4 Essential Steps for Postnatal Recovery
Birth can be one of the most beautiful, exhilarating and empowering moments of your life. And yet, for many women, it can also create feelings of regret, guilt and sadness. In Australia, one in three women will describe their birth as traumatic.
Despite knowing that birth and the first year of motherhood can be incredibly challenging, so many of us fail to adequately prepare for the postnatal period.
Having had six children between us, we know that despite our best intentions to rest and soak up the fourth trimester, motherhood is an incredibly physical and demanding role. From rocking your baby to sleep at night, to hours spent pacing with your baby safe in a carrier, there is a significant load on your body - a body that is at it weakest and most vulnerable.
We are sick of seeing mothers left to fend for themselves in the first six weeks after birth. A time when they are trying to recover from birth (sometimes from major surgery), adjust to life as a mother and learn new skills - all on broken sleep.
Having supported thousands of women through their postnatal journey, there are some essential steps we would love all new mothers to take (and be prepared for!).
Pelvic Floor Recovery 101
No matter how you gave birth, your postpartum recovery starts with your pelvic floor. As you may know, one role of the pelvic floor is to support the pelvic organs. A second role is to create a tight seal or ‘sphincter’ around the urethra and rectum to prevent incontinence. In its weakened and stretched state, the pelvic floor may not perform either of these roles well.
If you gave birth vaginally, your pelvic floor may have had to stretch up to 3 times its normal length to allow for your babies head to pass through. It’s no wonder that studies show an average of 25 –35% reduction in pelvic floor strength following birth.
If you gave birth via C-Section you still will have a weekend pelvic floor due to nine months of having to support the extra weight of your uterus, increased blood volume and additional weight!
More than 50% of women will experience urinary or bowel leaking in the first few weeks and months following birth. If this is you, don’t be alarmed. There are steps you can take to begin to heal and strengthen your pelvic floor. In the Empowered Motherhood Program , our postnatal week by week program includes pelvic floor exercises that are designed to be done from birth (or once
your catheter is removed!).
Our Pelvic Floor programs start with gentle activations designed to improve blood flow, reduce inflammation and re-connect the neural pathways and builds you up to strong and functional pelvic floor exercises designed to help you to return to running and impact (leak-free!).
It often surprises a lot of mums that they still look 7 months pregnant after giving birth. Your abdominal wall has had to stretch significantly to create space to grow your baby, and despite what we see on social media, it doesn’t just bounce back.
You may also have some degrees of abdominal separation (which is a normal part of pregnancy and not something to be afraid of!).
During pregnancy, the linea alba (a band of connective tissue which runs from breastbone to pubic
bone thins and stretches to allow for the growth of your baby). This stretching and thinning is what gives the appearance that the abdominal muscles have separated. It is a natural part of pregnancy and is not something to be afraid of. Abdominal separation can usually be healed with the right exercise, breathing and movement patterns.
In the Empowered Motherhood Program, our Core Connect series will help you to:
• Breathe Well: Learn to breath in a way that supports the natural movement of the abdominal wall;
• Improve Posture: Our early postnatal classes are deigned to help improve mobility and posture so that your abdominal wall can function optimally. This is incredibly important for our C-Section Mums who often feel pulled forward by their wound.
• Engage your Deep Core: Our Physio-led classes are designed to help you to properly engage your deepest layer of abdominal muscles, your transversus abdominis (TvA).
• Heal Separation: A mistake that we see women make is that they stick to safe “TvA” exercises such as toe taps, heel slides and pelvic floor exercises. Building strength and muscle bulk in your rectus abdominis and obliques will also help to heal separation and create a stronger abdominal container.
Take time to process your birth
Birth is more than simply a way to get the baby out. It is an incredible and often life-changing event. One that we often spend years thinking about and dreaming of. So when your birth doesn’t go the way planned, it can leave women feeling let down, ripped-off and in many cases –traumatised.”
You’re mental and emotional wellbeing as a mother is just as important as your physical wellbeing. If your birth didn’t go the way you had planned, we know that this can affect your:
• confidence and sense of self;
• ability to connect with your baby and / or partner,
• ability to have sex without pain or fear;
• ability to exercise; and
• productivity at work.
A key goal of the Empowered Motherhood Program is to end the taboo when it comes to birth trauma. There are incredible organisations like the Australasian Birth Trauma Association, the Centre of Perinatal Excellence, the Gidget Foundation and PANDA which all have tools, support networks and resources designed to support parents who have experienced a traumatic
If you are feeling let down or scarred from your birth, you are not alone and there is support available to you. So please reach out because your mental health matters.
Make an Appointment with a Women’s Health Physio
Currently in Australia, new mothers have a ‘six-week’ checkup with their GP, Midwife or Obstetrician. In this appointment, they assess everything from wound healing, uterus contraction, cessation of bleeding, mental health, family planning, mother and baby interaction, lactation, baby’s growth, and mother’s physical health, vaccinations and many other things.
A one-off 25-35 minute appointment is simply not sufficient time to assess all of these things adequately. If you are able to, we recommend making an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist at around 6-8 weeks postnatal (regardless of your mode of delivery).
Women’s Health Physiotherapist specialise in the assessment of the physical post-natal body.
They will spend an hour taking a detailed birth history and presence of symptoms, then undertake a detailed assessment of the pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, previous injuries, and undertake a bio-mechanical assessment of the musculoskeletal system. After the appointment you will have a much better understanding of how your body is healing, whether you are at risk of prolapse or other pelvic floor complication, what type of exercise you are ready for and any risk factors to watch out for.
You can see our list of recommend Women’s Health Physio’s around Australia here.
If you are looking at what steps to take next to put the healing of your postnatal body as a priority, the Empowered Motherhood Program is your postnatal go-to. It is a Physiotherapy expert-led program that will guide you back with graduated challenging exercise along with interesting education on all things postnatal recovery. It even covers topics such as returning to sex for the first time post-baby!
Use code Bump10 for a 10% discount on all Empowered Motherhood Programs!