The process of pregnancy and having your baby is both a physically and mentally stressful time, so you need to ensure that you care for yourself as well as your baby. This doesn't mean just the first few hours, but it means a more long-term recovery effort! There maybe a few points below that you may not have considered...
Your body undergoes processes of repair just as it would in a sporting injury. Following the initial stages of inflammation and proliferation (laying down of new tissue), your body then undergoes 'remodelling', a return to it's pre-injury or in this case, pre-pregnancy state.
This process of remodelling is not just about what we look like on the outside. It's an internal and external process that could take up to 2 years, or maybe longer!
With a sporting injury, it is paramount to ensure that tissues repair properly so to not cause future injury. This is exactly the same concept that should be applied to recovering from pregnancy and giving birth. We are all too keen to get going again, that often we don't give ourselves time to recover. Inside and out!
Our recovery to pre-pregnancy state is very multi-dimensional, it's not just about re-starting your exercise regime as soon as possible, it's about striking a balance between the right type of exercise, nutrition, managing stress, hydration, and managing hormones.
STRESS - As a new Mums, it's inevitable you will get a bit stressed from time to time. However, elevated cortisol levels has a detrimental effect on healing. Yes, stress can affect how you recover physically!
TIP - Take as much opportunity to relax as possible. It not only keeps you sane, but it helps your body heal! Breath! Take the opportunity as much as you can, especially during exercise to breath deeply. All that additional oxygen will have a positive effect on your recovery.
LIFESTYLE CHOICES - Fluctuating hormones can have a negative effect on sleep quality, anxiety, weight gain and libido. Having gone through a time of massively changing hormone levels, you need to try and control these hormones through your lifestyle habits. It is very easy for us to rely on speedy meals and quick 'pick-me-ups' like sugar, caffeine, processed food etc. but these habits can exacerbate the negative effects your hormones are already achieving!
TIP - Pay as much attention to what you're eating and drinking as you do your little one! You need to take care of yourself! The quicker and more effectively you can recover after having a baby, the better. Being 'Mum' could be made that little bit easier if you feel refreshed, healthy and wide-eyed!
WATER - After pregnancy, your body undergoes tissue repair. In order to do this, collagen is laid down to reconstruct these tissues including your abdominal wall. Collagen is mostly water! Are you drinking enough?!
TIP - Your baby makes it more than clear when they are ready for their next feed, so always have a water bottle with you and try and drink water at least every time you sit to feed your little one. You should be aiming for 2 litres a day.
MACRO AND MICRO-NUTRIENTS - We can't just assume our bodies will produce what we need in order to repair after a 'trauma'. We need to feed it what it needs to do this! An adequate supply of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids is essential for the repair of your body. After having a baby is not the time to go on a calorie-restricted diet or detox programme. However, you will find that your pre-pregnancy body (or better!) is more than possible if you're eating the right types of food without reducing total calories!
TIP - Try to include a source of protein and veg with every meal you eat. Try not to snack, but instead eat more regular smaller meals. Eat a VARIETY of vegetables! Get your 1-2 portions of oily fish in every week. Keep hydrated, hydrated, hydrated!
MUSCLE IMBALANCES - I think you'd agree that the whole pregnancy and postnatal period plays havoc on your muscles. Many become tight and shortened where some become abnormally weak and lengthened. Typically this causes back pain, particularly in the lower back. When their is dysfunction in your muscular system, this can cause long-standing issues.
TIP - A specialised postnatal fitness trainer will work specifically on the right areas, targeting muscles that need re-strengthening whilst focusing on regaining flexibility in muscles can have become tight. Be wary of 'mainstream fitness classes' too soon following pregnancy as you may be heading towards further imbalances leading to further issues. Seek professional advice first particularly if you are already experiencing any back pain, pelvic pain or have a Diastasis Recti (where there is an excessive gap between your abdominals).
SLEEP - You may laugh at my suggestion of getting more sleep as this isn't easy in practice with a new baby. However, poor sleep can lead to elevated cortisol levels. As mentioned above, high cortisol levels can impair the recovery and healing of your body.
TIP - Try and find some space for yourself as much as you can. Ask for, and receive help and don't feel selfish or feel that it is unnecessary.