Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned one, reading up on what to do with your newborn isn’t the only thing that’s important. It is also important to understand what changes are happening to your body after baby and what to do about it!
Hormones are still going crazy
Unfortunately, once you’ve given birth to your precious newborn, your body’s signals and hormones still need time to get back to normal. Estrogen levels can increase up to 5x normal levels during pregnancy and drop off after baby. If you are breastfeeding, they remain even lower. This decrease of estrogen can cause many different symptoms such as: hair loss, dry skin (especially vulvar tissues), fatigue, cramping, and/or constipation. Hang in there, these levels generally return to normal around 6-8 weeks or once you stop nursing.
Another important hormone is Progesterone. This hormone increases 1200% during pregnancy, but then decreases right after delivery. This decrease can lead to symptoms such as low libido, hot flashes, and migraines1. Progesterone is known for its mood elevating effects, so this dramatic decrease can cause postpartum depression in women. “Baby blues” can be very common, if you have any signs of postpartum depression call your doctor to get assistance.2
Pain is here to stay
You just carried a baby for nine months, went through labor, and now… more discomfort? Can’t a girl catch a break around here? There are a lot of different sources of pain during postpartum, fancy words like coccydynia, SIJ dysfunction, and low back pain. Good news is a lot stems from muscle and ligament laxity that increased over the past 9 months to help you carry a baby. Once you deliver that baby, the body needs time to figure out how to function and return to normal. Give it time. If it persists beyond 6 weeks post, see a women’s health physical therapist.
Most women leave the hospital with a baby, and an incision. Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section, a tear or incision is extremely normal. Once you’ve allowed this scar to heal, around 6-8 weeks, massage will be your new best friend. Increasing mobility of the skin around your scar will decrease fascial pain and improve the appearance of the scar.
Don’t hit the gym quite yet
Mommy boot camps, beach body exercises, and everything in between are all very tempting when wanting to get your figure back. However, your body needs time to heal! As we mentioned earlier, your joints and muscles have been stretched and strained the last 9 months. By giving yourself 6-12 weeks before returning to an intense gym routine will save you pain, stress, and sanity. So take the time you’d be hitting the gym to get more snugs… or sleep.
Everyone has a Diastasis Recti 3
Is that Latin? Probably. But it also means the middle of your abdominal muscles have stretched out to their maximum capacity. This can resolve itself spontaneously within 4-6 months, but sometimes your body needs a little extra help. This is why our next point is of the utmost importance…
You need to see a Physical Therapist!
Did you know your pelvic floor muscles are the only muscles that don’t get rehabilitated after they’ve been torn or strained? (cue every pregnancy) That’s crazy! A physical therapist can be a crucial part to your body’s healing process after having a baby. They are the “movement experts,” but also in short know all the muscles and joints in your body and how to treat them. Physical therapists are equipped to help your tissues/muscles heal, decrease pain, improve body mechanics, and transition you back into your exercise routine!
- Poindexter A, Ritter M, Besch P. The recovery of normal plasma progesterone levels in the postpartum female. Fertil Steril. 1983;39(4):494-498. doi:10.1016/s0015-0282(16)46939-6.
- Postpartum depression – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. 2018. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617. Accessed February 20, 2018.
- Mota P, Pascoal A, Carita A, Bø K. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Man Ther. 2015;20(1):200-205. doi:10.1016/j.math.2014.09.002.