The majority of women will end up giving birth at some point in their life. Because pregnancy and delivery are so common, they aren’t often thought of as an extraordinary experience or accomplishment. Birthing a baby is a major physical event. With this awesome experience comes challenges and changes and the extent of these are directly impacted by the woman’s lifestyle choices and self-care routine. After delivery, there is a period of recovery that should include rest and strengthening of stretched and damaged muscles and connective tissue.
If a new mom neglects caring for her body (although easily argued that she can’t or doesn’t have time), this can create muscle imbalances, issues with incontinence, weakness, compensation patterns, pain, and other issues. You may be surprised to learn that once a woman has given birth to a child, she is forever considered postnatal. This is not merely to throw a label on her, but instead illustrates the physical impact having a baby plays on her physiology. It is no secret that many women feel they can’t and probably won’t ever have their pre-baby body back but, to me, that is laying down and surrendering to an idea that has been perpetuated through generations based on a lack of information surrounding pregnant women and recovery from childbirth.
There is no doubt that a woman sacrifices a lot for her child, but her body doesn’t have to be one of those things. Through strengthening exercises, good nutrition, stress management, and adequate sleep during and after pregnancy, a woman has more control over her immediate and long term recovery. Passively waiting and hoping is not an effective strategy and often can increase instances and severity of postpartum depression as well as physical complications.
Many women are unaware that they may begin doing light exercises immediately after delivering their baby. By this, I do not mean traditional gym exercises. Kegels, for instance, are exercises you can do in your hospital bed without anyone even knowing you’re doing them. They increase blood circulation to those traumatized muscles of the pelvic floor which can help reduce swelling. Slowly, you can and should increase your level of activity. With that said, if you experience pain, incontinence, bleeding, or pelvic organ prolapse, know that while common, this is not normal. You should not continue to exercise in the same manner if you experience these symptoms and should speak with a trusted, licensed professional. The good news is that many of these symptoms can be treated and cured.
Women no longer have to suffer is silence. Make your postnatal physique your ideal body, one you feel great in. Maintain your fitness throughout your pregnancy and postnatal period, especially if you know you want more children. Pregnant women have access to more knowledge and resources than before. This is empowering and exciting and can change future generations of health.