Now That Baby is Here:
Basics of Postpartum Care to Feel and Function Better
So now that your baby is here you probably feel like you can finally have your body back and start feeling fit and energetic again. Well, sometimes it is not that easy. For a lot of women, the next year can be a struggle. Not only figuring out how to care for another tiny human, but also in figuring out how to feel healthy again. This article will give you some advice to help you feel the way you want to feel, faster. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery can put your body through a lot of stress, physically, emotionally, and chemically. Now that you can hold your beautiful new baby, all of your attention is now focused on what he or she needs at every moment. However, some attention should be placed back on you and how you can heal and function your best in this fourth trimester.
Immediately after giving birth should be a time of rest and cuddles with baby. For the first few weeks after birth the wound from your placenta detaching is still healing (up to 4-6 weeks) and your organs are figuring out how to position themselves properly in your abdominal cavity again. Your body needs rest, hydration and nutrients for this to occur optimally. However, there are things you can do while you are allowing yourself to heal.
Chiropractic adjustments are the best way to get your body back in balance and help improve function quickly. You still have the hormone relaxin in your system for about nine months to one-year postpartum. This hormone is what allowed your ligaments to loosen in preparation for birth so your pelvis and sacrum could open up during delivery. Therefore, your ligaments and joints are not as stable for about a year after giving birth. This makes it easier to become misaligned. These misalignments then interfere with your nervous system function so you are not able to function optimally. You may develop symptoms like pain, muscle tightness or weakness or a number of other things. Getting your body aligned with regular chiropractic adjustments will help your body to function better, and will prevent or relieve common pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders that develops from nursing and carrying around a baby all day. Your muscles will also be able to engage properly so you can begin to rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor muscles.
Muscle imbalance and weakness after birth is present in all women. At some point during the third trimester of pregnancy all women develop some degree of diastasis recti. This is a separation in the abdominal tissue that weakens the core and causes pelvic floor dysfunction along with a number of other symptoms such as low back and pelvic pain and possibly digestive issues. I have a previous blog post just on diastasis recti if you would like more information on this (here). Exercise to heal your diastasis can begin as early as one to three weeks postpartum. I talk about some of these exercises in my previous blog post (active sitting, active standing, squats, bridge, etc). Healing your diastasis and reestablishing proper core function will help reestablish proper pelvic floor function as well. You can not have proper pelvic floor function without a properly functioning core. That is why it is so important to focus on only performing tummy safe activities to heal your diastasis quickly.
However, just healing your core may not be all you need for proper pelvic floor function. Often times scar tissue develops, especially if there was a tear during delivery. There could be damage to the musculature or nervous system so the musculature does not engage or activate the way that it should, which may result in prolapse or incontinence. Again, it is important to have your pelvis aligned by a chiropractic adjustment. During labor your pelvis opens and the ischium (your sit bones) separate and open up to allow for the baby to descend through the pelvis. Sometimes they do not come back together the way they should. This position can put an abnormal stretch on the pelvic floor muscles so that they have difficulty activating and maintaining proper tone. Once the pelvis is properly aligned, it is a good idea to see a female pelvic floor physical therapist. She can help release any scar tissue and relieve any tightness or muscle imbalance. She will also be able to work with you to reactivate all of your pelvic floor muscles and give you exercises to build back strength and proper function.
Just like during your pregnancy, the nutrition you provide your body is extremely important. Make sure that you are following your provider’s recommendation for supplements based on your specific needs. There are, however, general supplements that everyone should consider including in their regimen.
Collagen Peptides are a good way to get a full spectrum of amino acids that will help heal tissue and support joints, muscles, skin, digestion. Collagen Peptides are a bit more convenient than gelatin because they can be mixed in to any drink at room temperature and does not require hot liquid like gelatin. Vital Proteins is a good brand that is now sold at Sprouts, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers.
Probiotics are important to help break down foods. Taking probiotics not only improves your digestive health but will help establish good digestive health for your baby. Probiotics help brain function, immune function and can help decrease inflammation. I recommend to my clients that they take a supplement with at least five different strains of bacteria and at least 15 billion active populations.
Along with this I also recommend a digestive enzymes supplement to help break down foods more completely which may help prevent your newborn form developing colic or gassiness. If you are not breaking down your food, those larger food molecules are then ending up in your milk supply and make it harder for your baby to digest.
Fish Oil (omega-3)
Your baby is also still forming most of his or her nervous system (80% is created in the first two years of life). So it is important that you take a fish oil or omega-3 supplement to provide enough good fats to promote optimal nervous system development. Fish oil will also help your brain and nervous system function as well as decreasing overall inflammation levels.
Many women have difficulty emotionally after giving birth. Whether it is the baby blues or depression or anxiety, many women need support. It is important for you, your friends, and family to be able to spot signs that you need support or help. It can be hard while you are in a certain mental state to identify what is happening, but even just having enough awareness that something is not right can lead to you reaching out for the help that you need and deserve. There are professionals that can help such as a postpartum doula or a counselor or therapist that specializes in postpartum anxiety and depression. Medications are an available option that should not be looked down upon or judged. Sometimes those temporary solutions are necessary.
There are supplements and natural means to help improve postpartum anxiety or depression. GLA is a supplement that I have seen help in a lot of cases for anxiety and depression. Fish oil and probiotics have been shown to help as well. Essential oils can boost mood and help emotional health. Young Living has a wide range of essential oil blends such as Joy or Stress Away that help support emotional health. Frankincense is a single oil that works directly on the brain and can have an uplifting and calming effect. CBD oil has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise, sunlight, and fresh air also can have a big positive impact on mood and emotional health.
Newborns require a lot of attention and are completely dependent on you to provide for every need. However, it is vital to make sure that your physical, nutritional, and emotional needs are being met as well.