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Postpartum Tips: Surviving the 4th Trimester

Congratulations! You’re now finally able to hold your precious little human in your arms! As a new mom, I myself was not quite prepared for the physical marathon of healing known as the fourth trimester. While preparing for the birth of my second child, now armed with the wisdom of hindsight and the training of a pelvic health professional, I feel inclined to share a few tips that might help make the postpartum process just a little bit easier. As a new mom, you may only see your healthcare provider once or twice in the next couple of months. With very few postpartum appointments and the backdrop of managing life with your new child, it’s easy to put your own health on the back-burner in those first 3 months. Read these top postpartum tips provided by a pelvic floor therapist herself.

3 Helpful Tips for the First 3 Months:
  1. Breathe. Seems too easy, right? Breathing is an excellent way to check in with yourself and regulate your emotional state. It’s also a great first step in reconnecting with your deep core muscles. The baby can take up so much space in the third trimester that your body can be forced to change its regular breathing pattern, and your abs can be stretched to the max. The diaphragm, abdominals, and pelvic floor muscles inherently move together. By practicing diaphragmatic breathing, you are also getting gentle movement of those abdominal and pelvic floor muscles that cradled your baby in utero for so long. Focus on taking breaths that expand your ribcage and belly while your belly is relaxed.
  2. A 6-week follow-up is not the finish line in your postpartum journey. This timeline does not guarantee that you’ll be able to have pain-free sex, that going to the bathroom will feel normal, or that you’ll even feel ready to return to exercise. In fact, jumping right back into your typical exercises at 6 weeks postpartum, particularly any running or high-impact activities that you were holding off on during pregnancy, might actually do your body more harm than good. Tears and surgical scars are generally “healed” at 6 weeks. Tissue will continue to mature and remodel for at least a year. If you finally get that green light from your provider, but you can’t quite get your body into gear, a pelvic floor therapist can help! Don’t accept the myths that painful sex, urinary incontinence, or back pain are normal after having a baby.
  3. Ask for and accept help. You don’t have to do all the things by yourself to be a “good mom”. Regardless of whether or not you have stitches, your body is healing and your brain is trying to cope with all of these new life changes. You need time to check in with yourself, rest, eat nutritious foods, and mentally process what is going on. Luckily, help can come in many forms for postpartum moms and will likely look different for everyone.
Surround Yourself Around Those Who Care:
  • A trusted friend or family member. Does your sister offer to wash the dishes while the baby is napping? Does the neighbor offer to pick up some groceries for you? Say yes! Take that time to care for yourself. Shower, nap, relax, get outside for a walk, or otherwise do something that “fills your cup.”
  • A support group. Life with a newborn can feel isolating for some, and it can be reassuring to know that you’re not alone. Your birth provider or hospital will likely have a list of resources for new parents, including a local support group. Try to do some research before the baby arrives so you’re aware of the options in your area.
  • A lactation consultant. I firmly believe that there is no wrong way to ensure that your baby is fed! There may be times it seems like your baby is actively rejecting any nourishment you so desperately try to provide. If you are choosing to breastfeed, it certainly does not come naturally or without effort for all moms. A professional can help you troubleshoot difficulties and better support your body through feeding your baby.
  • A mental health professional. You may have heard of the “baby blues”, but did you know that these feelings are only considered normal for about two weeks postpartum? If you continue to feel sad, moody, anxious or overwhelmed longer into your postpartum journey, or if you are finding it hard to cope with your new role as a parent, tell your healthcare provider. Roughly 1 in 5 women struggle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). I was told at my 6-week follow-up visit that my postpartum questionnaire was “borderline.” If I could go back and change one thing about my early postpartum recovery, without a doubt it would be to talk to someone about those borderline results. Mama, if you feel like you’re struggling, know that you are not alone, and those feelings are not an obligatory part of motherhood. Please take care of your mental wellbeing.

Solutions

Even if things seem to be going well so far, it can’t hurt to reach out to your trusted pelvic floor therapist or any of the providers above to see if there may be ways to maximize your healing. The postpartum journey is never a road you will take alone. Reach out and connect with your local provider at Action Potential to ease your way into motherhood. Our team of train specialists would be happy to help.

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