Having a baby is life-changing. Although your new bundle will bring you much joy, you may be feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and hungry. You will also be adjusting to your body not looking, feeling or functioning as it did before. The first six weeks are a time to rest (when you can!) and look after your baby. It is also important that you look after yourself. Your body is an amazing system, working hard to repair and rejuvenate cells, and perhaps produce milk for the baby; so you need to make sure of your nutrition.
What you eat or don’t eat, drink or don’t drink is now known to have as big an impact on healing as exercise. Try to eat protein at every meal (vital for tissue recovery), especially at breakfast to stop you getting on the sugar roller coaster. Cut coffee (caffeine increases cortisol levels which encourage fat to be held around the tummy) and keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and also Tulsi Tea (the latter soothes the adrenals). Limit sugar (this includes alcohol) as it is inflammatory. Instead, eat lots of antioxidant-rich berries for sweetness.
During this initial phase you shouldn’t be doing any exercise, except for some light pelvic floor contractions and short walks with your baby. Certainly NO crunches, sit-ups, twists or planks. Not only do they put tremendous pressure on your pelvic floor, but also on weak abdominal muscles and could worsen a Diastasis Recti (a natural, small separation of the Linea Alba which allowed your baby to grow).
Whatever your delivery type, your pelvic floor has been working hard for the last nine months to support your growing baby. You may find that you leak urine when you cough, jump, sneeze … or laugh. Moving from e.g. lying to sitting, and from sitting to standing creates 9 kg of intra-abdominal pressure. It is therefore essential that you exhale as you move against gravity. This means that your diaphragm relaxes and rises, allowing space for the pelvic floor to rise too.
For up to twelve weeks post-birth, and throughout breastfeeding, your body will be producing the hormone Relaxin. During pregnancy its role is to relax your ligaments to allow the pelvic girdle to widen for the baby to come out, but it affects all the body’s ligaments.
Although Relaxin might make you feel super-flexible, do stretches with care. Otherwise, you might over-stretch ligaments that will never return to their original length; they will stay like a taut elastic band, leaving unstable joints. Don’t hold a stretch for longer than eight seconds, and be careful whilst practising yoga asanas.
Finally, don’t forget to breathe! Some soothing deep breaths will not only calm your nervous system but also aid healing, as all cellular activity requires oxygen.
Article by Paulette Pollock