The Untold Stories of our Postpartum Body
The postpartum accidents no one talks about, and how to avoid them
After giving birth, and spending the first few weeks walking up and down our little town, pushing a pram, praying for my little one to have a decent nap, I was looking forward to being able to get back to exercising and have some time only for myself. I saw my husband coming back home energised and sweaty after a long run under the scorching weather, and I envied that feeling of power, and freedom that runs through his body. I simply wanted to feel the same way.
After the 6th week check-up, and after finding out that I was healing fine, I decided to put my gym shoes on and go back to moving my body, following all the pre-pregnancy videos I used to enjoy. It didn’t take me long to understand my body had changed completely.
The muscles that once adorned my legs were completely gone, leaving a trail of saggy and wobbly skin. My core was non-existent and the lungs still didn’t know how to go back and breathe as they used to. During that first gym cardio session I still powered through, as I was adamant to log in a good and sweaty workout (also, I didn’t know any better), and between a jump squat and a jumping jack, I felt something warm and moist between my legs.
It is embarrassing to admit that I had peed myself. Not enough to run to the toilet, but still enough to have to change my panties and to hide in embarrassment in my own home; what the hell was happening to me?
I quickly realised that leaking after giving birth is pretty common, it can be avoided, and it certainly needs some extra work to make sure it doesn’t happen in the long term.
It is still burnt in my mind what the physio told me that week “Lots of women suffer from “leaking “ when they approach an older age, simply because no one taught them how to take care of their pelvic area after birthing their babies.”
This is why I’m here telling you to:
Make an appointment with a specialist
I highly recommend seeing a women’s health physician 6–8 weeks after giving birth. They will normally do an internal and external examination, and they will be able to grade your Diastasis Recti, as much as they will let you know if there is a prolapse that needs to be taken care of. The visit in itself it’s not all color and rainbow, and a woman can feel quite nervous to undress again in front of a stranger only a few weeks after giving birth. Having said that, these types of physicians are specialised to work with postpartum women and they can be gold to speed up the healing process, as they can ask you to investigate the situation further, or they will write up a program to follow until the next visit.
Do your exercises
I always recommend kegels to prenatal and postpartum women; it is true that you can end up doing too many kegels and strengthen your pelvic area too much, but it isn’t the concern of this article. I find that way too many women don’t take their exercises seriously and end up with major problems especially after having the second child.
It is also important to follow an individualised recovery program to strengthen your core (without crunches), avoid straining your stretched out hips and taxed lower back while strengthening and stretching the upper back and shoulder (which will be required to work extra hard during the breastfeeding process).
Wear a panty liner
The first months are the toughest, and it’s always better to wear a panty liner, to avoid embarrassing moments that can lead to the avoidance of a specific situation. If you don’t want to wear them all the time, just put them on before a class; by wearing them, you will also notice if your pelvic area is improving, as they will move from being quite full in the beginning to be only a touch wet few months down the track.
Go slowly back to movement
I was basically hiking up and down the area where I live only a week after giving birth. I was squatting and jumping jacking at the fourth week’s mark. Massive mistake, and if I could go back I would take so much more care of my precious pelvic area. I ended up having to stop and start again, as my poor body wasn’t handling the sudden extra pressure very well. Moreover, my breast tissue and milk supply disagreed entirely with the idea of going back to running and jumping in such a short period of time. Although all bodies are different, it is necessary to tune in with what would be really beneficial for you, without listening too much to your rational brain, or outside messages.
Build your muscles back with food and rest
Strengthen your pelvic area with the appropriate exercises is of the uttermost importance, but it’s also fundamental to nourish your body with high-quality protein and wholesome foods to give it a chance to heal and refuel. In this type of situation, rest is understated; if we want our body to thrive, grow, and improve, we need to give it a chance to simply rest and relax. These means taking enough days off to simply be, to get a massage on a monthly (or weekly?) basis, and to stretch as much as possible between sessions or at night before going to sleep.