Not to worry: There are expert territory surveyors—doctors, trainers and physical therapists—who can help guide you, body part by body part, through this strange new land.
Thighs and Buttocks
The problem: “During pregnancy, very often a woman’s activity and nutrition levels go down,” says OB-GYN Michael Dawson, M.D., of Atlanta Women’s Specialists. “These factors mean you gain weight. The extra fat then gets distributed to places where women most often put on weight: the backside, hips and thighs.” Even if you do continue a healthy eating and exercise routine, pregnancy
alone may determine where you put on extra pounds. (Go to fitpregnancy.com/weightgain for recommended guidelines.)
The solution: It can take up to a year to lose the weight gained during pregnancy, says Dawson. To shed pounds gradually, experts recommend a mix of exercise and well-balanced nutrition. Low-calorie, high-fiber foods, such as vegetables, promote a feeling of fullness, making it easier to eat less. As for exercise, Flatt recommends moves that work multiple muscles.
The problem: Women who had a vaginal delivery often experience tearing of the perineum (the area between the vaginal opening and anus) or had an episiotomy (a surgical incision through the perineum), both of which need at least six weeks to heal. Incontinence, or the inability to stop urine from leaking, is also a common complaint. Some women also experience painful intercourse or pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which the bladder, uterus or rectum falls out of its normal position, straining the pelvic floor muscles.
The solution: Kegels, Kegels, Kegels, says Suzanne Aceron Badillo, P.T., W.S.C, clinical program director of the Women’s Health Rehabilitation Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. By tightening and then releasing the muscles surrounding the vagina, Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor.
This helps control bladder function and stabilizes the pelvic area. In cases of painful intercourse, relaxation is key. If you’ve had an incision or tear in the perineum, you may be unconsciously flexing your pelvic floor, which can cause sex to hurt, says Badillo. To help prevent a tear in the perineum, Badillo suggests a daily massage of the area in the final weeks of pregnancy. Postpartum, a daily massage will help a scar become more pliant.
"I had a perineum tear that took a long time to heal. I had to pee with the aid of a sitz bath for about a month. And, even after five months, sex is still painful." — Gayle Williams, Mother of one, Austin, Texas
The problem: When you’re expecting, your extra weight, shifting center of gravity and swelling can often increase your foot size (usually by a half size), sometimes permanently. “During pregnancy, there is a slight tilt of the body forward,” says Philadelphia- based podiatrist Edward Chairman, D.P.M. “Because nature wants to compensate, the forefoot spreads and the arch flattens, causing the foot size to increase.” Additionally, the extra weight of pregnancy puts pressure on the veins in the legs, causing your feet to swell.
The solution: Chairman recommends being fitted for an orthotic (a device worn inside the shoe that can help correct posture) and, for best results, to do so early in your pregnancy. Post-pregnancy, an orthotic can help prevent further damage. And, of course, when possible, Chairman encourages both prenatal and postpartum women to “sit down and put their feet up.”
Read Road to Recovery where we give you targeted moves to help get your body back.