There are certain parts of your post baby body that may not look or feel quite the way they used to, whether you're a couple of weeks, a few months or some years 'post-baby'.
When should it all settle down? Will some bits never go back? Is your stomach supposed to look like that? Is going to the toilet always going to feel like that? Are certain parts of your anatomy always going to poke out, bulge or feel strange? When is it just part of being a mother, and when is something actually wrong?
If it's very early days then rest assured your body will heal to a large degree by itself. Birth, however it turned out for you, is a traumatic physiological process that first and foremost requires time, rest and TLC to heal.
But many women are suffering when they really shouldn't have to, with issues that could be rectified if they were just given the right information about which techniques or strategies will help or hinder recovery and restoration.
The Early Days | Up to 8/12 Weeks
Here are some of the perfectly normal (if not altogether pleasant) symptoms and feelings you may experience in the weeks after you have your baby:
1. When you go to the bathroom, you may feel like your insides are going to actually fall out of your body. They won't fall out. But they may feel like they're going to.
2. Your ability to control your urine, stools and gas is less than ideal, and you may have very little sensation of your pelvic floor. Basically your brain and your undercarriage are struggling to communicate, and they haven't made friends again yet.
3. You will be shifting about as you sit or stand, not quite sure where to put your body for comfort and ease.
4. Parts of your body will feel sore and tender. Anywhere in your pubic area, in your pelvic floor (post natural birth), around your scar site if you had a c-section, or anywhere in your hips, back or neck.
How You Can Help Your Body To Heal
1. Stretch and release the muscles that are tense. These key areas need improved circulation and muscle release:
Stretch your calves and hamstrings (the backs of your thighs).
Squat, keeping shins vertical and heels down. Steady yourself by holding onto something solid.
Stand and clasp your hands behind your back (don't hunch your shoulders) and lift your hands towards the ceiling, then very gently raise your nose to the ceiling to release the front of your neck.
Lie on your back with your legs in the air and shuffle your bottom right into the wall, then let your legs drop to the side to stretch your inner thighs.
2. Reconnect with your pelvic floor and deep core muscles. This is how:
Gently draw your belly button towards your spine on a long slow exhale whilst lifting your pelvic floor. Try to think of it not as a squeeze at the front, but a deep lift, right in the middle. Keep shoulders and chest relaxed. Take a few deep breaths like this whenever you remember, relaxing everything as you inhale and fill your ribcage with air, then contracting again as you exhale.
Note: don't push away on the inhale, just let go. And try not to tilt your pelvis or 'tuck your tailbone' as you practice this breathing technique.
3. Get comfy. Use cushions, bolsters and pillows to support yourself and allow your back and shoulder muscles to relax as you feed and cuddle your baby.
4. Rest. Take a walk every day if you can. But take it easy. Then go rest some more.
Your Body 12 Weeks (or 12 Months!) Post Baby
You can now gradually start to increase the intensity and duration of activity, but nothing should hurt.
You should have stopped bleeding, you should have stopped hurting. If either are still going on, then please see your doctor again. You should be able to pretty much control your bladder and bowel. Some weakness and urgency is normal, but you should be able to hang on a bit.
Symptoms You Should NOT Be Feeling
You shouldn't be feeling these symptoms. You may be feeling them, and don't panic of you are, because they are sadly very common and many women just live with them.
1. Pain - In your back, pelvis, abdomen, hips or legs.
2. Leaking urine or worse when you sneeze, laugh or cough; or leaking as you're rushing to the toilet.
4. Bulging - Bulging or doming of your abdomen when you do any exercise or movement. Or bulging in or from your vagina or rectum.
What To Do If You Have Any Of These Symptoms:
Go get checked out by your doctor and don't accept a 'just put up with it' response. The above may be signs of diastasis recti, a weak core and pelvic floor, even hernia or prolapse, and you don't have to put up with them! The pressure inside your abdomen is pushing the wrong way (ie outwards and downwards), but with the right guidance you can reverse it.
The most important thing you can do to help your body to restore and strengthen is to find and understand your core muscles using the breathing technique above and through specific core engagement exercises. Remember your brain and your muscles stopped talking to each other there, and they need to be re-introduced...
Do not do sit-ups or crunches, don't do high impact exercise and don't leap into a class or routine that does not give you very specific corrective exercise for a recovering mother.
The MuTu System Focus programme for your post baby body is very specifically designed to put you back together again. It takes you step by step through 4 phases of core restoration and pelvic re-alignment techniques, which will make you look and feel like you've not only got your body back, but a little bit of missing Mojo too!
If you are worried about what you're feeling, or unsure about any exercise you're doing, please leave a comment below and I'll try to help!
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