Core restore, nutrition, cardiovascular fitness, strength and emotional wellbeing. These things are crucial to mums in the postnatal period. Postnatal recovery is not just about the physical recovery. Having a baby is a huge event and it affects so many body systems, it alters our mood and the way we feel about things too.
When we think about core restore what does that mean exactly? There are four muscles in our core and they all work together. These muscles come on in anticipation of movement. These muscles are your diaphragm, multifidus (deep back muscle), transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor.
Things that impact on whether we can connect with our core muscles are our alignment and our posture. The way we breathe will affect our core connections. Any trauma sustained during pregnancy and delivery to our pelvic floor and ligaments may affect our continence and our ability to connect. Was there any abdominal muscle separation during pregnancy? All these things need assessing.
Once these have been assessed sometimes referral to a physio is needed before you can start to exercise again. There will be some muscles that are tight that will need releasing and others that will need strengthening again. All this takes time but is so important.
I think years ago women gave birth to babies and that was it. No recovery exercise, no pelvic floor exercises, and on they went year after year just popping babies into the world. Back then many women would have suffered with prolapse and incontinence and would have keep these issues to themselves. I believe women nowadays are becoming more open about these topics.
If we don’t strengthen after having a baby we put ourselves at risk of injury. These injuries could be from lifting incorrectly due to poor movement patterns, a weak core or just lack of body strength.
Then there are the not-so-nice effects of not strengthening our core and especially our pelvic floor. These can be stress incontinence from lack of strength in our pelvic floor or prolapse of internal organs (prolapse meaning falling out of place ).
Cardiovascular fitness is a very important part of postnatal recovery. The fitter we are the easier it is to handle things. That’s why it is important to be as fit as you can before you have a baby. If you are fit you cope better with the lack of sleep and the physical demands of motherhood. You will ward off more illnesses and you will feel better, mentally and emotionally.
Getting out for a walk everyday and getting in touch with nature will boost your mood and lift your spirits. To increase your fitness go for a slightly longer walk everyday or add in some hills.
What we eat has a huge bearing on our recovery. There are some great foods out there that can help to heal your body after you have given birth. I am not just talking about women who have had traumatic vaginal birth or caesarean. Any women who has carried a baby and birthed will have stretched tissues that need the right nutrition to heal.
Some good food choices are protein to repair muscles, tendons and ligaments that have been stretched. Fruits and vegetables that are red coloured have very good healing properties like berries, red cabbage, red capsicum, and aubergines. Green veggies are rich in vitamins and nutrients that help healing. Drinking plenty of water is so important too.
Some things that will distract the body from healing are lack of sleep, anaemia, diabetes, sugar, smoking, over-taxed liver and alcohol consumption. These things have a detrimental effect on your ability to regenerate tissue, heal and return to optimal health. (Note 1)
You are not super women. Ask for help. Pull all your resources and do what ever you can to look after your self. You will need to rest and put your feet up.
You are important and you have a massive job to undertake and you are still healing and recovering. This can take the best part of a year, so be informed and be kind to yourself.
Note (1): Information from Burrell Education