Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’re likely expecting to meet your baby soon, have just given birth, or know someone who is in one of those two stages of life.
Here are some suggestions for navigating the first few postpartum weeks:
1. Sleep at EVERY opportunity:
Though your sleep will not be one long stretch like it was pre-pregnancy, getting enough total sleep in every 24 hour period will help your body heal and has been shown to be protective against postpartum mood disorders.
2. Keep using pillows for comfort when sleeping:
Using pillows between your knees, in front of your chest under your top arm, and/or behind your back for support when side sleeping can help support you so you can make the most of your sleeping time
3. Move your body as if you’re still pregnant:
Your body changed a lot in the past 9 months and it will take more than a few days for your abdominal, back, and pelvic floor muscles to recover from the full stretch of pregnancy which means it’s still a good idea to roll to one side to get in and out of bed, to keep your knees together when getting in and out of the car, and scoot to the front of the chair when rising to stand
4. Spend the first few days in and around your bed:
For real, for the first 5-7 days get up only to eat or visit the bathroom. Then gradually increase your activity in your home. If your postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia, increases or becomes more red, that’s a sign you need to slow down.
5. Prepare for first postpartum bowel movement:
The digestive system goes through its own changes before and during labor, so the first time you need to poop after having your baby can be uncomfortable. You can make it easier by:
- drinking lots of water
- eating good, healthy foods (including high fiber options like oatmeal, chia and flax)
- taking a stool softener if prescribed by your care provider
- heading for the bathroom when you have the urge
- sitting on the toilet with your feet up on a stool so that your knees are higher than your hips
- breathing from your ribs and abdomen to relax your pelvic floor
- allowing yourself 3-5 minutes to take care of your bathroom business and returning later with the next urge to empty your bowels if you don’t get results the first time
Yes, you’re always breathing and that’s definitely important. Try 1-3 minutes of slow breathing from your ribs and abdomen (not your chest and shoulders). Watch your baby’s breathing pattern and see if you can match it.
7. Gentle Kegels:
If you already know how to contract your pelvic floor muscles, you know what this means. If you’re not sure, when you’re sitting up, imagine the muscles between the bones you’re sitting on gently closing all the openings in your pelvis. No gripping and no pain, though!
8. Posture matters:
Of course you’re learning how to dress, change, and feed your brand new little one, and you want to protect the newest member of your family. Since you’ll be doing these same things over and over again, start off by thinking about your own posture. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but a good guideline is to bring the baby to you instead of leaning over to the baby. Being aware of your position and making adjustments can help keep you comfortable.
9. Shower every day (most days):
Right after the baby is born, most practitioners will advise against soaking in the tub, but taking even a short shower most days will help relax your recovering body and give you a few minutes to yourself. Another option is to keep a favorite hand lotion out where you’ll see it and try to use some every day.
10. Consider disposable briefs:
You might not expect a pelvic PT to recommend disposable incontinence briefs, but these can be more comfortable and less messy than wearing a pad in your regular or maternity underwear. There are lots of styles available from Always, Depends, Solimo, and Rael, made with organic cotton. (Hint: These can also be good in early labor if you’re reading this before your birth.)
If you have more questions about Post-Partum care, reach out to us and schedule an appointment with one our pelvic floor physical therapists!
We would love to help you.