One of the coolest parts of motherhood is observing the changes that happen in your child as s/he grows. But guess who else is changing? You. Countless transitions occur in your own body as you move from months of being a human incubator to recovery and beyond. Just as you carefully guide your child’s development, it’s important to offer yourself extra attention as you navigate postpartum life.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- The hormones that wreak havoc on your body during pregnancy don’t magically disappear after delivery! Be aware that the ligament laxity of pregnancy continues, especially if you’re breastfeeding. This can impact your pelvis, SI joints, and back, causing pain and instability as you lift a carseat, reach into the crib, and get down on the floor to change a diaper. Without proper alignment and muscle strengthening, problems often arise. Flat arches? Yep, you can expect this to continue thanks in part to pregnancy hormones. Properly strengthening the feet is essential to support your body in your breastfeeding days. And, please! If you go running or try plyometrics too soon and it doesn’t feel good, stop! Work on your body’s foundational support first to prevent injury so you can run and jump safely.
- Kegels are NOT the be-all, end-all to pelvic floor recovery. In fact, too much Kegeling can actually lead to pelvic floor issues like leaking. By holding a Kegel for extended periods or over contracting the pelvic floor, these muscles are unable to lengthen and do their job appropriately when the, ahem, pressure’s on (ex: when sneezing or lifting your baby). Yikes! For prolapse, don’t count on Kegels to hold it all in. There’s more to be done, like pressure management, abdominal recruitment, and breathing strategies. And did you know that problems from a weak pelvic floor can mimic some of the same problems as an overused, tight pelvic floor? (Gasp!) Find a qualified pelvic floor physical therapist to help you determine what’s really going on and guide your recovery. Don’t know where to look? Ask a trusted friend or OBGYN for a recommendation.
- STOP THE POTTY SQUAT! Ladies, believe me, I know that motherhood will take you places you never DREAMED you’d go. The nastiest gas station bathroom, you’ll be there. You may actually have to use the facilities along with your potty training child. I get it: the last thing you want is to sit on that potty. But squatting to pee actually harms your pelvic floor! When you squat, your pelvic floor doesn’t completely relax. And when you pee, you need it to relax so that the bladder can empty fully. Urine remaining in your bladder increases your risk of infection and/or leaking with exercise, coughing, or sneezing. Instead, wipe that seat down and have a seat. I know: gross. But in my opinion, leaking and infections are worse. Go for pelvic floor safety!
- Postpartum is forever! (Sniff) As your kiddos grow and grow up, your body will change as will your activities. In your immediate post-delivery days, you’ll probably go for walks. But later you may try running, mommy boot camp, lifting weights, or even HIIT. Diastasis, SI joint problems, leaks, low back pain, etc. that began during or after pregnancy don’t just disappear. And fitness demands may make them worse. It’s not uncommon for women six or 16 years after their last child to still be experiencing leaks. So take care of you, starting day one! Find a qualified trainer or physical therapist to help you with any pain or pelvic floor issues. With careful guidance, s/he can get your muscles balanced, your alignment improved, your breathing patterns deeper and more expansive, and movement patterns safer to help you are at your best and can prevent issues from arising down the road.
With these tips in mind, I hope you feel empowered! But if you find you need a little help, don’t be embarrassed! Postpartum pelvic floor, hip, and SI joint issues are super common and very treatable. Knowing how to care for yourself as you care for others will keep you safe and happy for years to come.
Ashley Prulliere is a mom with two active boys, ages 6 and 9. She is a physical therapist and enjoys practicing and teaching Pilates in Webster Groves and Maplewood. Originally from MS, she and her husband have lived here, there, and everywhere in the US but now call St. Louis “home.” She loves running, doing HIIT workouts, and spending time at her kids’ soccer games on the weekends. She is a coffee drinker, enjoys an occasional glass of wine, and likes yogurt covered pretzel (in cinnamon and chocolate).