You’ve been to all the pre-natal classes, you’ve done the reading, talked to the experts – you feel pretty well prepared for the main event (or at least as well prepared as you can be!). But, what about what happens afterwards? Your main focus has been on pregnancy, the birth itself, and then looking after your newborn. But what about you and your body after birth (and we’re not talking about the type of ‘post-baby body’ obsession that you see in glossy magazines!)? Pregnancy and birth is an arduous physical process and it’s vital that you give your body time and some TLC in order to help it fully recover. While you’re busy looking after your baby, don’t forget to look after yourself too!
The physical after effects of the birthing process are not particularly, erm, how can we put this…pleasant (which is really not surprising)! There’s a photograph that has recently been doing the rounds on social media showing a new dad and baby, with mum in the background wearing what can only be described as an adult nappy. Some have criticised the sharing of the photo (which incidentally was shared by mum, not dad), while others praise its honesty. It’s highly unlikely that this would be her first choice of underwear on any ordinary day, but straight after birth this is reality and the mum in question felt that it was important to get this message out there. Disposable pants and maxi pads will be your saviour; they’re nothing to be ashamed of. You’ll definitely experience heavy bleeding; you may well have stitches, tears, piles and all manner of other unpleasant conditions too. You’ll be very uncomfortable ‘down there’ for some while (it usually takes around 6 weeks to heal completely); but it’s all perfectly normal. You’ll also have some cramping pains as your uterus contracts back down to its usual size, which can take a little while (after all, it took 9 months to grow!). On top of all of this, those pesky hormones can cause hair loss, acne, and night sweats – as if you haven’t got enough on your plate! But, rather than trying too hard to get back to feeling ‘normal’, just take your time and don’t rush the process. Your body has just done something amazing so you can’t expect it to bounce back instantly.
(Read our blog on ‘Getting Back to Normal’ – whatever that means! )
A caesarean section is a major operation so again, the recovery process can’t be rushed. Although you will soon be up and about, you have to allow time for your body to heal before you’re back to doing cartwheels and climbing mountains (or even driving and carrying bags of shopping!). Make sure you take your doctor’s advice and don’t do anything too soon, no matter how frustrated you may feel, otherwise you could set back your recovery process as well as putting your health at risk.
You might find that the pressure of pregnancy and birth has caused a little ‘stress incontinence’, leading to slight leakage when you laugh or sneeze. Again, this is common and should improve as your body heals. Remember to do your pelvic floor exercises regularly, and avoid trampolines for a while…
Remember how your breasts felt sore and tender during the first trimester of pregnancy? Yes, we’re back there again! If you’re breast feeding you may experience sore or bleeding nipples as well as, on occasion, tender, engorged breasts. This should settle as you and baby get used to breast feeding, but if symptoms persist or become very painful, speak to your midwife or doctor.
It’s not unusual to feel a bit up and down emotionally after you’ve had a baby. The ‘baby blues’, as they’re often called, are caused largely by sudden hormonal and chemical changes in your body as well as tiredness. You might feel tearful, irrational, anxious, irritable – but don’t worry, it’s quite normal and it should pass. If you find that it doesn’t though, and you’re feeling very low, depressed, or despondent and these feelings linger, make sure you talk to someone as you could be suffering from postnatal depression. This condition is again nothing to be ashamed of, affecting as many as 1 in 10 new mums, but you will need some help and support. If you’re worried about the way you’re feeling, or about someone else you know, visit https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/postnatal-depression for more information and speak to a healthcare professional.
We know trampolining’s out for the time being at least, but what about other exercise? While there’s no denying that exercise is good for both body and mind, it’s important that you don’t rush it. Most doctors would recommend just light walking until at least after you’ve had your six week postnatal check, which is probably all you’ll feel like doing – and it’s a great way to get you and baby out the house. If you’ve been very active prior to pregnancy you may be desperate to resume training, but take care. During pregnancy a hormone is produced specifically to relax ligaments in preparation for birth, but it affects all the joints and ligaments in your body. This means that they are weaker and more vulnerable for up to 5 months postpartum, during which time it’s advisable to refrain from anything too high-impact. When you’re feeling ready to hit the gym, or the road, or the field, or whatever takes your fancy, make sure you get advice first from a qualified professional.
Would you like to hear our tips on getting through those first few days? Read our blog on Top 10 Post-birth Lifesavers: https://kayoliverphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/
If you have any comments or advice on recovery after birth, we’d love you to share your thoughts below:
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