The “4th Trimester”
If you’re a new mom, your body and emotions have been through the ringer. Some call the first few months after delivery the “fourth trimester.” From nipple blisters to hemorrhoids, to painful sex, the weeks and months after delivery can range from mildly uncomfortable to downright brutal—especially for moms who experience postpartum depression.
This is why self-care is so important. Below we’ve compiled some practical tips for surviving the postpartum period.
Consult a pelvic floor specialist.
Whether you’ve just delivered your first baby or your fourth, all women should see a specialist to ensure their pelvic floor—the system of muscles that holds the uterus, bladder, and bowel in place—is healing properly.
Pregnancy and childbirth put tremendous strain on your pelvic floor muscles. A physical therapist who specializes in this area can help you rehabilitate your pelvic floor and start (or resume) Kegel exercises after pregnancy. If you’re experiencing bladder leakage (even if it’s only a few drops when you strain or cough), back pain, or feelings of instability, it’s especially important to see a specialist.
Sleep deprivation is an expected part of motherhood, but it can take its toll. We’ll spare you the details of what chronic sleep deprivation does to the brain and body and just say this: You need to sleep.
Be proactive about getting enough, even if that means scheduling time to sleep. Aligning your nighttime sleep schedule with your baby’s can help—if he goes to bed at 8 p.m., try doing the same. If he goes back to bed after his 7 a.m. feeding and you’re able to sleep a little longer, do it. Also, consider calling on close friends and relatives to watch your little guy on weekends so you can catch up on sleep.
You’re thinking “Are you kidding—taking care of an infant is exercise!” Taking care of a baby is exhausting, but exercise has so many benefits beyond physical health. Working up a sweat releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that naturally boost your mood and help you think more clearly, and it can help stave off the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.
Once your doctor gives you the okay to exercise, make a plan. Resume your yoga routine, hit the gym, or put on your favorite workout video at home. Or consider joining a mommy-and-me class or forming an exercise group for new moms. Working out with others can help keep you motivated.
What Is a Diastasis Recti?
If you still look pregnant many months after giving birth—especially if you’ve stopped breastfeeding and your hormone levels have returned to normal—you may have a diastasis recti. That’s when the rectus abdominis (“six-pack”) muscles separate, allowing your belly to protrude out.
Physical therapy can help. In more severe cases, surgery to stitch the abdominal wall muscles back together may be needed. If you plan on having more kids, there are things you can do while pregnant to prevent a diastasis recti.
Tell your doctor if you’re feeling anxious or depressed and it’s not getting better.
Hormone levels drop after delivery, which can lead to moodiness and anxiety (the “baby blues”). This is very common after birth and usually goes away within a few days or weeks. Longer-lasting or severe depression or anxiety that doesn’t go away is called is called postpartum depression (PPD).
Postpartum depression can be disabling, causing symptoms like loss of interest, racing thoughts, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, irritability, anger, sadness, constant anxiety, and others. Nearly one in seven women who give birth experience PPD, yet many are reluctant or embarrassed to seek help.1
If you’re feeling intense anxiety or depression that’s not going away, reach out to close friends and family members for support caring for your baby, and see your doctor, who can recommend support groups and prescribe medications to help with PPD.
Get Breastfeeding Support.
Most women have difficulty breastfeeding during the first week after giving birth. One study found that 92% of new mothers had problems breastfeeding during the first three days after delivery.2
Some mothers can’t produce enough milk. Others develop clogged ducts or find breastfeeding exceedingly painful. Some develop an infection.
If your baby is having trouble getting a good latch, you’re experiencing excessive pain while breastfeeding, or you notice your baby isn’t gaining weight after two or three days, a lactation consultant can help. The consultant will help you check your baby’s latch, try different breastfeeding positions, help you make tiny adjustments while breastfeeding, show you how to breastfeed using nipple shields (if needed), and give you advice on when to pump and how often to feed your baby.
Some women may need to supplement with formula or consider using donated breast milk. This isn’t a failure—sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned, despite a mom’s best intentions.
Stock up on supplies … for yourself.
You spent months picking out the perfect crib, baby clothes, car seat, stroller, diapers, and nursing blankets. In the days and weeks after delivery, you’ll need supplies for yourself, too. Here are some things to add to your postpartum supply list:
- Maxi pads
- An ice pack (to help relieve pain in your lady bits)
- A sitz bath (relieves postpartum hemorrhoids)
- Cold compresses
- Comfortable postpartum clothes (think loose-fitting blouses and spandex pants)
- Lidocaine spray
- Ibuprofen or naproxen (for postpartum body aches)
Being a mom to an infant is constant, demanding work! Find ways to treat yourself every week, whether it’s indulging in your favorite coffee drink (just watch the caffeine), a walk in nature, or lunch with your girlfriends.
Take Care of Your Pelvic Floor with PeriCoach
We mentioned earlier that your pelvic floor takes a beating form pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re experiencing issues like bladder leaks when you cough, laugh, or strain, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help.
Even if you’re not having any noticeable problems, it’s important to keep your pelvic floor strong. Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common problem for women who have had babies and for women in general—as many as one in three will deal with it at some point.
PeriCoach can help. It’s an FDA-cleared Kegel biofeedback device that guides you through Kegel exercises and displays your progress on your smartphone in real time!
Using PeriCoach regularly can help strengthen your muscles over time, which can help eliminate bladder control problems and reduce your risk of pelvic floor problems down the line. Hear what real women are saying about PeriCoach, and contact us for more information.
From the team at PeriCoach, congratulations on your new baby!