, resulting in that lovely mum-to-be glow,” says dermatologist Dr Michael Prager. “But levels plummet after birth, which accelerates facial ageing.”
Throw in sleepless nights, the stress of caring for a newborn and less time to spend on skincare, and you can see why your face might gain a few wrinkles. One study found that new mums consume more sugar than their childless friends, which damages skin cells and breaks down collagen, which normally is what keeps your skin firm and smooth.
TAKE ACTION “Eat less sugar,” suggests Duigan. Some studies suggest it is on par with smoking and sunbathing when it comes to skin ageing.