Updated: Apr 26, 2020
But are these options really the right kinds of solutions for a new mom? Do you need to get on social media and have ads bombarding you that make you feel bad about how you look? When you’re breastfeeding, do you need to be doing a juice cleanse to lose your baby weight? When your body is working to recover from giving birth, do you really need to be wearing yourself thin with a challenge for new moms from your local gyms?
While some of these things might sound good to you or even be well-intentioned from the companies or gyms, let’s look at what happens to your body during pregnancy and postpartum and what should be at the forefront of your mind during this critical time.
When you are pregnant, your body changes in so many ways (I’ve written articles about a lot of these changes, so give those a read!). Ligaments and tendons relax to accommodate changes in your body, your belly expands as baby grows, your uterus grows exponentially, your breasts enlarge in preparation for breastfeeding, and the list could go on.
During delivery, there are a lot of variables that you cannot control, no matter how meticulously you have detailed your birth plan. You could have complications that lead to an emergency C-section, when you had planned for a natural birth; you could tear pelvic floor muscles or your perineum while delivering vaginally; you could develop a prolapse because of instruments used to assist in delivery. You just never know how exactly things will go during delivery and you could have complications or trauma that could lead to a longer recovery time postpartum.
Along with all of those possibilities, your body doesn’t just snap back to pre-pregnancy status. Relaxin (the hormone that relaxes your ligaments and tendons) is still present in your system postpartum, your uterus needs time to shrink down to its original size, your breasts will stay enlarged as your body works to produce milk for your new baby. A lot of the changes that your body goes through during pregnancy cannot be expected to change immediately after delivering.
Whether you had a “traumatic” birthing experience or not, delivery is still traumatic on your body, no matter if you had a C-section or vaginal birth. The amount of stress your body is put under is incredible. If you were in a terrible accident and your doctors prescribed rest and physical therapy in order for you to recover from your injuries, you wouldn’t question it – you would know that this is what your body needed in order to recover properly. Unfortunately, birth is not viewed this way by society. It’s not viewed as a major, body-changing event that takes time to recover from. But this is exactly what it is! Even if you don’t have tearing or cutting involved, you still need time to heal and let your body adjust to your new lifestyle. Keep in mind that in this postpartum period, your hormones are trying to level out as well and can greatly affect how you feel and recover.
As you can see, regardless of what society is saying, “bouncing back” after pregnancy should not be your #1 goal in your first days and weeks, even months, postpartum. And the truth is, returning too quickly to intense exercise and dieting can do your body more harm than good and cause your recovery time to be prolonged. Symptoms such as prolapse and incontinence can be exacerbated when your already weak pelvic floor muscles are put under too much strain while they are still trying to heal and strengthen.
So, what should you focus on instead of having a “bounce back” mentality?
Rest is vital to your recovery. Your body needs time to heal and find normalcy after delivery. There are so many things going on in your body, that it is vital to give yourself time to rest. It is the key factor in the early days postpartum. Give your body, mind, and hormones time to adjust to all the new aspects of your life. The last thing you need is to be worried about losing weight or looking the same as you did pre-pregnancy.
2. Eat Well
Make sure that you are eating properly – food can be very restorative and aid your body tremendously in healing. Eating nourishing food, high in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients will ensure that you have the proper nutrition to aid in your recovery and help maintain a good milk supply if you are breastfeeding.
3. Re-engage with your core
There are simple breathing techniques that can be done very early postpartum which help you reconnect to your core and pelvic floor muscles. These areas have been through the ringer and reestablishing your connection with them early can help prevent problems as you continue to heal. (An article with these breathing techniques and exercises will be coming up soon!)
4. Find a postpartum fitness coach
There are so many considerations for the postpartum woman that an average trainer is not versed in. It’s not just about jumping back into super intense workouts to lose your baby weight. You’re in a new body and you have to learn how this new body works differently than your pre-baby body. Taking it slow in your return to fitness will set you up for success in the long run.
With all the messaging that you receive from social media and our society, it can be hard to fight against that “bounce back” mentality. Some women will naturally recover more quickly after having a baby than others. And again, there are so many factors that can contribute to this – many that you probably aren’t even aware of – you cannot compare your journey to anyone else’s. Take your time to rest and let your body rebuild and recover postpartum. When you’re ready to return to fitness, find a pregnancy and postpartum coach that help guide your journey!