(for the not-so-pretty side effects of pregnancy and childbirth)
>>Soothing soaks If you have hemorrhoids or episiotomy pain (or—you poor thing—both), take an aromatherapeutic sitz bath in warm water. “Hot water will increase swelling,” says Bruce Tisch, M.D., an OB-GYN in Englewood, N.J.
>>Vein vanishers Seeing your legs and feet again is great; seeing newly conspicuous veins is not. Self-tanners or body makeup provide temporary cover while sclerotherapy yields lasting results. In this procedure, veins are injected with a blood-dissolving solution, says Miami- based dermatologist Flor A. Mayoral, M.D.
>>Breast friends For all the rewards of breastfeeding (and they are innumerable), nursing may leave nipples sore and cracked. Nipple creams and balms can help, but make sure they’re safe for your baby.
>>Stretch-mark minimizers Some women see stretch marks as proof of the body’s amazing ability to nurture new life. Still, they’re no fun and are best combated when relatively new. Ask your dermatologist about treatment options such as Retin-A and lasers. Left untreated, the marks take several months to fade.
>>Spot reduction Melasma, or the mask of pregnancy, consists of hormone-induced facial splotches. While fading options range from over-the-counter hydroquinone preparations to prescription Retin-A, many are unsafe for nursing moms. Consult your doctor about specific products, and in the meantime, use a full-spectrum SPF 15 sunblock to prevent the splotches from darkening further. Melasma can take months to fade on its own.
>>Rave-winning rub It’s no mystery: Shaping up (a goal shared by every recently pregnant woman we know) calls for exercise and eating right. Still, there’s nothing wrong with seeking a little help, especially now that a firming product has hit the States after earning scads of European fans. At a minimum, Mustela 9 Months Post Partum Body Restructuring Gel feels great and is perfect for a mini-massage break.
>>Hair thickeners Once you give birth, you may start shedding hair at an alarming rate. (Thanks, hormones.) You should eventually return to your prepregnancy hair thickness and shedding rate; try a volumizer until then. — Janice Lieberman