By Megan Drake
Congratulations! You made it through the long haul of pregnancy and now here comes the easy part, recovering from birth and taking care of your new little one! Right?! This is what I thought before giving birth and I soon learned how very wrong I was. I looked at my husband on my first trip to the bathroom after birth and said, “I feel like I just did Murph.” It was that all over every muscle of my being soreness that I did not expect going in, but after experiencing childbirth it makes perfect sense that it is one hell of a workout.
Let’s backtrack, I was active my entire pregnancy, working out up to the day before my water broke. I kept a healthy diet through my pregnancy as well, thinking that childbirth and recovery would be a breeze. Did those things help me absolutely, but was it as easy as I thought absolutely not. I do believe that the fitness allowed for relatively quick labor (about 8 hours from start to finish) and from what it seemed I had a very effective push (just going off of the input from the doctors and nurses). The days following the birth of my son, the simplest of tasks like getting out of bed were painful and challenging. I quickly realized that I was not going to be hopping back into the gym anytime soon, and that these 6-8 weeks were for recovery and healing.
This is where my research began, because there was no way I was going to sit around the house for 6 weeks, but I also knew I needed to rest and take time to heal. My goal was trying to find the balance between staying active and allowing my body time to heal. After consulting my doctor (which is the first thing you need to do before beginning any activity postpartum) she told me when I felt ready I would be able to do some gentle walking, pelvic floor strengthening and mobility.
A week into my postpartum journey I decided I was feeling well enough to go on a gentle walk, so I loaded my son into the stroller and set off for our first walk. My goal was to just walk around the neighborhood for 10 minutes before returning home. It felt so good to get out of the house, and this became our morning routine. After 10 minutes felt easy, I upped it to 15 minutes and then to 20 minutes. Due to the heat 20 minutes was the maximum amount of time we could handle but it became a great morning routine. Most days my son would fall asleep on the walk so it gave me some time when we got back for me to shower.
In addition to walking I added some mobility into my day as well. I noticed that my shoulders especially were getting very tight from rounding while feeding and holding the baby. So I decided to do some stretching and mobility to help loosen up my shoulders and keep as much range of motion as possible. My favorite mobility move to do was wall slides 10 reps twice a day. After a few days of doing the mobility I noticed that I was gaining more range of motion.
The last thing I was able to incorporate into my postpartum routine was to help strengthen my pelvic floor. Most people know one of the best ways to do this is by doing Kegels. I would try to do 3 sets of 20 throughout my day. It wasn’t until about week 2 that I was able to do these without pain. That is the key, nothing you are doing should cause you pain, if it does then you are not ready and you need more time to heal.
Now there are some things you can do to set you up for success when you do get to return to the gym. Do not forget the main goal of this time is to heal. What is going to help you heal? First and foremost as much as you may want to be active and lose the baby weight you need to rest, and make sure you are sleeping. I know for a new parent sleeping can be hard, but that is when your body is healing itself. Try your best to sleep when your baby sleeps to speed up your recovery. Also make sure you are drinking enough water, especially if you are breastfeeding. Lastly, making sure you are eating, it can be a struggle with your focus on you little one but eating and eating healthy will help you keep up your strength during this recovery period.
When you enter this postpartum period just remember every day gets easier and you will get back to your old self again. Allow your body to be amazing and do what it is meant to do.