Congratulations!!! Your body just did an amazing thing in delivering your baby! The last 40 weeks or so have been preparing you to bring this child into the world, and you have. Now what?? I’m not going to sugar coat this; having a baby is hard work, and you will have discomfort and/or pain after. How much? It depends….on the mom, her perception of pain, her delivery…so many things. Your experience is not the same as your sister, your mom, your best friend, and will be different (probably) with future-or prior- deliveries. So taking the knowledge that each mom is different, here a few things that are important for each of you, and that we consider pretty absolute.
What is rest? For some moms it is staying in bed and only getting up to go to the bathroom. They might not go downstairs for several days. Can you say “breakfast-and other meals- in bed?” Many moms will go downstairs once a day, and come up at the end of the day, reclining and resting on the couch. That is great if there is a bathroom on that floor. If you do not have a bath room on each level, and many moms do not, try to pace the times you go up and down. Especially in the first few days, you will be going to the bathroom to urinate a lot! Try to plan on staying upstairs a bit more those first few days. Allow your partner/mom/helper to bring things (like breakfast!) to you. Care for your baby, get to know him or her, allow your body to begin to recover. It makes a big difference!2.
Your wonderful baby has provided a “cork” in your trunk for the past 40 weeks, and things have been moved around. And your pelvic floor tissues have been stretched, and perhaps torn. Either way, they benefit from support from the bottom up. We suggest support underwear like “Hanes” for the first days after birth. They don’t look pretty, but they feel great! Send your partner/mom/dad/neighbor out for a few pair or take them with you to the hospital or birth center(link ideas below). You will have swelling. The compression and lying down (REST) will help.
We also love support through the abdomen and pelvis. We don’t want it 24/7, because you need to move and breathe, but having support for those tissues early days makes a difference for many moms. Our favorite is the wrap from BelliesInc (link provided below) because it is breathable, mobile and not restrictive, and easy on and off. Some of our moms use it while pregnant as well.
Ice your bottom. It will help with soreness and swelling. Use ice packs or the “padsicle” recipe below.
Again, that cork that was helping to support your trunk is now outside. Use your breath to assist as you move and get up and down.” Exhale with exertion” and “blow as you go”. This goes for pooping as well! Try not to strain and breath-hold. Blow out like you are blowing on a bubble wand. (and if you are constipated or feeling pain as you poo, take a washcloth and hold it over the perineum, giving a little support. Now is not the time to try to “suck your tummy in”. Strength training comes later.
Peeing. You will be going a lot. You might have some leaking in the first few days, or not be sure when you are empty. This should improve within the first few days. If you are not sure, ASK!!! AND super important NOT to force to empty your bladder (ie, don’t bear down to be sure you are empty). DO NOT play the “potty game”!! Please do not start and stop your flow to see if you can contract your pelvic floor. You teach your bladder bad habits and it’s not how we want to retrain your pelvic floor.
Posture. Support yourself with pillows. Change your environment to fit you. Don’t try to hold yourself up “super straight” (what I call “Dolly Parton posture”) and suck your belly in. When you see us, we work on rebuilding posture and strength. For now, support your spine and lift the baby up to you when nursing and feeding. Back and neck pain? Common but does not need to be normal Use the supports we talked about above, and ask us!
When should I begin to do pelvic floor contractions? If you know how to do contractions, you can begin to do a little soon after giving birth, for example after urinating or having a BM to “reset” the muscles a little. Don’t expect much! The muscles need to heal and recover. We don’t suggest you do “reps” of pelvic floor/Kegels early on.
ASK for help. ACCEPT a helping hand. If a friend asks if she can stop at the store for you, “Yes please” is a great answer. Ask your partner, your mom, your mom-in-law for help. And rest while they are helping (you see the theme, here, don’t you? You will be up and going soon enough!! Enjoy this time! )
Work with your Physical Therapist. When should you see us? Ideally we see a mom to be before the baby is born to give you tips, instruct in breath, abdominal massage, pelvic floor contractions, and postures for after baby. But if you did not see us before baby, seeing us after to answer questions, begin to re-engage, recover, and restore is key. Because we want you to rest, we don’t usually see a mom till around 4 weeks post-birth. But it depends on every mom and her needs! A lot of moms don’t feel that they have time for PT. Taking care of yourself and getting started on all of this does not mean coming to PT weekly. Many of our moms see us once or twice, and then not again till later, when she is ready to do more. We understand that you now have a little one ruling your time, and we work with you. We will also come to your home to see you, which can be helpful in early days since you are trying to manage your time and energy. If you are not sure, email or call us to work out what is the best for you.
Whew! This is a lot, and hopefully you have found it helpful. A few final thoughts and links:
Seeing a PT who specializes in postpartum care should not be hard, but because insurances don’t cover it unless you are having problems, it might seem out of reach from a time and money standpoint. As noted above, we work with your time, and don’t typically see our moms very often (unless they come to the “MamaSte” perinatal yoga classes beginning later in January!). We have links to our gift certificates below. They make a great gift!
If you are not in the Western PA area and are in search of a support, contact us, or use these sites to find someone in your area:
APTA and use the “women’s health” filter.
Congratulations , again, as you enter into this wonderful new life! Just remember that we are here to help with the rollercoaster of mom-hood!!
Embody offers gift certificates that make great gifts for new moms and moms-to-be! We offer 2 options:
Embody Physiotherapy New Mom Evaluation, education, and exercise
Embody Physiotherapy Mom-to Be Evaluation and 30 minute post-baby visit (in person or by video chat and education)
BelliesInc Wrap link (follow the link to “Shop”)
Hanes support (or something like it. We don’t suggest something as firm as regular Spanx. Too much to early!)
- Unfold your pad – if it has wings, remove the tabs but save them because you’ll need to put them back on
- Saturate the pad with the witch hazel – about three or four tablespoons so the pad is good and soaked
- Pump or spoon about two tablespoons of aloe onto the pad
- Add one or two drops of lavender oil if you like
- Use the back of a spoon to spread the aloe and lavender evenly over the pad
- Gently refold your pad (reuse your wing tabs so the whole thing doesn’t stick together)
- Put your pads in your Ziploc bag and pop it in the freezer
Once you’re ready to feel the ‘ah’, simply remove the pad from the freezer and let it thaw a bit (you want cold, not frozen because you don’t want to have to explain that kind of frostbite) and use it as you would a regular pad. These do get wet so consider sitting on a towel or in a place where you don’t mind leaving a bit of a puddle.
It sounds like 6 or 8 will get you through the storm, but they are pretty easy to make so feel free to just make a couple to see what you think.
If you’re lucky, someone will give you a set of these with a tub of ice-cream and a frozen lasagna. Chill, Mama! Thanks to https://pregnantchicken.com/ for this idea and “how to”!!