Your body went through a great deal of changes during pregnancy and childbirth. Remember that your new life arrangement should also include personal time and self-care. Physiotherapist Triin Jeršov from East-Tallinn Central Hospital is specialised in postpartum recovery and has some advice on how to protect your body.
After childbirth, mothers usually focus all their attention on attending to their newborn and forget their own needs. However, it is very important to allow your body to rest at this time and follow everyday ergonomics to facilitate normal recovery.
Women’s bodies naturally recover within 6-8 weeks after childbirth. Physical exercise is not recommended during this time because your muscles will not be prepared for it. However, you will be able to gradually restore your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and slowly introduce short walks. Be sure to listen to your body and allow it to rest.
When turning in bed, bend your knees one by one while supporting your belly with your hands. Roll your shoulders, hips and knees to the side at the same time to avoid twisting your core.
When going to bed, sit on the edge of the bed and support both hands on one side of the bed. Slowly lower yourself onto the side leaning on the elbow and then on the shoulder. Lift both legs on the bed and roll onto your back.
To get out of bed, bend your knees while lying on your back and roll onto your side. Use your elbow and arm to push yourself up and swing your legs down over the side of the bed.
Women tend to favour one hand over the other when carrying their baby, but this causes excess stress for the muscles on one side of the body. When carrying your baby, constantly change sides and body positions. Switch between your right and left shoulder when burping your baby. The same applies to washing your baby – use your right and left hand intermittently to support the baby.
Remember ergonomics when lifting the baby. (Julia-Maria Linna)
During your first postpartum months, avoid lifting heavy items and do not carry anything that weighs more than your baby. During the first three weeks, be sure to avoid lifting your baby in a car seat, as it places strain on the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. When lifting, keep the item close to your core and keep your back in a straight line – lift through your legs.
Lower yourself down to your knees when changing your baby on the bed. (Julia-Maria Linna)
Avoid doing things that require being bent over for a long period of time to let your back rest. Make sure the tub is at a suitable height when bathing your baby. Make sure the changing table is at hip level. When changing your baby at a lower level on the bed, it is best to get on your knees.
It is recommended to breastfeed while on one side, especially during the first three weeks, to give yourself and your muscles some rest. If perineal tears make sitting up uncomfortable, it is better to rest while lying down. If possible, try to get some sleep while the baby is sleeping – this will allow your body to recover in peace.
When lying on your back, place a pillow under your knees to relax your back muscles.
When lying on your side, place a pillow between your knees to relax your back muscles. When you are breastfeeding, you may also lie on your side next to your baby.
When breastfeeding while sitting up, use pillows to support your lower back and the baby. (Julia-Maria Linna)
When breastfeeding while sitting up, use pillows to support your lower back. Support the baby with pillows when breastfeeding to keep them level with the breast and prevent the need to lean forward. It also makes it more comfortable for the baby to latch on.
Drink at least 2-3 litres of fluids per day and go to the toilet every 2-3 hours for bladder function to return to normal. This helps prevent the bladder from becoming over-distended, as the bladder may fill faster after pregnancy. It may take some time for normal bladder sensations to return. When sitting on the toilet seat, place your feet firmly on the ground to relax your pelvic floor muscles.
For bowel function to return to normal, go to the toilet when you feel the urge. You should never postpone a visit to the toilet. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid semi-finished products. Avoid constipation and strong pressure on the pelvic floor. When on the toilet, rest your feet on a small stool, support your arms or elbows on your thighs and relax your abdominal muscles.
After childbirth, it is recommended to wear a postpartum belly wrap every day for the first 6-8 weeks. Abdominal support helps maintain correct posture and reduce discomfort in the abdomen and lower back. Do not forget to exercise and follow the principles of ergonomics.
After childbirth, start with easier pelvic thrusts and exercises that help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Light exercising helps improve circulation and reduce swelling. You are also ready to tighten your abdominal muscles when in a resting position and practice belly breathing.
Work gradually to recover your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Postpartum recovery is highly individual, but it usually takes about 3-6 months before you are ready to return to your regular exercise regimen.
Walk a lot to increase your endurance. Start with a short distance in the first week (10 minutes) and gradually increase it according to your comfort level.
Listen to your body and do not overdo it. After all, your body experiences childbirth as trauma and needs to recover little by little.