Those of us who have had babies are familiar with the squigy soft tummy we are left with where our beautiful baby/babies used to be. We notice this difference because it is visible and obvious, but it is even more important to recognise the structural changes that have occurred inside our body if we are to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction, resolve abdominal separation (diastasis recti), manage back pain and improve the aesthetics of our abdominals.
When you were pregnant, your body made way for the growing baby. Skin was stretched, organs were rearranged and major hormonal changes were taking place (and continue to take place after birth). After birth, it takes time (and a little effort) to get those organs back to their correct position, skin elasticity to return (if it does at all), abdominal separation to resolve and our hormones to level out. Did you know it can take up to two years for abdominal muscles to fully recover after pregnancy and up to four months after you finish breastfeeding for the hormone, Relaxin, to leave your system?
This is an important consideration for those wanting to recover between pregnancies, and for those keen to return to pre-baby fitness activities. I encourage you to think about your recovery as rehabilitation rather than a simple "return to exercise". Take the time to get it right early and you will lay the foundation for a strong, safe return to pre-baby fitness levels.
If you have been to one of our classes, you have probably heard about the "core canister". Think about your core as a canister, the top of the canister is your diaphragm (under your lungs), your abdominal and back muscles are the walls of the canister and you pelvic floor is the bottom of the canister. In order to protect our pelvic floor, minimise lower back pain and flatren our tummy, these components need to work effectively together. What happens at the top of the canister and around the walls, effects what happens at the bottom of the canister.
So how can we get our Core Canister functioning optimally?
So what can you do?
When I was pregnant with my first child I read numerous natural birthing books, carefully crafted an intricate and well considered birth plan, hired a doula and undertook active birthing classes. Birth sorted!
But what about after? I had cleaned the house with a tooth brush, stocked the freezer with ready-made meals, my husband was taking two weeks off work and my Mum was lined up to keep the house from falling into complete disarray. Sounds like I had my postpartum plan all sorted, right? Not quite.
I had become so side-tracked by the logistics of running the house that I had forgotten to take care of one very important thing, me. It didn’t even occur to me that this early postpartum period was a rare opportunity to not only engage in self-indulgent pampering but that it might just be incredibly valuable to a speedy recovery and ongoing physical and mental good health.
You will be pleased to know that I didn’t make the same mistake with my second child and I continue to prioritise my health today. I have found a way to squeeze exercise into a very full schedule and I continue to participate in activities that nourish my mind and emotional health. It is not always easy, but it is worthwhile.
So here are a few tips to help ensure that your health remains a priority once baby arrives:
While it is never too late, setting expectations, boundaries and goals around your wellbeing before you have kids can make it easier to commit and stick to those same ideals once baby arrives. Get into the habit of making your health and fitness goals a priority. Preparing your partner for the fact that you will need help with achieving this whether it is via babysitting or moral support is an important contributor to success.
2.Planning is important
Yes, prepare the frozen meals, organise for friends and relatives to handle household chores and arrange care for any older children, but also think about the things that will help you nurture your physical and mental well-being. Consider activities such as a regular massage, exercise class or social catch up with friends.
3.Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to stay in bed for a week once baby arrives. Rest, recover, revive.
Continue to spend the next few weeks quietly at home bonding with baby. Allow people to wait on you and enjoy this time doing activities at home that leave you relaxed and fulfilled. If you have older children, arrange some respite each week and be prepared with some games and activities that they can do in bed with you.
4.Make it a habit
Continue to use those new found prioritising and organisational skills to make sure your self-care forms part of your weekly routine. Engage the help of your partner and family for moral support. The dusting and vacuuming can wait.
A healthy mum is a happy mum and your kids will thank you for it.
At Go Mum! we are constantly learning and seeking out the best women's health advice and local practitioners. In this blog you will find articles from women's health practitioners that are passionate and experienced in their fields. We hope you enjoy the blog and encourage you to support these local businesses.