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Q. I had my baby 10 months ago and my belly is very distended (she was 10 lbs.). Yes, I have a good layer of fat, but under the fat is a hard area that sticks out so I look about four months pregnant. It feels like my gut/internal organs are hanging out. My muscles did split apart in my abdomen during pregnancy. Other than losing the layer of fat (which I'm working on), what else could I do to un-distend my belly? Is something wrong?
A. I, too, had the muscle separation (diastasis recti) during my second pregnancy and continue to have problems. My abdominal muscles separated and I developed a herniated navel as a result. I frequently found myself painfully pushing in bits of guts that had squeezed out through the hole. I still have problems with this, but not to the extent that I did during pregnancy. I consulted a doctor about having this condition fixed, but found that my health insurance company would not cover the procedure because the condition is not life-threatening. Honestly!
But, enough about me... It sounds as if you may have the same type of condition. To check to see if you have diastasis recti, try the following: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor, tightening your abdominal muscles. Keeping the muscles tight, put your index and middle fingers on your belly just below your belly button and press in slightly. You should feel a soft gap between hard muscle on either side as you move your fingers side to side (if you still have some baby weight to lose, you may need to press in deeper with your fingers to get to the muscle). If you can move your fingers side to side more than two fingers' width, then you have a separation. If you feel something pushing out through a hole in the muscle wall, it could be your uterus–what you say feels like your "guts hanging out"–and you should contact your doctor about treatment.
For just the diastasis recti with a distended belly there are exercises that can help bring the separated muscles closer together while also tightening the entire abdominal area. I'm afraid this requires a bit of work, though. By work I mean sit-ups (crunches to be specific), and lots of them. I’ve found with most women I know, if you don’t work at it you may never get your old stomach back.
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Q. I had very curly hair before I got married. About two years of marriage - and taking the Pill - later, I noticed my curly locks going stick straight. I'm on my third pregnancy in three years and have noticed my hair going straighter and straighter all the time. Is this hormone-related? Will I ever have my curly hair back again?
A. It's possible that the horror-mones of pregnancy have changed your hair for good. My hair did just the opposite of yours– after each pregnancy, my thin, straight hair got thicker and curlier. The same thing happened to my sister.
Most people long for what they don't have (as far as hair types). I, for one, was happy with the change. If you really want your curly hair back, you may need to visit your local beauty parlor.
Q. Two questions: I have just entered my eighth month and while my breasts enlarged initially, they now seem to have gone back to their original size. Is that normal?
Secondly, my nipples and areolas have grown significantly larger. Will they go back to their original size after breastfeeding?
A. During the first few months of pregnancy, the most noticeable bodily change takes place in the breasts. When my flat-chested friend Kelly first became pregnant, I poked at her boob and said, "Hey, that's some good water bra you've got there." She had to confess she was eight weeks pregnant.
Later in pregnancy it may seem that your boobs are not as large as they once were. I think it's due to the fact that the rest of your body (mainly the belly) has grown as well, making the breasts look proportionally smaller.
As for your nipples and areolas, yes, they do become bigger and darker. Believe it or not, dime-sized nipples can expand to be the size of small flapjacks. Usually, after pregnancy and breastfeeding they will shrink and fade a little, but will never return to their former selves. The overall size of your breasts will probably diminish also.
Before my first pregnancy I had perfectly perky 34C boobs. After, they were sagging sacks of 34As. I did breastfeed my first baby for six months, but I don't think that has anything to do with the sorry state of my boobs. In my opinion, it's all based on heredity. Breasts get stretched out during pregnancy, and get no bigger from breastfeeding. Take a look at your mother's breasts (if you have access) to get an idea of how yours may turn out.
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Q. I am going to be a single mother and I am pretty young as well. Will I be able to find someone who will love me even though I have a baby?
A. Deciding to be a single parent is a HUGE commitment. Although I have a husband to help with childcare, a decent income and waited until I was 32 to become pregnant, I still found caring for a newborn to be all-consuming, completely life-altering, and extremely tiring. I can only imagine how hard it must be for single young mothers.
Of course you will find someone to love you when you have a baby– the baby. Having a baby puts a whole new perspective on the meaning of "unconditional love." It's difficult, but it can also be wonderful. As far as acquiring a "significant other," it’s likely you won't have the time or energy to meet anyone or date for a few years. But, when the time is right, it could happen.
Please do consider ALL of your options before signing up for the life-altering lifestyle of single motherhood. If you're having a hard time sorting out your future, do seek counseling. There are many no-cost or low-cost organizations such as women’s centers, medical clinics and religious institutions that can offer some guidance and support. It might help to have an objective perspective on your situation.
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Q. I had a C-section about 23 months ago. While in the shower yesterday I felt a burning where my scar is and I looked downed to see what appeared to be a tear or a small hole on the line of my C-section. I am not the ideal weight, but I am not extremely overweight either. In the past I have not had any problems except for some tenderness in this area. What do you think the cause may be?
A. Since it's been almost two years since your surgery, I doubt it's a lingering infection or improper healing. You may have had some trauma to the area which was already weakened by the prior surgery. Something like slamming your hip against the kitchen counter (one of my least favorite, but frequent bumbles) may have ripped the scar open a little. It may need a stitch or two to close it back up, or simply a Band-Aid and some antibacterial ointment.
Q. I have had cysts in my left breast from the time I was a young teenager. Now I am 25 weeks pregnant and my left breast is much larger than the right one. The cyst is about the size of an egg but doctors don't seem concerned. My breasts were the same size until I got pregnant. I was wondering if they will be the same size again after the baby is born.
A. Since your doctors are not concerned, I imagine it must be a benign sebaceous or fibroid cyst. In either case they are both known to become enlarged during pregnancy. I cannot say that I know if your cyst will return to its former size after pregnancy or not. It depends on the type of cyst and how your body responds to the hormones of pregnancy coming and going. You may just have to wait and see.
I will tell you of my strange breast–I should say nipple–experience that did not go away after pregnancy. I had an area of darkish skin under my left breast, near the bottom of my rib cage.
I never paid it much mind until about the fourth month of my first pregnancy, when it started to swell up like an engorged tick. I assumed that this fleshy colored nub protruding from my rib was a new mole.
After pregnancy and breastfeeding were over, I consulted a dermatologist regarding the still-existing tick-nub. I was told that it was nipple tissue and it had swollen as a result of the hormones released during pregnancy and it had not returned to its former state.
Fortunately, my "third nipple," as I so named it, was not of the lactating kind, so it only required a fairly simple procedure for removal. I do have a small scar, though. Ah, well, just another battle wound of pregnancy!
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Q. I am currently pregnant with my second baby. After having my first I have noticed that my vagina has changed in appearance. My labia have moved further apart and my vagina seems to gape permanently. I can't bear to look at it and feel very inhibited with my partner. I feel a lot looser during sex and prefer not to use tampons anymore as I don't like how it feels when I insert them. My baby wasn't particularly large (nearly 9lbs.) but the midwife did say he was "too big for me." I needed an episiotomy to get him out and it required both interior and exterior suturing. Is this normal or did I not do enough pelvic floor exercises? I'm worried the condition will become worse after my second is born.
A. Pelvic floor exercises are helpful in developing the muscles in the vagina that are used during labor to push the baby out. They can also help with incontinence (urine leakage) problems. You probably had a large incision for your episiotomy due to size of the baby versus the width of your vagina, not because you didn't do enough exercises.
It's normal for a woman's vagina to change and become looser after childbirth. The good news is that women sometimes don't require another episiotomy for a second birth.
It's possible that the interior suturing for your episiotomy has created scar tissue that is causing your vagina to gape. If you find it still to be an issue that really bothers you after your second baby, you might ask your doctor about a minor vaginal surgery to correct it.
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Q. After delivery, do your hips (the actual pelvic bones) that widen during pregnancy go back to their normal pre-pregnancy distance?
A. It all depends on genetics, I think. If your mother has a wide, flat rear end, but didn't before childbirth, then you may be in for the same fate.
Personally, even though I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my old jeans still don't fit right. They are too tight in the waist. My hips didn't go back to the previous width and probably never will. Ah, well. Chalk it up to another battle scar of motherhood, I always say! It's worth it, though.
Q. Does this "cheeseburger crotch" go away?
A. Thankfully, yes, the cheeseburger crotch does go away. It normally takes a few weeks after delivery to have your vaginal area return to its former size. If you have a vaginal birth and/or an episiotomy or vaginal tears, it may take a little longer for the swelling to go down. Some women notice a little looser vagina or longer labia lips, but most snap right back into shape. Vaginas are very elastic, ya know!
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Q. I just got my period for the first time after having a baby two months ago. Something the size of my pinky and looking like skin (kind of like a white lip) came out. I am freaked out! It was NOT a blood clot. I'm pretty sure it was skin and, to me, it seemed pretty large. Any ideas what it can be and if I should be concerned?
A. It was probably some leftover amniotic or placental tissue that did not fully come out until the full shedding of your uterine lining. I have come to find this is a lot more common in women who've had C-sections.
After the Cesarean birth of my first, I had a large mass come out of my vagina after six weeks. I thought it looked like a Slim Jim! The grossest part was that it was still attached. I had to pull it out and I felt a slight ripping somewhere inside. Yes, it was scary and yes, it made me sick to my stomach! As it turns out, I was fine. I learned it was some of the leftover amniotic sac.
Unless you notice a foul smell accompanying your vaginal expulsions or have unusual cramping or bleeding, you're probably okay. You should report this to your doctor on your next visit, though.
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