Motherhood is a gift and the feeling of holding your bundle of joy for the first time is one that cannot be compared to anything else. However, being a new mom is like navigating uncharted territory and the hormonal fluctuations, stress of caring for a newborn, social expectations and the feeling of not knowing your body can be scary and exhausting.
Having a baby is a challenging journey: both physically and psychologically and once you become a mother, you can focus more on the baby than on yourself. Motherhood is indeed a beautiful journey that a woman can experience in her lifetime but after giving birth a mother can expect some physical changes and symptoms, but they are usually mild and temporary. Serious health problems are rare, vaginal birth is a major physical event and a C-section is no less than undergoing surgery.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tanveer Aujla, Senior Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Motherhood Hospital, Noida, shared some tips for new mothers:
• Full body recovery – The first and foremost fitness tip for the postpartum period is rest and recovery. Recovery of the body after delivery is very important and complete rest for 15-30 days is advised.
• Eat a well-balanced diet – Balanced nutrition is most important during this stage as the mother is breastfeeding and often very hungry.
• Light exercise – Exercise is proven to be a safe and effective way to improve the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of first-time mothers. It reduces the risk of obesity, postpartum depression, and metabolic disorders. Proper exercise can also help reduce stress, promote better sleep, and reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.
• Be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression – Postpartum depression is quite common due to the new, restricted and exhausting lifestyle of the mother. The challenges of having a new little life in your arms that is completely dependent on you for growth and some very new pain and weight gain can have a huge impact on your mental health. New mothers should not hesitate to ask for help when needed. Don’t be a hero and try to do everything alone. It’s ok! Ask for help and support from your family members.
• Diaphragmatic breathing – It may just be the end of the maternity period and there may be fatigue, lack of sleep, low motivation, physical or health limitations. Focusing on deep belly breathing can help overcome such disorders. Diaphragmatic breathing, which engages the abdominal, abs and diaphragm muscles, can have many benefits.
While warning that certain health problems may surface in the coming weeks or months, Arpita Jain, premium coach at MyHealthBuddy, reveals that many are unaware of the following warning signs.
1. The Root Cause of All Problems – Postpartum Weight – Being a new mother is stressful, with long feeding hours, sleepless nights and fluctuating hormones leading to an increase in the cortisol (stress) hormone which leads to extreme hunger pangs and erratic eating habits. Sudden weight gain is the root cause of many underlying lifestyle conditions such as thyroid, diabetes and even PCOD. Eating a balanced diet with enough protein at every meal and emphasis on regular walking/activity can help keep weight under control.
2. Postpartum Incontinence – Urinating while sneezing, jumping rope or laughing after delivery is not normal and we should watch for signs. Changes in hormone levels, as well as the stress of carrying a baby and giving birth, cause trauma to the pelvic floor which weakens the pelvic floor muscles and therefore leaks urine during any strenuous activity. Practicing kegels since pregnancy will certainly be useful, but if you experience frequent urinary leakage, consulting a doctor or seeking a professional health coach will solve the major problem (Kegels are not always the answer).
3. “Mother dog” or (diastasis recti) – Diastasis recti abdominis is a separation of the rectus abdominis in front of the abdomen, the rectus abdominis are the primary muscles that make up the so-called “6 pack”. DR wreaks havoc on the body, contributes to poor posture, lower back pain, weakens the core and can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. Research suggests that at least 60 percent of women develop DR six weeks after giving birth and 30 percent of women develop it a year after giving birth, but surprisingly many women have never heard the term. Make sure to check your post delivery DR for 6 weeks with a simple home test (widely available on the web). If you feel a gap, avoid any traditional exercises like sit ups or crunches, instead go for Transverse Abdominal Breathing (TVA Breathing) or just approach an experienced DR professional/health coach who will help you heal your gap.
4. Weak joints and back pain – During pregnancy, levels of relaxin, progesterone, and estrogen increase to relax the joints, but soon after delivery, levels of these hormones begin to decline, leading to feelings of fatigue, joint pain, and back pain. Here are some things to remember:-
a) Never rush into a fitness routine after delivery and give yourself at least 6 weeks before starting light exercise and outdoor walking.
b) Focus on maintaining correct posture while breastfeeding the baby and lifting the baby from a very low position.
c) Most importantly try to eat a well balanced nutrient rich diet with daily dose of supplements prescribed by the doctor.
5. Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Risk – Postpartum or perinatal depression is depression that occurs after the birth of a child. It is relatively common that affects 1 in 7 after birth. PPD leaves people feeling empty, weak, and helpless long after birth. This is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. Having PPD does not make you a bad parent, it just needs to be addressed at the right time (when you see the first symptoms). Make sure you talk to your partner or a family member/friend you can trust. Additionally, find an activity that interests you and takes your mind off of it. If you are very surprised, do not hesitate to see a doctor who can prescribe some medicine.
Talking about the challenges of post-natal recovery, Anika Parashar, founder of The Woman Company, said, “From dealing with hormonal changes to adapting your routine to your baby’s needs, understanding your baby’s cries, rebuilding your relationship with your partner and managing work. If you choose, the list is mounting. Every day can be different and every day is a new battle. He listed some tips that can help navigate this new phase:
1. Postpartum Stress – In the midst of this chaos, postpartum stress is often silenced and not taken seriously, while life with a new baby can be exciting and rewarding, mothers are also pulled in a million different directions and the emotional roller coaster is a terrifying ride. It is often advised to talk to your doctor and your friends to help you cope with these overwhelming feelings.
2. Ask for help – Having extra hands on deck can help you organize things better and free up some time for you to sleep or take care of yourself. Dealing with postpartum depression experiences include emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, fatigue, guilt, anxiety, and more. From mild discomfort to extreme mood swings and inability to function, PPD experiences are different for different people. The key is to talk to an expert and be ready to admit and ask for help.
3. Accept that your body has changed and take the long way – Bringing life into this world takes a toll on your body. Women, in general, have to deal with unrealistic body image and as a new mother, this pressure increases exponentially. This pressure causes discomfort, diastasis recti, back pain due to breastfeeding. This loss of control over your own body and at the same time dealing with the impossible standards set on women by the behemoths of the beauty and health sector is bound to derail your fitness journey, encouraging your insecurities to escalate. Although it’s easier said than done, it’s important to remind yourself of the extraordinary work you’ve just accomplished to bring life into this world and to know that it will take time for your body to recover.
4. Ease of exercise – While it’s good to be active and squeeze in exercise in your schedule, admit it to yourself and you continue to achieve every day. Start slow and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes about a year to bring life into this world so it will take at least that long to adjust to the new normal and get your body back on track. Allow your mind and body that time to reconfigure themselves and find their center.
5. Find your tribe – The mother we think is very different from the mother we become and this is a truth we must make peace with. The transition to motherhood is a road sprinkled with a lot of hard work and it changes your identity. The fourth trimester is about experience and experimentation. Adjustment requires a lot of time and effort, from rebuilding your daily life activities to making every decision regarding your baby and their health. Amidst the chaos, lots of advice often comes from friends, family and colleagues. Just consult your doctor for your questions and doubts and choose something you can rely on to help you on this new journey. No one knows the baby better than the mother so trust your intuition.
Comprehensive postpartum care should include a thorough assessment of the new mother’s physical, social, and psychological well-being, including emotional well-being, infant care, sexual comfort, physical recovery from birth, and health and fitness maintenance. Just remember, your motherhood will be more enjoyable when you know how to take care of yourself!