Why Postpartum Care is Critical in the 4th Trimester
In Asia, most of us have been through the 30-day confinement practice where we are recommended not to leave home, shower or drink cold beverages (amongst other restrictions). After the final gynaecological check-up at about six weeks post-delivery, we are generally left to our own devices when it comes to postpartum care. Most postpartum literature out there focuses on how you should take care of your newborn, recreate the womb environment, and help them hit their milestones. But what about the mama and her personal well-being? That often takes a lower priority, but it shouldn't be the case.
It's your body, but it's not quite the same
During pregnancy, your six-pack muscles and internal organs part to make way for the growing uterus, and for some women, the gap does not close fully after that, resulting in a condition called diastasis recti. Some women also experience other postpartum complications such as incontinence and constipation - debilitating conditions that affect one's quality of life.
You took 40 weeks to grow a little human inside you, so be kind to yourself and don't expect an overnight change right after childbirth. This is especially so if you have had complications during or after delivery; and if you had a C-section - that's seven layers they had to cut through to extract your baby.
Between breastfeeding every two hours, to disrupted sleep 24/7, the postpartum state can take a toll on your body. This is where eating well comes into play. Having balanced meals with fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fluids will help nourish your tired body, and also help fuel your milk supply. Well-fed baby, happy mama!
Moving well can help to ease the postpartum blues
Right after your natural or C-section delivery, you are encouraged to get off the hospital bed to move around. This helps with reducing the risk of blood clots, increasing blood flow to your body where needed, and thus helps to expedite your recovery.
This focus on movement (and improving your blood circulation) should continue after your discharge, and well into the fourth trimester. You are bruised and battered down there, and depending on your condition, might take anything from four weeks to eight weeks for recovery. As a guide, mamas with an uncomplicated natural delivery can ease back into exercise about four weeks after; and mamas with C-section deliveries will need to wait it out a little longer for about six to eight weeks. Important: always get the green light from your gynaecologist before you return to exercise.
According to University Utah Health, about 70 percent of women have the baby blues in the first couple of weeks after childbirth, and about five percent of women will develop postpartum depression. Exercising releases endorphins (our feel-good hormones), and heading outdoors to get some sun increases your Vitamin D levels - both of which will help in coping with the baby blues.
Taking care of yourself ensures that you, can be a better caretaker
There is a reason why in airline safety videos, the adults put on the oxygen mask first, before assisting the child. Likewise, if you are not in a good place physically and mentally, you will not be able to anticipate the needs of your child and be a good caretaker.
Self-care might feel like an indulgence, but it is actually a necessity.
I recall that in the early days after my hospital discharge, I had difficulty in rolling out of bed for the night feeds. That was when I realised that after the 40 weeks of pregnancy, I had little core strength to speak of. I subsequently also checked myself for diastasis recti (see image below), and found a gap of three fingers' width. It was a sobering moment to find myself back at square one, and I had to take extra care with the functional exercises I slowly eased myself back into.
I'm glad to say that I've since rebuilt my strength gradually, and also managed my diastasis recti by fully restoring its function. Being stronger also helps me in the day-to-day activities of carrying, lifting my baby, as well as pinning him down for diaper changes. Fellow mamas will know how wriggly and quick they get, as they grow! :)
I specialize in working with prenatal and postnatal mamas, and the creation of Get Strong, New Mama was inspired by my personal postpartum experience, and the realisation that self-care is vital to the physical and mental well-being of a new mother.
Served online in an engaging audiovisual format, mamas can learn all about safely easing themselves back into exercise, through re-connecting to their core and pelvic floor; and functional training that will help them with lifting and carrying their growing baby day in and out.
Most importantly, learn all about how to check yourself for diastasis recti, and the kind of safe exercises that you can try in each phase of recovery.
To cater to time-strapped mamas, I've created snack-sized videos and tips which mamas can try whenever they have 10 to 15 minutes to spare, in between their baby's milk feeds and naps. These little pockets of me-time will add up, from 30 mins every day, to over three hours in a week - the same routine helped me shed the 17kg I put on, by the end of my maternity leave.
Check out Get Strong, New Mama here.