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Published in: JOURNAL, postpartum

What to Expect AFTER You're Expecting (That No One Talks About)

This is a guest post from our friends at Elidah, a woman-owned medical device company and maker of ELITONE, an external, home-use treatment for female urinary incontinence. Founded by a team of engineers from MIT, Stanford, Elidah designed ELITONE specifically for women by women, to be easy to use for compliance. The ELITONE device is successfully treating bladder leaks for women worldwide.

You’ve delivered your baby, and you’re over the moon and in love with your little one. But chances are happiness isn’t the only thing you’re experiencing.

You’re tired. You’re sore. You might feel self-conscious about your appearance or pain, and intimacy altogether might be dreadful. If you're breastfeeding, your breasts may be swollen and tender, and their physical appearance can vary wildly in those first few months. These are some of the most common changes women experience, and chances are you’ve been aware of them for a while.

But what about the issues that people DON’T talk about? Pregnancy and childbirth create changes that may be taboo, embarrassing, or flat out ignored. We pull back the curtain and talk about some of the other postpartum changes you could experience, and what you can do to treat them.

You may have diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti, or DR as it's called for short, is a separation of the abdominal muscles. It has to happen to make room for the baby, however the muscles don’t always come back to the same place. It may be caused by weak connective tissue, or may be congenital, but not apparent until childbirth.

While DR can happen to anyone who has given birth, it's especially common among women who had a large baby, gave birth to twins or triplets, or who've had multiple pregnancies within a relatively short period of time (i.e., three years). Unfortunately, your belly may look larger than before pregnancy.

The good news: a few simple exercises can help reduce the appearance of diastasis recti by tightening the core muscles. For most women, allowing their body time to recover is often the best remedy for these postpartum issues. However, if it doesn’t or if more help is needed, simple exercises can help.

To do the exercise, think about sucking in your gut and pulling your belly button to your spine, and holding it for five seconds. Rest and repeat. Surgery is also an option, but is rare.

Queefing can occur.

Queefing is a medical term for the expulsion of air through the vagina. Let’s face it. Your vagina just expanded to allow a baby the size of mini-watermelon to pass! After birth, everything is loose down there. So queefing happens when your vagina lets in some air, which then gets released by squeezing or contracting muscles in your abdomen.

Queefs can occur during sex, but they're more common during exercise, especially if you're doing kegel exercises (more on those later).

Here’s the thing, it's really common! Queefs are part of healthy vaginas, and many people don't even realize that its happening unless someone else mentions it to them. So, a little noise from down there is nothing to be concerned about. You’re bound to go through a bit of physical adjustment as your body recovers.

Crying might not be the only reason for blurry, red eyes.

You may notice that your eyes are red and puffy. This is due to the blood vessels in your eyes tearing from swelling from pregnancy hormones. These tears can cause pain, swelling, and blurred vision, among other symptoms.

If you notice that your eyelids appear darker than usual after delivery (the color of the lids may look more purple or blue), it could be broken blood vessels on your eyeballs -- which can happen when you're pregnant because the hormone progesterone relaxes all muscles in the body (including those around your eyes).

You may also suffer from dry eye syndrome due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Dry eye syndrome causes a burning sensation or itchiness in both eyes that worsen over time if left untreated; it's caused by an insufficient amount of moisture production on the surface of the cornea -- this is why some women experience itching when they cry during pregnancy since it stimulates tear production but then dries their tears out quickly afterward.

You might have urinary incontinence (specifically stress urinary incontinence).

Urinary incontinence is one of the most common conditions that women experience after childbirth. It's not a sign of weakness or that there’s anything seriously wrong with your body. What's more important is that you understand the different types of urinary incontinence—stress incontinence (leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing), urge incontinence (a sudden and unexpected need to urinate, often without enough warning to make it to the bathroom in time), and mixed incontinence (a combination of the two)—so they can be treated appropriately.

One of the most tried and true methods is strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises. After carrying a baby and giving birth, those muscles are weakened and can’t always provide enough strength to keep the urethra closed under pressure.

Kegel exercises have been proven to tone and rebuild those muscles, and there are a lot of ways you can learn them. Some women see a pelvic floor physical therapist (PFPT), who is specially trained to teach Kegel exercises properly as your body heals. 

For many moms, the idea of going to a doctor’s office for treatment is exhausting or just not possible with a new baby. Thankfully, there are devices that can help you with your Kegel exercises from the comfort of your own home. Some train you how to do Kegels by giving you feedback on the strength of your Kegel contractions, while others perform them for you. Almost all of them require insertion of a vaginal probe. After birth, this can be unpleasant at best and downright painful or not possible for more than 6 months in other cases. 

Only ELITONE is fully external and can perform these Kegel exercises for you soon after delivery, to strengthen and get the pelvic floor back into shape quickly.

Your body is amazing. Give it some loving care to help it recover quickly. Educate yourself on what is normal, and don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about it. Be thankful for the new and helpful tools, that our moms never had, that can speed recovery.

Take care of your pelvic floor and your body and you will thank us years to come.


artwork: caroline walker

Know your body before and after giving birth.
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