By: Dr. Kaitlyn Kakar
Your adorable bundle of joy is here (or soon to be), and you are now home getting adjusted to newborn life. With so much attention on the baby, we can’t forget that when a baby is born, a momma is also born. As a fellow mom and Doctor of Physical Therapy, I’m here to share with you my top 5 postpartum tips for healing & recovery. You deserve some special love and attention too!
POSTPARTUM TIP #1 BREATHE
Taking even 5 deep breaths can calm your nervous system and help you both physically & mentally. Besides the relaxation & calming effect of deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing can help you to reconnect to your core. Your core includes more than just your abdominal muscles. It’s your diaphragm (breathing muscle), transverse abdominis (deep abdominal muscle), the pelvic floor (the muscles that sit at the bottom of your pelvis), and your back muscles.
During pregnancy, your body experiences so many changes from postural changes, to hormonal changes, to changes in movement patterns. Our breathing pattern can even change since the diaphragm tends to get squished from the growing baby. Once baby is born, it’s important to relearn how to use the diaphragm to take full deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing is the perfect way to do this, so to learn more, check out this post.
By breathing in this manner, you can bring attention to each component of your core as you work to reconnect and retrain. Practicing 5-10 deep breaths prior to bed, will not only help you feel relaxed but will help you reconnect to these very important muscles.
POSTPARTUM TIP #2: REST (I’LL SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK..REST!)
I know what you are thinking, when am I supposed to rest with a newborn?! However, what I’m referring to isn’t sleep, but rest. The first six weeks postpartum should really be about resting, healing our bodies, and recovering from labor & delivery. We wouldn’t ask someone who just had knee surgery to visit family or host people in their homes. The same thoughtfulness and care should also be given to the new momma and family.
Why is rest so important? Resting will actually help you heal & recover quicker! Just like after surgery, we recommend resting to manage swelling, pain, and promote healing, these same principles are true postpartum. Resting, ice, compression, and elevating are all things to keep in mind during your recovery (more on this in a bit).
For the first 1-2 weeks, I generally recommend limiting long walks or prolonged periods of standing as this can put additional pressure on the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor has been through a lot during pregnancy as well as with labor & delivery (no matter how your baby was delivered) so it needs some special TLC.
A favorite resting position is laying on your back with knees bent with 1-2 pillows under your pelvis to elevate and take some pressure off your pelvic floor. You’ll love this one!
Give yourself permission to rest and focus on taking care of your body. Let this be your gentle reminder that it is okay to say no & put your needs first, along with your baby.
POSTPARTUM TIP #3: PROMOTE HEALING
In addition to resting, there are a few things you can do to promote healing of the tissues whether your baby was born vaginally or cesarean delivery.
EVERYONE should be mindful about how they go to the bathroom. (I know these are fun things to think about) I always recommend a stool or squatty potty to put your body in better alignment for a bowel movement. Avoid straining or holding your breath when you go (think exhale as you go). This will limit stress on those areas. Many women experience constipation & hemorrhoids postpartum so drinking plenty of water can help. To help you remember to drink more water, whenever baby has a feed, momma drinks her water.
If you delivered vaginally:
- Use an ICE pack for your perineum (area between vaginal & anal openings) 4x/day for 15 minutes for the first 1-3 weeks
- This significantly helps with pain & swelling especially if there was tearing
- Keep the area CLEAN & use a peri bottle with warm water to minimize irritation
- Tip: Keep a water bottle of warm water in your bathroom so it’s readily available to put in the peri bottle. I also recommend keeping a small basket of all your healing goodies in all your bathrooms so everything is ready for you.
- Quick flick CONTRACTION & RELAXATION of the muscles of the pelvic floor
- Helps with swelling, provides support, and re-educates this area (Let’s not go overboard with these, more is definitely not better)
- COMPRESSION leggings or long shorts: Make sure they are comfortable (not too tight) and go above the belly button, high waisted is the way to go
- Can provide additional support to the healing abdominal muscles
- Can expedite the healing process by decreasing inflammation & swelling
If you delivered by C-section:
- Momma, don’t forget, you just had major abdominal surgery
- The precautions given by your provider will ensure you heal & recover in the best way possible so make sure you follow those to prevent complications. (This is not meant to scare you but to inform and empower you!
- Give yourself patience and grace
- Listen to your body, it will guide you
- A sign that you might be doing too much is soreness on your incision
- Be mindful how you move
- Use your arms and legs to aid you in getting in/out of bed, up from a chair, or in/out of a car to put less stress through your abdomen
- When coughing, sneezing, or laughing, use a pillow to brace your abdomen
- This will give additional support to minimize the pressure going to the incision
- Can minimize pain
- Use this until soreness subsides
- Don’t forget about your pelvic floor. It needs some attention as well when it comes to recovery & reconnecting to those muscles
POSTPARTUM TIP #4 NOURISH
I mentioned hydration above, but here is your reminder again to stay hydrated. Ideally, you should be drinking your body weight divided by 2, and that is how many ounces of water you should drink daily. If you are hydrated, your urine should be a pale yellow. Proper hydration will help the tissues heal, aid in recovery, and also help with milk supply.
Besides hydration, well-rounded, nutritious meals and snacks will help restore depleted nutrients, promote tissue healing, and give your body the nutrients it needs to recover. Make sure to include all major food groups – protein, carbohydrates (including fruits & vegetables), and healthy fats.
Lastly, for this postpartum tip. don’t forget to CHEW your food, as this will further help in digestion & can help with constipation.
POSTPARTUM TIP #5 MOM MECHANICS
As your body recovers, let’s best support it by making sure your posture and the way you move don’t add any additional stress or strain to your body. Practicing good posture & body mechanics allows your joints & muscles to work effectively & efficiently as well as prevent the common aches/pains sometimes associated with motherhood – low back, neck, wrist pain, etc.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go about your day:
- Think tall – this will help you stand & sit more upright
Stack your rib cage over your pelvis.
- This is important due to the changes in the rib cage & alignment that can happen during pregnancy. We want to realign the rib cage over the pelvis so the core is able to activate properly. Also, important in healing Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation).
- Gentle chin tuck as you look down so not to place additional stress on the muscles of the back of the neck.
- Shoulder blade squeeze as you lift and carry for strong arms
- Bend your knees and hinge from the hips keeping your back straight as you bend down & pick up your baby to prevent back pain
These simple movements can make a massive difference when you do these tasks over & over again. Your body will thank you! However, if those aches and pains do creep up, don’t hesitate to reach out and get help. (I’m here for you)
BONUS POSTPARTUM TIP #6: SEE A PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPIST (AKA ME)
I recommend ALL postpartum mommas see a pelvic floor physical therapist. It might just be one visit or a few to get you on track & feeling your best. This is standard in most countries, and it should be here too. Most states are direct access meaning you can go directly to a physical therapist without needing a referral from your doctor! This is one of the reasons I started my business was to give access to all mommas everywhere through virtual consults! We look at posture, breathing, perform a movement screen, check flexibility, motion, strength, discuss healing, any aches/pains, sleep, recovery, and nutrition just to name a few things. It really is a holistic approach to healing, recovery, and reaching your goals. I would love to help you on your journey! Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, there you have it! 6 postpartum tips for healing and recovery! My hope is that you learned something and if you remember nothing else, you are doing a fantastic job!
Lastly, reach out and ask for help if you need anything…physically, mentally, or emotionally! There are so many people (including myself) who would be happy to help!
About the Author:
Dr. Kaitlyn Kakar is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a passion for treating pregnant & postpartum mommas. After becoming a momma, herself, she felt women needed more when it came to taking care of THEIR bodies. She is the founder & creator of Thriving Mommas which offers 1:1 virtual consults, educates mommas through the blog & Instagram page with helpful postpartum tips & tricks through all stages of pregnancy & postpartum. To learn more about Kaitlyn or to schedule a consult, visit www.thrivingmommas.com or follow her on Instagram @thriving.mommas.