We caught up with Emma Brockwell, a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, to talk through her top tips for looking after yourself after you've had a baby. As a mum of two herself, Emma draws on both her own experiences and expertise in the field to offer practical advice for all new mums.
Emma has also recently written her first book, Why Did No One Tell Me, How to Protect, Heal and Nurture Your Body through Motherhood, a warm, honest, informative and essential handbook to help pregnant women and new mums take control and care for their changing bodies.
Watch the video, or read Emma's top tips below!
Allow yourself time to heal and recoverBounce back is a myth, pregnancy and childbirth are major life-changing events, your body changes very quickly over a short space of time, and very dramatically. Whether you've had your baby via C-section or vaginally, it will take longer for your body to heal than six weeks. In fact, it'll probably take many months. Give yourself time to rest, sleep well, eat well, drink well, listen to your body. Remember, don't expect too much too soon.
Do your pelvic floor exercises every dayIdeally, it's good to start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you've had your baby, just as long as you don't have a catheter in place. Your pelvic floor muscles will need strengthening no matter how you've delivered the baby. By doing your pelvic floor exercises, you will help reduce or treat any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, like leaking urine or pelvic organ prolapse. Eventually, you're aiming at being able to do your pelvic floor exercises at least once a day, carrying out 8-12 repetitions of 10-second holds and 10 fast repetitions in an upright position.
Avoid constipation and straining to open your bowelsIt's really common after having had a baby, to get constipated. To reduce the chances of constipation, which can lead to pelvic floor issues like pelvic organ prolapse, try and remain hydrated throughout the day. Drink plenty of water and try and eat plenty of fibre-rich food. If these things alone aren't helping, speak to your GP or midwife about being prescribed something like a laxative, to help soften your stools. You can also adopt a different toileting position with a footstool. Have a footstool on the floor, feet on top, so that your knees are higher than your hips, leaning forwards. This will help open your bowels more effectively. Rather than straining, blow out through your mouth as if blowing out some birthday candles on a birthday cake. Again, this will lead to less strain on your pelvic floor, and reduce the chances of you straining.
Visit a pelvic health physiotherapist after you've had your babyAs I've already mentioned, pregnancy and childbirth change your body very dramatically, and these changes are essential for your baby to get big and strong and arrive safely. But sometimes these physical changes can lead to certain conditions, particularly pelvic floor issues. For example urinary leakage, faecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain, lower back pain, tummy separation. Also, other conditions can occur due to these changes. None of these conditions are life-threatening, but they can affect your physical and mental health. And pelvic health physios like myself, are well placed to help manage and treat these conditions really successfully.
If you're not experiencing any of these very common but not normal conditions, that's great, but I would still recommend that you see someone like myself, so is to prevent these from happening later on in life. Admittedly, it's harder to access us during the pandemic, but, speak to your GP and asked to be put on the waiting list, it's well worth the wait. Or, if you can, see us privately as we are still offering face to face appointments.
Try and be active every dayThe government recommends that every postnatal woman aim to carry out around about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. Moderate intensity activity can range from gardening to walking around the block, to returning to the exercise that you love. If the exercise that you love is high impact, like running or a HIIT workout, then just remember to build up to this gradually starting with low impact exercise first.
Ordinarily, this is going to take longer than six weeks to return to your high-impact exercise. Listen to your body, and if you have any pelvic floor issues like urinary leakage, your body is not yet ready to return to the high impact exercise, and you may require rehabilitation from someone like myself. Ultimately, however, make sure that the activity or exercise that you do carry out you enjoy.
Emma's book "Why Did No One Tell Me: How To Protect, Heal And Nurture Your Body Through Motherhood" is available now on Amazon, or you can see more of Emma's top tips on her Instagram, @physiomumuk.