Pregnancy can be a wonderful time of growth, change and anticipation. As the baby grows, the mother’s body goes through normal musculoskeletal changes. Muscles in the abdominal and pelvic region stretch, ligaments soften and joints loosen. Some women handle these changes with ease but others may need the help of a physical therapist to manage pain and incontinence.
After the birth of the baby, there are still changes. The postpartum (or post-birth) period can be a beautiful yet challenging time for the mom too. We call this time period the fourth trimester.
As a PT and mom, I can attest to the challenges I listed above. I can also say that postpartum doesn’t get any easier or feel any better because you’re a PT and you intellectually understand the physiological changes in your body after having a baby. I’m a PT and I know what I need to do for myself and my recovery but knowing what to do and experiencing the discomfort and managing it are different.
Hormones greatly affect the mom emotionally and physically and the pelvic floor muscles are overstretched and weak. The new mom likely has an incision to care for and may be experiencing some urinary leakage. Ligaments and joints gradually tighten as hormones begin return to pre-pregnancy levels. However, muscles like the lazy. If a muscle isn’t exercised it will remain loose and weak.
My prescription for healing after having a baby? Kegels, Tummy Time and Walks.
The secret sauce to making sure that prescription works? Repetition
Understand the purpose of kegeling
The pelvic floor muscles create a natural bowl or basket supporting our pelvic and abdominal organs. The pelvic floor is vital in controlling our bowel and bladder, is part of our core muscles, assists in our sexual response and must stretch to allow for the baby to slide through the birth canal.
Mimic your baby + get on your tummy
Use that tummy time to kegel from a new position and just take in the moments you have with your new little one.
Try to walk at least once a day
You need socialization and your baby needs it too. Lucky for you, walking is a great pelvic floor exercise.
At the end of the day, variety and repetition are key. As both a PT and a mom, I’ve found that strengthening the pelvic floor by challenging those muscles in a variety of ways will allow the muscles to become strong enough to maintain dryness. Eventually, your pelvic floor wall will become strong enough for a return to pre-pregnancy activities.
Although we all have to deal with this postpartum changes, being a PT certainly helped me have perspective. I hope this article can help you too!
P.S. Remember that whatever you do in the name of healing your body is a way to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, how could anyone expect you to take care of your little one? Take a deep breath and give these suggestions a try. If you need an extra boost to get you going, read this blog post for inspiration!