As a yoga teacher and doula, I’ve had the privilege of working with many new mothers in the postpartum period. It's a time of great change, both physically and emotionally. It can be a challenging time, but also a beautiful time of growth and transformation. Here are some things to expect from your postpartum body, and some tips for caring for yourself during this period.
Your body is healing
Childbirth is a major event for your body, and it will need time to heal. Depending on the type of birth you had, you may have stitches, soreness, or swelling. Your hormones will also be adjusting, which can contribute to mood swings, fatigue, and physical discomfort. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself time to rest and recover.
Your body will be different
Your body will likely look and feel different than it did before pregnancy. You may have stretch marks, loose skin, and changes in breast size and shape. Your pelvic floor muscles may also be weaker, which can lead to incontinence or discomfort. Remember that these changes are normal and natural, and that your body has done an incredible thing by growing and birthing a baby. It's important to be kind and patient with yourself as you adjust to these changes.
Yoga is good for recovery
Yoga can be a wonderful way to support your body's healing and recovery after childbirth. Gentle yoga poses can help relieve tension and pain, while also building strength and flexibility. Specific poses and breathing exercises can also target the pelvic floor muscles, which can be particularly helpful for healing after a vaginal birth. If you're interested in practicing yoga postpartum, it's important to work with a teacher who has experience working with postpartum bodies and who can help you modify poses as needed.
Nutrition is key
Proper nutrition is essential for postpartum healing and recovery. It's important to focus on nutrient-dense foods that will support your body's healing process. Foods high in protein, iron, and vitamin C are particularly important, as they support tissue repair and wound healing. It's also important to stay hydrated and to eat regularly throughout the day, as this can help regulate hormones and support milk production if you're breastfeeding.
Rest is essential
Rest is essential for postpartum healing and recovery, and it's important to prioritise rest as much as possible. This may mean asking for help from family and friends, hiring a postpartum doula, or taking naps when your baby sleeps. It's also important to avoid overexertion and to listen to your body's signals. Rest doesn't mean doing nothing, but rather finding activities that are restful and rejuvenating for you.
It's important to also talk about the emotional effects of giving birth. It’s not unusual to feel tearful and down following your baby’s birth. You might have heard this described as ‘baby blues’. Usually, this period doesn’t last for very long and improves as you start to recover from pregnancy and birth. Sometimes, however, these feelings can linger.
A big part of managing those post-birth emotions is figuring out exactly what it is you’re feeling. If it's the ‘baby blues’, are you able to manage it with support from family and friends? Or are you experiencing postnatal depression or postnatal anxiety? In which case, you may need additional support. The only way to know for sure is to open up and speak to your midwife or GP to help you navigate your postpartum emotions.
Other things that might help you feel like yourself again are:
❤️Getting enough rest. Accept offers of help and never feel judged for taking time out when you need it.
❤️Avoid drinking alcohol. It’s a depressant and can affect your mood even further if you’re feeling anxious or depressed
❤️Talk to other new parents, and perhaps explore some local baby groups when you are ready to help you get out and about with your baby.
Finally, it's important to be patient with your body and with yourself. Healing takes time, and it's important to give yourself grace and space to adjust to the changes that come with motherhood. Remember that you are doing the best you can.