The day has arrived!
We finally have our new babies in our arms after months of waiting and we are ready to move a little more freely in our own bodies. Most women I see talk about how uncomfortable they are the last few weeks of their pregnancy and are eager to get back to a shape that they recognize as themselves. When they come in for their postpartum visits, I hear their frustration when they have been advised to do no exercise for 4 weeks or 6 weeks for women recovering from C Section births.
ACK! That sounds like forever but remember those restrictions are for impact aerobics and weight lifting but there are a lot of things we can do that are safe and restorative in the meantime! While it is necessary to take it easy and to be gentle with yourself, this does not equate to complete bed rest or inactivity. It would be impossible for many mamas to sit still for that long, and in fact it would not be the best for your postpartum recovery as lack of activity slows the healing process and can lead to postpartum depression.
After waddling around with an extra load we are ready to MOVE and find our center of gravity again! So what CAN we do? Sitting for the next month is not going to feel good and frankly could increase the risk of postpartum depression. Of course we need to modify our pre-pregnancy exercise routines and gently ease back into it but we can do some deep breathing, move our bodies and do some stretching and toning as our bodies heal from birth. Listen to your inner voice or inner wisdom to follow your personal limits and do what you can without further depleting yourself and becoming exhausted. For women who had unplanned C Sections or long labors, start slowly to your own comfort level.
Do you have Diastasis Recti ? Studies show that 2 out of 3 women will have diastasis recti which is disorder of abdominal separation between your right and left sides of the rectus abdominis muscle that are normally connected by the linea alba at the midline of your body. Your abdominal muscles are stretched to their limit during pregnancy so of course it makes sense that there will be a gap after you deliver your baby – I see it in most of my patients. As your belly goes back down to size your muscles will work to repair and “stitch” the muscles back together but you can support this process right from the start.
- Binding Traditional cultures across the globe have wrapped women in cloth around their bellies to facilitate the repair of the abdominal muscles that are S T R E T C H E D out to their max during pregnancy. This extra support is very comforting while it brings the muscles closer to together, helping with the reweaving of the muscle fibers. You can take a stretchy yoga pant like material and have your partner wrap a swath of the cloth around you a couple of times tightly to wear during the day. If more support is needed, try this postpartum binder with easy velcro straps and ribbing to remind you to sit up straight while nursing and walking around with your sweet new bundle of love.
- Deep Breaths Awwww…taking a deep long breath hasn’t felt this great in months! With the baby delivered, you have the room to start with the simple act of getting larger doses of oxygen to fill your lungs….even if you are still recuperating in bed! Put your hands on the bottom of your ribs and breath a slow breath in through your nose to fill your diaphragm – breath in to the level of your hands but not so deep into belly until there has been some repair work in your abs. We do not want to encourage the diastasis recti.
- Kegels You knew I was going to say that one, right? Yep. You want to get reacquainted with the muscles of your pelvic floor. You can do kegels right away. It may feel more subtle than before pregnancy but you are doing wonders by strengthening your pelvic floor – imagine a future without a little blast of pee when you sneeze or laugh too hard! We discount the intricate web of muscles, ligaments and tendons that hold our uterus and they need your attention post partum. How do I do Kegels anyway? Slowly contract your Kegels from the bottom up and gently release as you imagine an elevator going up to the 10th floor, holding for a moment and then releasing down back to the bottom floor. Quality is more important than quantity! If you can feel your Kegels and feel that you have subtle control for 10 reps, then do 10 at a time! Honestly, who can really do them for 50, 100, or 200 times in one sitting! Repeat 4 – 5 times a day while you are nursing, sitting in traffic, watching a movie, reading a book…
- Gentle pelvic curls Lay flat on your back with your knees bent pointing up to the ceiling. Let the natural curve of your low back lift off the floor in a neutral position. Engage your abdominal muscles and without squeezing your butt, tilt your pubic bone towards your belly button, gently flattening that scoop in your low back. Hold with your abdominal muscles, don’t let your butt do the work! and hold for two natural breaths and then slowly release your pelvis and let your pubic bone go back down so that you have that nice swoop in your low back. Do that for 10 -15 mindful reps.
- Walk When you are ready, get outside and walk with your baby! It feels fantastic to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine walking in your neighborhood with your new babe! A gentle sloping walk on a trail in the woods would be a big dose of beauty and fresh oxygen for your lungs too! Keep a mellow pace, and a flat to mild incline in the first few weeks. You may be so excited to get on a hike, but do not overdo it or it could leave you feeling more fatigued and sore rather than refreshed.
- Mamalates Mom+Babe Postpartum Pilates program You are going to love doing this video at home with your baby! Wendy Foster has created a Pilates program just for women recovering from birth, and specifically for women who have had C Sections. You will find a wealth of information, free videos along with her birth recovery kit to get you started at home at her website: mybirthrecovery.com She recommends waiting to do the full video until your scar has healed to the point that you can jump up off a curb comfortably but there are many very gentle pelvic curls, kegels and postural advice that you can start right away!
If you are in Portland, OR, Wendy has mama + baby pilates classes on SE Belmont at her studio Pod+Kin – these classes are not to be missed! I loved going after my son was born. Not only was I ready to do some ab work but I was desperate to talk to some other mamas with babies my son’s age. Wendy’s infectious smile and generous spirit where such a comfort to all of us. The babies either slept next to us or cooed under our planks and no one was bothered by the occasional yelp for milk!
- Acupuncture and Herbal Support for Postpartum Recovery Acupuncture works by decreasing inflammation thereby reducing pain, increases energy, and vitalizes blood speeding recovery. Chinese Medicine views postpartum recovery as a time ripe for healing from previous health imbalances in a woman’s life. If a new mother can slow her pace to a newborn’s, she is afforded the time to rest more often, eat nutritionally dense food and many moments of reflection and meditation. Often this is a time when families learn how to prepare healthy home cooked meals, share in the household responsibilities as they bond with their baby. Spending more time with each other nourishes the relationship between the two new parents who have a lot to learn about themselves as they grow into their new responsibilities. And with all of this transition, support from your acupuncturist to move blockages (emotional and physical pains), boost up your immune system, build and vitalize your blood will support your health and increase your energy as your family goes through this growth spurt!
- Postpartum Massage Your body will be sore and tired after birth. Massage will help restore your muscles, encourage relaxation and promote healing. We have a table with a cut out that allows for room on postpartum bellies and breasts to be face down, or you can be in a side lying position if you prefer. Our massage therapists have specialized training in prenatal and postpartum massage – I encourage you to find someone who knows the unique needs of a woman who has just given birth.
- Baby Blues Check in with your emotional recovery along with the physical. It is not uncommon for women to experience disappointment after a birth that did not go according to their ideal plan. An unplanned C Section or medical interventions stir up feelings of failure, worry or resentment. Women are bombarded by messages about what they should do and shout not do during their pregnancy, how natural birth and breastfeeding are best and we lose sight of the most important outcome : A Healthy Baby and Mama no matter how the birth unfolded or if formula was needed.Of course we strive to do what we can for healthy pregnancies and births and part of that is not getting sacked by GUILT. Enough with the guilt trips on women and new mamas! Know that you are not alone with your feelings of disappointment. Please talk to a trusted friend or family member and if you are confronted with judgement call Baby Blues Connection where there are trained volunteers available to you and your partner 24/7 without hesitation. Toll Free 866-616-3752 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information specific to your recovery, please come in to discuss recommendations customized for you!
We love meeting your new babies!! Please bring your newborns with you to your appointments! We will happily take care of them so you can continue to take care of your self.