Doing too much! Regardless of how you feel after birth, the first 6 weeks are a time for healing & recovery. It is NOT a time to carry on your normal activities & housework! To optimise healing, your body needs horizontal rest everyday and a break from other physical tasks (aside from looking after your newborn of course)
Before you ask, horizontal rest is not the same as sitting down on the couch! Lying down eliminates gravity and activates your parasympathetic nervous system, stimulating healing of your muscles & organs. A great way of maximising rest is to feed your newborn lying down at least once a day!
Another way of making it easier to move more freely & make caring for your baby easier is to wear a recovery garment like SRC Recovery Shorts or Leggings, which will also assist with speeding up healing of abdominal separation, c-section and perineal trauma.
Not prioritising bowel health. New mamas often underestimate the importance of bowel health. After pregnancy & birth, the last thing we want is any more straining through your pelvic floor or c-section wound. Women are often dehydrated after birth so make sure you rehydrate straight away, drinking 3L of fluid (mainly water) per day. Pack foods in your hospital bag that you know get your bowel moving, such as prunes, dates, dried apricots, chia seeds, kiwi fruit or porridge sachets. Opt for fibrous & nutritious food choices, rather than drying foods like bread, cheese, crackers, cakes, biscuits or pastries. If you have a history of constipation or want to err on the side of caution, use a laxative like movicol. When you feel a strong urge to use your bowels, place a stool under your feet, lean forwards, rest your elbows on your knees, breathe into your belly and use your hand to either support your c-section wound with a towel or your perineum with toilet paper wrapped around your hand.
Neglecting pelvic floor exercises. There’s so much going on post-birth, I get it, but early pelvic floor exercises are pivotal to healing & reconnecting your brain to your core muscles. Start gentle pelvic floor exercises day 1 post vaginal birth & c-section by doing 4-5 x contractions/relaxations per day. Slowly increase repetitions, building up to doing your normal pelvic floor exercise regime over the next couple of weeks. Sign up to get your FREE Pelvic Floor Guide here.
Not implementing enough help with housework/toddler. Whether it be paid or unpaid help, it’s so important that women organise extra help for the first 6 weeks to allow themselves a break from the physical tasks of running a household & excessive toddler lifting. For some women, your partner might be able to take time off work to look after your toddler & do the housework. For others, you might increase childcare or hire a nanny/mothers helper, and get a regular cleaner. This is money worth spending in the early weeks to allow your body time to heal.
Missing the 6-week appointment with a Women’s Health Physio. Sadly many women are either unaware they need this appointment or think that the 6-week check up with their doctor is adequate. Not the case! Our assessments are actually very different. Your Doctor will medically check you & your baby, however a Women’s Health Physio will assess your pelvic floor, abdominal separation, scar tissue (perineal or c-section), and talk through your bladder, bowel & sexual health. We will give you individualised advice & exercises to facilitate your recovery and your safe return to exercise.
Getting back into exercise too quickly. This is a big one! Over the years I’ve seen women start squats a few days post-birth or go for a run at 5 weeks because they “felt good”, only to come to me with prolapse symptoms or a very inflamed scar. Please don’t make the same mistake! After all your body & muscles have endured, the first 6 weeks post-birth is a time to start walking gently, reconnecting with your core muscles, and start safe, controlled strengthening & stretching exercises. This is why I created a complete Pilates program in The Postpartum Academy, which teaches new mums exercises to start doing at 1-2 weeks post-birth (vaginal & c-section), progressing them to 4+ months. I find new mums who start my program early postpartum feel stronger & recover faster. Sign up here! You can also download my FREE Postpartum Exercise Guidelines here.
Anna Scammell is a Masters-trained Women’s Health & Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist in Sydney, and Founder of The Whole Mother. Anna specialises in pregnancy, postpartum & the pelvic floor, offering home visits, clinic consults and online consults. She is also the Founder of The Pregnancy Academy and The Postpartum Academy- online educational & exercise programs teaching women how to have a healthier pregnancy, smoother birth and an empowered, stronger recovery.
Connect with Anna:
Online Pregnancy Program: The Pregnancy Academy
Online Postpartum Program: The Postpartum Academy