Having a baby is a major life changing experience, and even after their six-week GP check many women still have unanswered questions.
Camilla Lawrence, Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Six Physio shares her expert advice with us on how women can safely and quickly get their body back to feeling great!
The 10 things you need to know which will transform your postnatal experience:
- Getting assessed by an expert will enhance your entire postnatal experience – a full assessment of your back and pelvis, posture, and pelvic floor and abdominal muscle function will identify areas, which are recovering, and areas of weakness or tension. These areas all affect your sleep quality, bonding with your baby, sexual function and getting back to normal levels of activity exercise postpartum.
- 30% of women have ongoing urinary incontinence post pregnancy – and 50% have some form of prolapse after childbirth. This is caused by weakness or tension in the pelvic floor muscles from pregnancy and child birth. However the good news is that this can be treated!
- 40-60% of postpartum women complain of ongoing back and pelvic pain following pregnancy – whilst common, this pain should never be seen as ‘normal’. If your pain is not settling by itself within one week if giving birth then seek a specialist therapist for treatment.
- 30% of women who try to contract their pelvic floor muscles, do so incorrectly – common mistakes include tensing the buttocks and thighs, instead of the pelvic floor muscles, and breath holding. At best this will mean your pelvic floor strength won’t improve, at worst it could mean that you could actually be straining and weakening your pelvic floor further. Seek instruction from an expert to ensure you know how to do the exercises properly.
- It’s not just muscle weakness – In some women, the pelvic floor also becomes ‘overactive’ or over-tense (like a muscle spasm). Kegal pelvic floor exercises for these women can actually be detrimental and worsen the spasm, causing symptoms of pain, urgency and difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels. This is why it’s so important to seek instruction from an expert.
- Be smart when loving your new baby – simple actions such as feeding, changing, bathing and soothing your baby can all put unwelcome pressure on your back and pelvis. A few top tips – try not to lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks, think about keeping your tummy muscles gently engaged and your pelvis directly under your shoulders when soothing your baby.
- When to have sex again – the big question! It is important to remember that everyone is different and there’s no normal time when you should aim to have sex by. A survey has shown that 29% of women had resumed sex within a month of their baby’s birth, and almost 60% within eight weeks. This left 40% who took longer, 3% of them took over a year. The most important thing is to wait until you are physically and emotionally ready.
- Hormones during pregnancy and breast feeding may put you at increased risk of injury – the hormone Relaxin increases the flexibility of your soft tissues and joints and can remain in the body for up to six months after delivery, making you prone to joint strains or sprains. The hormones produced when breast feeding can also have an effect on your soft tissues which is why it is important to really build up your muscle strength and core stability before you return to impact exercise.
- Start with low impact exercise – This will address the areas that you will be weak in such as core, back and glutes. Try to leave six weeks after your delivery (or up to eight weeks after a C-section) before starting low-impact cardio such as swimming or a cross trainer. Accompany exercise with core- strengthening and conditioning work such as postnatal Pilates and light weights.
- You can go back to being a gym-bunny – but first optimise your core strength and control before re-starting high-impact exercise, such as jogging, running, aerobics, and team sports. Ensure you are pain free before gradually getting back to this around three months postpartum.