In my fitness journey, I became fitter with each child. Prior to having kids I really didn’t have an exercise routine. Once I became pregnant with our first child and had come out of the tiring phase of the first trimester I started attending prenatal exercise classes held by a women’s physio group. I attended three times a week and this was the most regular I had been with exercise in years!
The physios were amazing and not only did they instruct the class but they also offered all sorts of useful tips and advice and answered many newbie questions. These same classes were also for post-natal mums. So after a couple of weeks, I made my way back to the classes with bubs in the pram. Babies were welcomed and they would happily pick up crying babies so you could continue with the class. While this was definitely a bonus, the real bonus was how they taught me to return to exercise safely post-pregnancy and how to look after myself properly in what they now call the fourth trimester.
The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after you have had your baby and as anyone who has gone through it knows, it is a period of huge physical and emotional change. This is time for recovery and bonding with your baby but with so many outside influences, I know many mums feel pressured to be doing it all and “getting back to it” as quickly as possible. This isn’t best for mum or bubs.
Following childbirth, the majority of attention shifts from the mum to the baby, but it is really important that mum takes care of herself so she can take of her baby. Today’s guest post is from Rachel of Rachel Fitt Physiotherapy. Rachel is a Melbourne-based Pelvic Floor & Continence Physiotherapist who is passionate about empowering women throughout their lifespan and preventing women’s health issues that hinder both physical and wellbeing goals.
Here are Rachel’s top tips to look after YOU, the Mum, in your fourth trimester:
If you have any perineal tears, episiotomy or a caesarean wound, ice is great for pain relief and reducing swelling. Apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours, try to avoid letting your wound get wet.
2. Do your pelvic floor exercises daily
If you’re finding the day slips away and you’ve forgotten, it may help to set reminders on your phone throughout the day. Hopefully when one of these reminders goes off, you have a few minutes to focus on your Pelvic Floor exercises.
3. Avoid heavy lifting
Try not to lift anything-heavier than bub in the first 6 weeks. Birth, no matter what the delivery mode, can cause pelvic floor and core weakness. You need time for your body to recover and rest.
Try not to do too much all at once. Looking after your newborn is taxing enough. When you get an opportunity to ‘get things done’ take your time. Ensure you have rest breaks to avoid being on your feet for prolonged periods of time.
Investing in a postpartum compression garment for abdominal support is definitely worthwhile. The research shows abdominal compression helps minimise abdominal separation in the first 6-8 weeks postpartum and provides support/feedback for your muscles while doing everyday tasks. My personal favourite brands are Active Truth and Solidea, however Tubigrip (an elasticated tubular bandage) from a Physiotherapist can also work wonders.
When bub sleeps – YOU sleep. Take every opportunity you can. Sleep is important for your general recovery and healing. Aim for a total of 8 hours every 24 hours (these don’t have to be consecutive).
Gentle walking and Pelvic Floor Exercises are recommended in the first 6 weeks postpartum. Pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises will help you return to your pre-pregnancy shape, assist with healing and prevent pelvic weaknesses including bladder leakage.
You can commence gentle rehabilitation guided by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist (my 12 Week Postpartum exercise guide FITT BEYOND PREGNANCY is perfect to kick start your recovery.)
Pay attention to your bladder – leakage is NOT normal. Bladder leakage is a sign of weak pelvic floor muscles and can be improved, even prevented, with Pelvic Floor Exercises.
Pay attention to your body and how birth has affected your bowel movements. Ultimately, it should be easy to empty your bowels. Avoid constipation and seek advice from your GP or Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist if you are seeing noticeable changes that you aren’t able to control with dietary adjustments.
10. Pelvic floor
See a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist for a detailed 6-week postpartum Pelvic Floor assessment to ensure you have no dysfunction. Pelvic Floor dysfunction can be asymptomatic, meaning you have no symptoms. 1 in 3 women have leakage postpartum & 1 in 2 women have a vaginal prolapse after a vaginal delivery. (The stats are high – you are not alone if you’re in this category and should seek help).
Lastly, everyone’s postpartum journey is different. Do not compare your recovery to someone else’s. You are not the only one with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – if you’re experiencing any issues with the above, feel free to reach out to me!
Fitt Beyond Pregnancy
Rachel has a fantastic program available to help you postpartum – Fitt Beyond Pregnancy. It is a 12-week program that will help you get ready to take on whatever goals you have set for yourself, whether that be getting back to running fun runs or running around after your toddler. The program will:
- Improve Pelvic Floor Function & Strength
- Reduce your risk of Urinary Incontinence & Pelvic Organ Prolapse
- Minimise Abdominal Separation
- Increase Cardiovascular Fitness
- Rehabilitate your body following Pregnancy & Childbirth
- Return to Exercise Safely
- Is suitable for Women who have birthed Vaginal and Caesarean
I can highly recommend following Rachel on Instagram at @physioforwomen_. Rachel posts regularly about women’s health issues and she also does live pregnancy/postpartum exercise classes which are then saved in her IGTV, so if you miss doing them live you can go back and do them at a time that suits you!