What are the first steps towards physical recovery after I've had my baby?
When should I start pelvic floor exercises again?
How do I start losing my baby jellybelly?
These are common thoughts/questions for women thinking about how to get their pre-baby bodies back. So here are some of my tips towards recovery in that first week after having your baby.
1. Immediately: cuddle your baby and enjoy all those precious newborn moments, smells, cuddles etc. Pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly and toast how amazing you are - just don't drink too much/choose a low alcohol version esp. if you are breastfeeding. Alcohol is not recommended to help with soft tissue healing, so just a tipple! Rest and relax - labour/c-section are big events, now is the time for rest ... it is likely you will either have too many visitors, will be way too excited to be able to sleep, or will need to attend to your bub so try and at least lie down.
2. Treat your body like it has had an injury...it has: The RICE regime (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is just as applicable in the first 24 - 72hrs post birth as it is for sporting injuries.
Rest by getting periods lying down at regular intervals.
Ice can be applied to your nether regions (just ask your midwife) - this can be done for 10 - 20mins every couple of hours.
Compression can be applied by wearing supporting undergarments. There is now a growing range of postnatal support/compression shorts available.
Elevation may seem like an interesting one, but horizontal positions take the pressure off the tummy and pelvic floor. Lying on your tummy (normal delivery) can be a nice postion for this too. Aim for a (combined) total of at least 2hrs horizontal during the daylight hours for the first 6 weeks.
3. Pelvic floor exercises: take a break from formal exercises for 24-48hrs after you've given birth. However, do try and engage your pelvic floor during functional tasks during this time. So if you need to cough, sneeze, lift your baby etc., try and turn the pelvic floor on before you do the task. After that, try and do some pelvic floor exercises 3 times/day. It will feel different and it is likely that you won't feel as strong, so you might need to adjust how much you do. See how long you can lift and hold for (i.e. 3, 4, 5...secs) and aim to do between 3 - 8 good ones. You can gradually increase the number you do and how long you hold for.
4. Stay hydrated, eat well and take rest when you can: Looking after and feeding a newborn is a big job, so simple nutrition, hydration and rest are really important.
5. Regular small short walks are suitable exercise in the hospital ward
6. Support your pelvic floor when you go to the toilet: Sit comfortably, relax and don't strain. You may find it more comfortable to use a maternity pad to support the front part of your pelvic floor when you are using your bowels.
7. Breastfeeding (if you can do it and want to) can help with the contraction of your uterus
8. Enjoy your baby and take the pressure off yourself - you are doing an amazing job looking after your baby and your recovery even if you don't think you are being productive
9. It is okay to set boundaries: Visitors are wonderful but can be very tiring, so it is okay to limit them or schedule times for no phone calls or visitors. It is also okay to get visitors to help out by doing things to help you out.