You waited 9 months for that little bundle of joy and during the long wait you poured over books about pregnancy, baby care and parenting. You had a birth plan and attended prenatal classes to prepare for delivery. When it came time to welcome your new baby, you felt informed and possibly even prepared to care for this tiny human. Except there is one thing you weren’t prepared for: taking care of you!
Your body has just gone through a major trauma. Even if you feel fine, you are doing some major work on the inside to heal. Whether you delivered vaginally or had a c-section, you are in recovery mode. Lifting, holding, nursing, rocking and changing your baby are all physically demanding and necessary tasks. You will do these things all day long and not realize that many little things add up to lots of stress on your body. Not to mention, your baby is waking you up every couple hours and you are not getting much quality sleep. Be mindful of your movements and positions and get rest when you can.
You do not need to wait until your 6 week postpartum appointment to start being proactive. You can start doing pelvic floor muscle exercises (aka kegels) day one. Don’t know how? Try stopping the flow of urine mid-stream without using your abdominal or hip muscles. (Disclaimer: don’t do this as a general practice or exercise, only to test the muscles. We don’t want to mess with your bladder.) Once you know how to kegel, try holding them for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 20 times, twice per day. You can do this lying down until you get the hang of it, then try in sitting or even standing. You also want to try to kegel before you sneeze, cough, laugh, etc. to retrain these muscles to work when they need to. These are safe to do even if you have stitches in the perineum or abdomen.
Once you’ve got this down, try adding an abdominal contraction to the kegels. Gently pull your belly button in towards your spine, as if you were trying to zip a tight pair of pants. Use these two muscle groups together when you are lifting your baby, rocking, holding, etc. (see above).
Need more help? It’s out there! Did you know that in France every woman is given postpartum physical therapy as part of their healthcare plan? You can have that too, you just have to ask. Talk to your physician at your postpartum check up about pelvic floor physical therapy. Ask for a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist, who is specially trained to help in this area.
Now, go do your kegels!