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Postpartum Recovery: Before the “All Clear” (Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)

Postpartum care for women is lacking in the United States. Most of the emphasis on health during the six to eight weeks after birth is on the child instead of mom’s health despite recovering from the trauma of childbirth. The onus has fallen on each woman to care for herself as best she can while also taking care of a newborn. I am in that trench currently being eight weeks out from having my third child.

After the birth of my first child, I was blindsided by how much I didn’t know and the lack of guidance and support.

I know many moms feel lost and completely unsupported in this area.

Fortunately, there are resources for both physical and emotional support. However, these resources are not part of standard care and many women aren’t aware of them. Reaching out for support and guidance is crucial for moms during the postpartum period. When it comes to the physical recovery from childbirth, knowing what to focus on is important and can help moms feel better.

 

Here are some ways to aid in the postpartum recovery before receiving the “all clear” from your OB or midwife and establish a solid foundation to build on.

Rest and allow the body to heal

Get as much sleep as you possibly can! Avoid adding any additional physiological stress to your life. I get it! This is an already stressful and exhausting time, so you don’t need to add to it. The body will recover best when it is getting nourishment through rest and nutrition. The healing process may take some time, so be patient. Don’t jump into anything your body isn’t ready for. Sleep is a huge factor in allowing hormones to get back to normal levels and healing tissue. So sleep as much as you possibly can! Even if it’s only a couple of hours here and there.

Work on posture & alignment

Rather than taking long walks, which can put more stress on the tissues and pelvic floor, work on the positioning of your ribcage and pelvis. Caring for an infant requires a lot of sitting with our pelvis tucked under and our ribcage rolled forward. It’s important to spend some time working on good neutral alignment. Knowing what your postural tendencies are (i.e. tucking butt under or flaring ribcage upwards) and where you might be holding tension in your body is the first step. Take that awareness and gradually work on correcting those tendencies throughout your day. Your body will eventually start to feel more comfortable and less disconnected when you optimize that relationship between the ribcage and your pelvis.

Breath

Our breath is the gateway to our central stability system (our core). We can use it to re-coordinate the efforts of all of the players in that system (diaphragm, pelvic floor, and transverse abdominus). When we establish a good neutral position, the core can work more effectively together and be more coordinated. Pregnancy disrupts the normal function of the core. It may take some time to get it working the optimal way. The goal is to be able to manage and keep the pressure balanced in our abdomen. When pressure is mismanaged, it can push out through the abdominal wall (coning or doming) or down through the pelvic floor (incontinence or leaking). That is why mastering a good breathing strategy and connecting it to movement is an effective way to retrain our bodies after pregnancy.

 

Postpartum Health

See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (PFPT)

Get an assessment to see the state of your pelvic floor and abdominal wall. A PFPT can help you understand the symptoms of and/or diagnose diastasis recti, prolapse, pelvic floor dysfunction, and any orthopedic issues related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, it’s still important to understand what symptoms to watch for and how to avoid issues down the road.

If you don’t do any of these other things mentioned, take the time to go get an assessment done.

During the first six to eight weeks postpartum, it’s important to emphasize rest over stress. Remember that less is more. When you start reintroducing some breathing and movement practices back into your routine, remember to have patience and be intentional about what you do. Try to be as consistent as you possibly can.

Part two of this series will cover more of the progression and guidance for returning to fitness after your provider has cleared you.

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