Expect the Unexpected: Five Things Moms Should Know About Their Postpartum Bodies.
I have been working with a first time mom throughout her pregnancy. As she is approaching her due date, she came with a list of questions. Rumors she has heard and things her fellow mom friends have told her. She was starting to get nervous. She never imagined these things. We discussed these rumors and false accusations and gave her a sense of peace and readiness.
After working with dozens of moms, I have found these false accusations, rumors, myths the most common heard by moms, and the truth is behind them.
1. You are not fully “healed” in 6 weeks.
There is no such thing as “bouncing back”. After 9 months of growing, and carrying a human inside of you, plus labor and delivery, your body needs time to go back to the way things were. It took your body 9+ months to get to the point to be able to deliver a child, give yourself the same amount of time (if not more) to go back. Your muscles have changed location, you need to find them in your new posture and alignment. Strength, endurance, power, agility. These things don’t just happen overnight.
Also, hormones take time to balance out. If you are breastfeeding, those hormones will be sticking around longer, so you may not feel back to your old self right away. Give yourselves grace, mommas, at least 9-12 months of recovery (if not longer) for your body to start feeling like itself again.
2. Some body changes can stick around, the mom pooch doesn’t have to be one of them.
Many physical changes occur during the postpartum period; changes in your breasts (size, stretch marks, and drooping), your hips may be a little wider and your feet may be a little bigger. These are body changes that can come with the territory of motherhood. The mom pooch shouldn’t be lumped in this same group. Yes, the pooch is common, but it doesn’t have to be something you need to live with. Your body naturally produces increased fat around your belly/waistline during pregnancy to support your growing baby. Also, due to your growing belly, the abdominal muscles can become weakened. Some women may develop an umbilical hernia during their pregnancy, or have a Cesarean delivery. All of these changes can lead to a floppy, squishy belly postpartum, but there is a way to rebuild your core system to your pre pregnancy strength.
Allow yourself time in your postpartum period to heal, reconnect and rebuild your abdominal system. It’s not an easy task. It takes time and consistency, but it can be done. Working with a trained pelvic floor physical therapist can create an individual program for you to achieve your postpartum goals, and loose the pooch.
3. Urinary incontinence can occur, but it shouldn’t be forever.
Many people joke about peeing their pants as a mom and many times it becomes accepted. Urinary incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum are fairly common. Approximately 33% of women experience incontinence during the first 3 months postpartum. But it is not something you have to live with. If you are continuing to experience incontinence 12 weeks after your delivery, consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist to see how they can help.
Based on the type of incontinence you are experiencing as well as any other symptoms, your physical therapist will guide you in the correct program for you to improve your incontinence (and no, it may not be kegels!).
4. Sex should never be painful.
Painful intercourse is something that is never really discussed after having a baby but it is very common. Nine out of ten women have pain the first time they have sex after having a baby. For many, it persists for over a year. It is not something that is usually brought up to the OB/GYN at your 6 or 8 weeks follow up (because you were told no sex until you are "cleared"). There are several different reasons and common causes for painful intercourse; scar tissue, muscle spasm, hyperactive nerves or skin conditions, pelvic organ prolapse, and vaginal dryness. If you are experiencing pain with intercourse, seek out a pelvic health PT to help resolve this problem.
5. Kegels are not always the answer.
Many people are under the notion that kegels are the be all, end all answer to any condition related to the pelvic floor. However, kegel exercises aren’t appropriate for everyone experiencing pelvic floor issues, especially if they are being performed incorrectly or if the muscles are being overworked.
Pelvic floor muscle strengthening can be the treatment for a number of conditions with muscle weakness (urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, changes in sexual function). In many cases, performing pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises (or kegels) can help improve these conditions, but there are some common signs that indicate kegels exercises may not be the answer.
Symptoms seem to be getting worse rather than better.
Lower back or abdominal pain get worse after performing kegels.
New pain with intercourse and negative changes in sexual function.
Development of new tailbone pain or pain with sitting.
If you are experiencing a pelvic floor condition or symptoms and are unsure how to manage it, a pelvic floor physical therapist can guide you in the best direction to address the issues the right way, with no unwanted issues.
Knowledge is power, Mommas. Entering into motherhood can be full of unknowns. Being aware of your own body changes and knowing what to expect as your body transitions from pregnancy to postpartum can help you feel more relaxed and at ease, and proud.
If you are interested in learning more about what you can do to better prepare your body for labor, delivery, and the postpartum period, schedule a phone consultation with our physical therapist to learn more about our Pregnancy and Postpartum Program.