Your little bundle of joy is finally here. You. Did. It! After all those months of being pregnant and growing another life inside your body, you went through labor and brought another human into this world. So now what?! Your body looks and feels different than ever before and requires different care, too. Here’s how to take care of that amazing new body of yours, mama.
In our latest podcast episode, From Pregnancy to Beyond, we talked to midwife Cassie Kurtz about caring for women from pregnancy to delivery and postpartum. She started her career as an RN in labor and delivery but later went to midwifery school to specialize further. So we wanted to know: how can women take care of their own health after delivering a baby?
Speak up if you feel sad
A lot of women go through feelings of postpartum sadness or depression. You may be tempted just to brush it off and chalk it up to having “the baby blues” or being overly tired. This can both be true, but that doesn’t mean you need to just suffer through it. “Many moms will think this is normal that I feel sad, or this is normal that I do not want to spend time with my baby, and it's not. And it's not your fault that you feel that way; your hormones just jumped off a cliff.” Your provider is there to help and has a number of resources available to get you to a better place. Your provider might try “medication for a little while to just get hormones balanced, serotonin balanced, or even just some therapy.”
Postpartum hormones, lack of sleep, major life changes, AND possible birth trauma, if the birth didn’t go how you imagined, can all pile on, making you feel like everything will fall apart fast. Don’t neglect your mental health. “[some women] come out with a small amount of birth trauma because they didn’t get the birth that they thought they were going to have. It's that mom who wanted the natural birth who had an epidural, or the mom who thought she was going to have a vaginal birth and ended up in a C-section, and now she feels like less of a woman because she had a cesarean, which is not true, you are still giving birth. You are still a mother, you're just giving birth in a different manner.” Seek out someone to talk to, whether it’s another mom, friend, family member, your healthcare provider, or a mom's group. You aren’t alone.
Allow your body to heal
If there was ever a time to really lean into that self-care thing, it’s now. Cassie adds that “it takes a full six weeks for your body and your uterus to heal. You've just been through a huge, life-changing process, and you have to respect and listen to your body.” It can be tempting to want to be up and about because while you’re trapped at home, it’s not like you’re actually ill, so it’s easy to get tempted to do everything. But you must still treat your body as healing from a major event. For example, “Say you're going stir crazy, and you clean your whole house on day six, and now you're having some heavy bleeding again; you need to put your feet up, take a bath and rest, drink some water.” As we said, put your feet up, grab a book or turn on Netflix, or better yet, take a nap—midwife’s orders.
Add some movement
After the first two weeks, start incorporating light movement. Load up the stroller and take a short walk around the block if you can. Or hand off the baby and take a walk by yourself for 15 minutes. Listen to your body, and don’t push yourself beyond what you feel comfortable. Think walks, gentle stretches, and light yoga. Bonus: plan walks with a friend or uses that time to call your mom since those first few weeks with a baby can feel pretty isolating and lonely.
Work that pelvic floor
“One of the biggest things that I feel like I've found is helpful for women in that fourth trimester is to really think about your pelvic floor; when you grow a baby, and your whole abdomen stretches, it takes months for you to get that core strength back, that muscle strength back, and that strength goes all the way from the top of your belly, all the way down through your rectum.” She recommends looking up different pelvic floor exercises you can do daily or asking your provider for their recommendation. There are also pelvic floor physical therapists that can help if you’re having issues with incontinence post-baby. Check out our podcast series on all things pelvic floor with Dr. Angela Turnow.
Be kind to yourself
You might bounce back to your pre-pregnancy weight, or you might not. Cassie and most OBs agree that most women carry an extra five pounds after each baby. But the most important thing is to give yourself some grace during the postpartum period. You’re healing, and if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need those extra calories to keep up a good milk supply. Your body will feel different for a while, and it might be softer in places now where it was firm before. Now isn’t the time for diets or restrictions. Give yourself some grace.
“But you know what, just love your body; you just grew a whole human being; you just did something totally miraculous. And just know that whatever your body comes back down to, it was all for a purpose.”