Look at you! You have a baby—in a pandemic! Now what? You're adjusting to motherhood and you need to heal physically.
You've likely heard about the importance of self-care in the fourth trimester. You've been told to rally your support system to help out as much as possible. You may have even learned that seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist during the fourth trimester can help you heal and strengthen your body after childbirth.
But in the middle of a pandemic, this can be a lot harder. Fortunately, motherhood is all about adaptation. The good news is that there are things to do from home to assist you in your physical rehabilitation from birth.
Here are my top tips for recovering your pelvic floor after birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:
The exhaustion that comes with a newborn can be easily overwhelming, even in the best of times. When you feel anxiety creeping in, take some deep belly breaths. Your pelvic floor will thank you for this.
2. See a pelvic floor physical therapist virtually
Although widely known for their hands-on skills, there is so much more a pelvic floor physical therapist can offer you, much of which can be easily done virtually. A pelvic floor physical therapist can perform a screening to determine if an in-person session is needed. With virtual pelvic health appointments, a session with a pelvic floor physical therapist can include the following:
- Posture, movement and breathing pattern assessment. All of these change during pregnancy as the baby grows. Addressing each of these will not only facilitate rehabilitation, but can also help ward off injury.
- Demonstration of proper bending and baby lifting techniques while healing from the physical toll of childbirth. Many people have heard of "lifting from the legs" to avoid a back strain. A physical therapist will provide extra input on how to lift the baby and car seat without sustaining an injury.
- Demonstration of the appropriate corrective exercises for diastasis recti. A physical therapist will prescribe the right core restorative exercises for you. The best way to begin engaging your core? Diaphragmatic breathing!
- Guidance in resuming intimacy with your partner. Not every woman feels ready at the 6-week mark to resume intercourse, and that is okay. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you feel prepared to engage in sex again or provide care for you if sex becomes painful.
- Treatment of bladder leakage or constipation. By guiding you in pelvic floor strengthening (hint: it's more than just kegels) or pelvic floor relaxation, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help you deal with postpartum bathroom troubles. While you wait for your visit, be sure to use a footstool, like a Squatty Potty, and practice belly breathing to facilitate easier bowel movements and urination.
- Guide you in safely resuming exercise while minimizing the risk of injury or worsening pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where the bladder, rectum, uterus or other organs protrude into the vaginal space. If you were doing an intense workout regimen prior to pregnancy, it's best to ease yourself back in. While you're waiting, start with a slow walk.
Seriously. Make sure you're eating and hydrating enough. You'd be surprised to see how quickly a day can go by without realizing you haven't nourished yourself. Choose healthy fats, fruits, veggies and protein. This will not only assist your body in healing but will give you the energy to take care of your newborn.
If you are breastfeeding, speak to your physician or nutritionist about the best nutrients for you during this time.
4. Use the bathroom
It can be tempting to avoid going to the bathroom, especially in the middle of the night when you are trying to keep your sleeping baby sleeping. So many new moms experience this. But withholding urine and stool will add to pelvic floor dysfunction. Withholding will cause the pelvic floor muscles to tense, even when they should be relaxing. This can lead to constipation, as well as urinary symptoms such as leakage, difficulty initiating urine stream, or feelings of urinary urge.
Give your baby a quick look to make sure all is safe and well, and proceed to the bathroom.
5. Be gentle with yourself
Know that it's okay to feel how you feel. Reach out to other moms virtually to connect and check-in with each other. Seek professional help if needed. Call your physician or midwife if you experience unusual or excessive bleeding or pain (filling a pad with blood in an hour or two, or seeing multiple blood clots, or one blood clot the size of a golf ball or larger.)
You are important. You deserve to feel well and strong. Your recovery from pregnancy and childbirth is important so you can be at your best for your own sake as well as for your family. You spent nine months growing a human. Rehabilitation is essential. Breathe, nourish yourself, and see a pelvic floor physical therapist virtually.