Our Top 5 Tips for Recovery During the Fourth Trimester
Our Top 5 Tips for Recovery During the Fourth Trimester
When I was pregnant with my first child, I found an abundance of information on how to care for myself and my baby during pregnancy. However, once my daughter arrived, the focus from health professionals shifted almost entirely to the care of my baby, leaving me to manage my own physical recovery.
Our physical, mental and emotional health all get tested as a new mum. Physical changes as well as changes to our daily habits and our relationships all impact our health. With some simple planning, the adverse impact of these factors can be minimised so you can not only survive, but thrive in the Mummy 4th Trimester and give your body the best chance at healing.
While the tips below focus on a mum with a child under 12 months old, they are just as relevant for women of any age. We hope these strategies will help you heal your mind, body and spirit after birth and have you feeling like you again.
Our body heals best when it doesn’t feel like it is in a constant state of fight or flight. Excessive production of cortisol (a hormone released in stressful situations) can produce negative health effects and delay healing.
Sit down and think of all the things that add stress to your life and implement strategies to minimise their impact on you. Limit your contact with things that are offensive or upsetting. You might need to put some commitments on hold, avoid pushy relatives and delegate household chores.
Sleep is always a challenging health factor to manage as a new mum and it can have stressful consequences. Try and get assistance from your partner, family or friends and seek professional advice if it becomes unmanageable. Also, by minimising other stresses in our life, managing interrupted sleep can seem less daunting.
Surround Yourself with Positive Relationships
You can quickly become isolated as a new mum so making a conscious effort to surround yourself with people that support your social, emotional and intellectual needs is a highly beneficial self-care activity. Social media groups such as Mums of Brisbane provide a valuable service facilitating the connection of mums with friendships, products and services that enrich the motherhood journey.
Meeting with likeminded mums face to face gives us a shoulder to cry on and an opportunity to share the funny and rewarding moments of parenting. It might take a few goes to find the tribe you feel comfortable with, but don’t give up. They are out there! You might also have different tribes for different purposes, such as your exercise tribe, your social outing tribe or your career tribe. They all add something wonderful and help us maintain our identity during motherhood.
If you suspect depression is impacting your ability to function in daily life, then please seek help. There are wonderful services around Brisbane to support mums with postnatal depression.
Eat for Wellness
Nutrition plays a major role in supporting our bodies ability to heal after pregnancy and is an important factor for diastasis (abdominal separation) healing. The goal is not weight loss. It is about giving our body the fuel it needs for repair and healing. Here are the key players in postnatal nutrition:
- Support your gut health with things like bone broth, probiotics and/or fermented foods
- Ensure you are getting enough protein (45-60g per day)
- Have water as your main source of hydration
- Pump up your antioxidant intake by eating a wide variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables. If you struggle with this, a processor such as a Nutribullet might help
- Incorporate healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado
- You may need a good quality multivitamin. A Naturopath or GP may be able to help you determine whether you are deficient in vitamin and minerals such as iron and zinc.
Get Checked by An Expert
You have probably heard about the benefits of having a strong core, but did you realise that your pelvic floor is a major part of that core structure? A strong, fully functioning core is the foundation of movement for the entire body so it is important to spend time re-establishing core strength and function after pregnancy.
You wouldn’t take a Formula 1 race car to get serviced by your local mechanic so why would you settle for getting your lady bits checked by your GP? I love my GP and they are a great first port of call if you have a concern, however if you really want to get the low down on how your pelvic floor or abdominals are functioning post-birth, then go and see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. You don’t need a referral and you should leave with a sound idea of how your core is functioning.
With 1 in 3 women experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction such as leakage or prolapse it is important to remember that it is common but NOT normal. If you ignore it, it won’t get better. There is help available and addressing it early may prevent more serious problems later.
I advise all my clients to have an internal pelvic floor exam as well as an abdominal assessment after pregnancy. If you have noticed your body looks, feels or functions differently after birth, take a list of those concerns to your appointment so you can paint a great picture for them of where you are at and what you want to know.
Engage in Suitable Exercise
Our postnatal exercise choices can mean the difference between healing faster or making our postnatal ailments worse. Seek advice from a qualified exercise physiologist, postnatal trainer or physiotherapist (or all three!) when returning to exercise. There are lots of mum and baby bootcamps out there, but just because they offer babysitting (or use the word mummy), doesn’t mean they have the skills to nurture your postnatal body. Do your research, have a good understanding of your own body and its ability and find a qualified trainer that you feel will respect your body and what it needs to heal.
While there are a few definite do’s and don’ts in postnatal exercise most exercises can be modified to suit the mother’s physical condition. If you have had a postnatal check up with a pelvic floor physio you will probably have a pretty good idea of where you are at on your recovery path. Share that information with your trainer so they have all the information to tailor your sessions.
Don’t rush it. Postnatal recovery can take a long time (6-12 months or longer) so it is important to check whether our expectations are in line with what is achievable. A tailored Postnatal Return to Exercise program will help you learn strategies for pelvic floor and abdominal friendly exercise that will serve you for a lifetime in whatever physical activity you choose to do.
Remember to be kind to yourself during the Fourth Trimester…
I hope these points have got you thinking about your postpartum self-care journey and some changes you can make to not only survive, but thrive in motherhood. Remember, every mum has a different journey, so what works for someone else, might not work for you. Follow your heart, trust your gut, and keep trialing things to see what works for you and your family.
Christine is a mother of two and a pregnancy and postnatal trainer with a special interest in pelvic floor friendly exercise strategies. Her passion for mother focused fitness was fueled by her own experiences with prolapse and diastasis after the birth of her second child. Christine hopes to inspire more mothers to care for their whole wellbeing and not suffer in silence. Her life motto is “Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life”.