Weight gain, breastfeeding troubles, backaches; I think as a new mom I was prepared for most things in terms of body changes back in those days. I wonder how I was totally unaware of the mandatory hair and skin woes that begin postpartum and end almost never!
The Surprising Ways Your Body Changes After Childbirth
When I became pregnant, I wasn’t ready for this: glossy, model-ready hair and glowing, poreless skin.
Four months after I had my babies, it was a different story. I swear I saw a bald patch near my hairline from all the hair that was falling out, and my skin was back to its usual oily self, every pore proudly visible.
“No one told me this was going to happen!?”- It’s a sentiment that most mothers find themselves uttering over and over again to each other and, frankly, to anyone who will listen. That’s because, despite an ever-growing mountain of information about the myriad things that happen to your body during pregnancy, there is surprisingly little out there about what happens to you afterwards. The realities of postpartum life are, to many, still a little too real for mainstream conversation.
And the symptoms women encounter post-baby aren’t just happening below the belt. You knew there might be stretch marks, but were you warned about what might happen to your face? That you might break out in cystic acne? Were you given a warning about receding hairlines? Probably not.
While a woman is pregnant, there is so much focus on her. But after she delivers, all that attention goes to the new baby.
No one’s saying that when there’s a newborn to keep alive, your splotchy weird skin should be at the top of the priority list. But the fact is it’s healthy for new moms to think about themselves, too. After all, every aspect makes an impact on a new mom’s mental health.
Here are a Clinical Psychiatrist’s expert tips to deal with the postpartum body emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Hair, Hair Everywhere
Most pregnancy side effects are a drag, but your hair? Oh, that thick, full, healthy hair! Now that the baby’s out, though, it seems your lustrous locks are, too.
I could understand my body getting bigger because there were 2 humans inside of it. My boobs got saggy because the milk had been coming in and out of them. Fine. But the hair is totally unrelated. It was really hard to understand what had gone wrong all of a sudden.
I remember it was almost 2 months postpartum when I felt the first big chunk falling off my scalp. And then slowly it was a bag full of hair strands every morning! Add to it the white floor in the entire house, which means I got to see EXACTLY how much hair I was losing every time I even frisked my fingers in the hair, let alone the dreaded head wash mornings! GOD.
While postpartum shedding is a normal and expected process, as I learned, later on, the sad part is it comes at a time when women are already going through so much change!
During pregnancy, more of the hair stays in the growth phase. That’s nice while it lasts. But as estrogen levels fall after pregnancy, the hairs finally make their exit — all at once. This is the reason why women usually shed a lot of hair during those postpartum months. This increase in shedding is known as ‘telogen effluvium’ (in casual parlance also known as clogged shower drains). It usually begins 1 to 6 months after childbirth and can last as long as 18 months (sob-sob).
My Trusted Hair Care Tips For All The New Moms
Personally, the only thing that helped me sail through this journey was by getting back to basics.
No lapses in taking multivitamins and other medicines prescribed by the gynaecologist.
Regular oiling of hair: Onion, amla, moringa, and curry leaves are known to have nourishing properties that give a boost to hair growth. I have never had the courage to invest so much time in getting all these ingredients every time. So mostly relied on an all-natural herbal hair oil and Health Me Please homemade one hits the target.
3. Let It Loose
Keeping hair tied in a loose bun, instead of a tight hairstyle.
4. Drink Enough Water
By drinking the water that your body needs, your skin, scalp and body will function significantly better than they would without enough hydration. It helps energize and support hair growth from root to tip.
5. Invest In Good Products
If your thinner hair is bugging you, try a new haircut or invest in a volumizing shampoo.
There’s more to the story than the hair on your head. During pregnancy, increased levels of androgen hormones can cause more hair to grow on the abdomen or face. That extra fuzz usually goes away by about 6 months postpartum. In the meantime, feel free to wax or shave if it bothers you.
As good as the anti-hair fall products are in terms of protecting one’s fragile hair and giving it a little bit of TLC, they won’t, obviously, stop the postpartum hair loss, which one just has to live with until the hair finally stops shedding. I mean, it doesn’t go on like this forever, trust me.
Shedding should return to pre-pregnancy rates by the time the baby turns one. If it doesn’t, there is certainly no harm in seeing a dermatologist.
In the meantime, it can help to talk openly about your hair loss. With so much focus on the new baby, there is often little attention given to the concerns of the new mom. Talking with others, especially other mothers who experienced hair loss, can be helpful.
And look on the bright side: With a new baby demanding your time and attention, your hair was probably going to end up in a ponytail, anyway. Isn’t it?
The Skin Saga
We’re all aware of the so-called ‘pregnancy glow’ when your skin becomes radiant for the nine months you’re carrying a baby. But why does nobody talk about what happens afterwards?
Just as there are hair issues that arise during pregnancy, skin conditions can also develop after you give birth. Dealing with a newborn, alongside tiredness and stress can really take its toll on your skin. The initial days postpartum are so overwhelming that you barely have time or energy to wash your face properly, let alone implement a multi-step skincare regime. But for many women, the period after giving birth can wreak havoc on their skin. Fortunately, they are largely treatable, so there is no need to fret.
Here are a few common postpartum skin conditions and ways to tackle the same.
Also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma (brown pigmentation) typically collects around the cheeks, forehead, eyes and sometimes around the mouth. This is merely caused by high levels of pregnancy hormones in your body which decrease after you’ve given birth.
Though over time the brown patches become less obvious, if you’re feeling self-conscious about pigmentation, try the following:
- Stay out of the sun
- Wear a high SPF sunblock
- Keep a hat or umbrella handy while outdoors as exposure to the sun’s rays will make patches darker
While some of the hyperpigmentation fades away post-delivery, the discolouration never completely goes away.
2. Hormonal Acne
Skyrocketing progesterone and estrogen fluctuations lead to increased sebum production and clogged pores causing these unwanted guests on the face. While all this is a very natural reaction of our body with the aftermath of having a baby, that doesn’t make it any less irritating.
Tackling acne doesn’t require too much time or effort though. The key is patience and just a few daily rituals:
- Use a gentle cleanser twice a day
- Try not to scrub or pick at any spots
- Use a soft cloth or flannel or your fingers will suffice
- Follow with a light moisturizer and an oil-free SPF
If after a couple of months there’s no sign of improvement and your acne is getting you down, speak to your doctor who might be able to recommend a specific ointment.
3. Facial Spider Veins
Increased blood circulation and hormone levels highlight facial veins in a spider-like effect. These small reddish blood vessels branching out around the face (commonly around the nostrils and cheeks), neck and upper body might look a bit unpleasant and disturbing to many. In most cases, these diminish within 4-6 months postpartum.
- The simplest at-home treatment of this is the use of emollients like shea butter and olive or plant oils to keep skin soft
4. Dry Skin
Postpartum hormonal changes can sap skin of lipids during and immediately following pregnancy, leading to patchy dry skin on the face.
I know in the initial days with a newborn you might be dealing with your baby’s nappy rashes and not have time to deal with your own skin, but tackling dry patchy skin is relatively simple and should be easy to fit in your schedule.
- Just keep your skin hydrated by using a mild cleanser and gentle moisturiser twice a day
- Starting your day with lukewarm water with lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar keeps the body clean and rejuvenated all day too
- While picking skin care products, read the ingredient label to make sure they’re fragrance-free and additive-free. For especially raw areas, use a hydrating lotion with natural lipids like shea butter or jojoba seed oil
5. Loose Skin
Loose skin is a normal experience after delivery. During pregnancy, the skin stretches to accommodate a growing bump. As a result, many women find that the skin around their stomach is loose after giving birth. How quickly the skin returns to normal after delivery can depend on many factors, including one’s weight, age, and genetics.
Although loose skin is not harmful, it’s not something one would like to carry around too!
- Exercise can help strengthen and tone abdominal muscles following pregnancy. Do check with your doctor before starting any physical exercise postpartum
- Nutrition and a balanced diet rich in vitamins, proteins, and fats will help build muscle and boost collagen, which is an essential protein for healthy, firm skin
- Drinking plenty of water may also improve the skin’s elasticity and appearance
- Skin-firming oils and creams improve the skin’s appearance by making it seem more plumped
- Regular body massage can help boost blood flow and stimulate fibroblasts. These cells play a role in the production of collagen and elastin, both of which help firm and tighten the skin. Therefore, simply rubbing oil or cream into the skin may have a positive effect on its appearance
Read here and try HRX’s Pallavi Barman’s 10 best post-natal exercises for your core.
I hope these tips help you settle down postpartum while dealing with so many body changes. What is most important is to talk about your concerns and issues with someone instead of trying to deal with them all by yourself. A new mom’s emotional wellness is much more important than any other aspect. Remember this!