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Your Post-Pregnancy Body: What's Going On with My Boobs?! (And Other Questions)

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What's going on with my boobs? Jonathan Scher, MD, a leading ob-gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, answers this and other body-after-baby questions.
Q. My breasts seem smaller and droopier -- is that because I'm breastfeeding?

A. Just as the color of your nipples might change during pregnancy and stay that way, your breast shape and the tone of your breasts might change too. It's common to blame breastfeeding for this phenomenon, but it's the hormones of pregnancy that make breasts swell and the skin stretch, causing the change in shape. The good news: Strength training, such as light bench presses, can help you regain tone and bring shape back, too.

 
Q. Are my stomach muscles hopelessly stretched out?

A. No! During pregnancy, the rectus abdominus, the muscles that run from the bottom of chest to the pubic bone, stretch apart as the uterus expands. So when you sit up after having birth, you might see a little bulge -- like a banana -- between the muscles. In most women, exercise, including abdominal work, should build up these muscles so they come together at midline again. If you had a c-section, your doctor had to part these muscles a little more during delivery, but exercise can get them back into shape.

Q. Is it really necessary to wait several weeks after birth before exercising?

A. The common advice is to wait six weeks, but for healthy women who had a complication-free delivery and exercised prior to pregnancy, your muscles will start to gain tone three weeks after delivery. Try exercising then if you feel ready, but start gradually, since you don't want to overstretch floppy muscles. If you had a c-section or any complications, consult your doctor first.

 
Q. Does breastfeeding really help baby weight come off faster?

A. Yes. The effort it takes for your body to produce breast milk burns about an extra 500 calories a day. So if you eat sensibly, you'll lose weight.

Q. Will exercise affect the quantity or quality of my breast milk?

A. Not as long as you drink lots of water during your workouts, since becoming dehydrated can decrease milk supply.

Q. Is it just me, or are my hips wider since I became a mom?

A. You're not imagining things. Late in pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is secreted to loosen joints to make room for delivering a baby (particularly the head), causing hips to widen. You usually gain about an inch, and, hey, a little curve is a good thing!

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, July 2007.

 

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