Looking After Your Body Postpartum. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from biomechanics expert Christophe Champs, founder of PODO Clinic and Workshop. Chris will share why our body is under more stress after the birth of a new baby than during pregnancy and why and how both mothers and fathers need to protect their bodies to avoid injury, aches and pains during those first few months after the birth. After birth, the body is still under a lot of stress and will move in a way it is probably not used to. And it’s not just mothers who are affected. Fathers need to consider the impact on their bodies too.
Looking After Your Body Postpartum
The process involved in giving the gift of life is an incredible journey for the human body. We naturally consider the mother’s health while carrying the child and during birth, but we should also consider the time after childbirth (known as postnatal or postpartum). The body is still under a lot of stress and will move in a way it is probably not used to.
During my years in practice, I have learned that the two years after childbirth can be more difficult for a woman’s body than the nine months of the pregnancy. Therefore, I want to look at these two years in more detail and share with you how some simple changes can prevent those unnecessary aches and pains you will experience during day-to-day activities and after standing for long periods.
Let People Know
The end of the pregnancy journey is quite sudden (although some will disagree when remembering the hours of labour), and it takes time for the body to return to where it was before getting pregnant.
The main difficulty with the postpartum journey is that as soon as you take your ‘badge’ off and your body starts to shrink, no one notices you are not 100% back in shape. This means they no longer feel the same compulsion to look after you. They don’t consider that physically. You might not be entirely capable of what you were before. And they are far less likely to give up their seat on public transport.
As Thomas Erikson explained in his book “Surrounded by idiots”, we are not trained to read others. We all send different signals and understand messages differently because we are all different. Therefore, we misunderstand many people and are misunderstood. This can lead to a range of ‘bad feelings’ when, in reality, we should probably work harder to understand ourselves. So, start by gently reminding your family, friends and colleague that you are not 100% back yet and still need a little extra consideration. Your body needs time to recover and shouldn’t immediately be asked to do everything it was comfortably doing before the pregnancy.
Carrying Your New Baby
Once you have a new baby, you’ll have a lot to carry – not just the baby themselves, it’s also all the extras, like carrying cots and prams. Whenever you are lifting something, you should bend your knees, keep your back straight, and then use your legs to power you and whatever you are lifting to a standing position. That’s in a perfect world.
Of course, we don’t live in such a world, and it’s doubtful you’ll manage to lift correctly every time, probably not even most of the time. Nevertheless, do your best to lift correctly and safely as much as possible, as it will help protect and strengthen your back. But don’t beat yourself up if it only happens sometimes.
If you feel pain or your body tells you you have pulled something wrong, seek help. Please don’t ignore it, as it will only get worse. The pain may go, but this is usually due to other muscles compensating, and the injury or imbalance becomes embedded for a while. You may feel better, but in the long run, you will have done much more damage which is much harder to correct.
Me Time With Added Benefits
Having ‘me time’ is something well-being and parenting experts always discuss. And it is essential. But, just like correctly lifting your baby, it isn’t always easy to carve out that time for yourself. So here is a suggestion that solves both problems: book with a health practitioner like an osteopath, chiropractor, massage therapist or biomechanics expert.
Why? We often find it challenging to set aside time for ourselves, but we are usually good at keeping appointments with others. So, if you make an appointment to see someone, you’ll find a way to stick to it. Also, it is easier to ask someone to care for your baby for an hour if they know you have a health-related appointment. And by booking in with one of the experts mentioned, you not only get an hour that is entirely focused on you, but you also get the treatment that will help your muscles relax, reset your posture and alignment, and ensure that any aches or pains don’t get worse or turn into something debilitating that will prevent you from giving your baby the care s/he needs.
Looking after your health can be contagious and inspiring to others, even more so to babies who capture every emotion around them and mirror every move they can.
Lousy Sleep, Bad Posture, Bad Back
It sounds like the chicken and egg scenario, as you don’t know which issue is causing the other. So, I recommend you address them all by starting with whatever bothered you first or is limiting you the most.
Your sleeping issues, deteriorated posture, and back pain, must all be tackled; the great news is that they are all connected. So, by addressing one, you will impact the others.
How Can You Deal With Sleeping And Resting Issues?
Having a good night’s sleep – usually eight hours a day – helps the body to heal and reset before the start of a brand-new day. But during the postpartum period, getting eight hours in one go may be nearly impossible. So, instead, focus on building up eight hours across the 24 hours. If that is eight one-hour periods of sleep, then so be it. Keeping your baby close when you sleep, sharing the task of getting up and reminding yourself that things will improve are all ways to help you grab a few extra minutes of shut-eye.
Besides the quantity of your sleep, you can improve the quality by ensuring that pillows and mattresses are at their best and that you lie comfortably and not twisted or bent in a chair.
Insufficient sleep (too superficial or too little) and poor rest will affect both your standing and sitting postures, and stress and fatigue can manifest as pain in your back and neck throughout the day. Sleep is not just about banishing tiredness – it will also help your body feel better and give you the strength you need to get through all the tasks of the day.
Interestingly, where the English say, “I am fed up”, the French say, “J’en ai plein le dos”, essentially expressing the idea that we have everything on our back and cannot take any more!
Is There Such A Thing As Good Standing And Sitting Postures When Carrying A Baby?
Your sitting and standing postures will not be perfect when carrying your baby, but for a good reason.
Whether you are standing or sitting with your baby, you must look after two postures, the babies and yours. Backs must be straight, neither twisted nor slouched, and the knees forward. It will get easier as your baby builds muscle and develops motor skills.
When dealing with sportspeople or patients with a handicap, breaking some rules in Biomechanics is quite common. Let’s keep the same open mind during the months of postpartum.
You might adopt lousy sitting and standing positions and get some niggles occasionally, but the pain is your friend. It is sending you a message. So, check your posture and sitting position and attempt to straighten and balance them. Ask your partner for help, as seeing an imbalance yourself can sometimes be tricky.
Although one of our missions at PODO is to educate patients on the importance of having good standing, sitting and sleeping postures, we recommend that you let this go a little during the postpartum period. Do your best but focus on stretching, strengthening, and conditioning your body to cope with all those wrong positions you might take and hold for long periods.
Using Your Body To Help Your Mind
Physical and mental health are connected. The stretching and exercise you manage to do will not only help your body, but it will also help your mind. You can let go of stresses and worries (at least for a time) and focus on dealing with the day’s challenges with renewed vigour. So do your best to include some dedicated exercise/stretching time in your day.
Finally, look at your shoes. Your body has changed shape during the pregnancy, shifting weight distribution. Now postpartum, your weight and shape are changing again. Plus, you have all the other pressures on your body, so you need good support – and support for your body starts at your feet. Wear shoes that give as much support to the arch and ankle as possible. Slippers, flip-flops, and strappy heels won’t do you any favours. Sure, wearing them for a few short hours on a rare evening out or while at the pool is fine, but choose shoes that will help your body the rest of the time.
Opting for ‘walking’ style shoes that provide ankle support ensures they can be laced up (this gives your foot much more support inside the shoe), and if you can, speak to a biomechanics expert to see if you would benefit from custom-made orthotics. By ensuring your body is balanced and aligned from the foot up, you will be much more robust and better able to cope with all the physical demands a new baby puts on you.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christophe Champs is an expert in Biomechanics and the founder of the PODO Clinic and Workshop. Christophe works with clients to help address postural and biomechanical issues that are causing pain or putting a client at risk of injury. By testing both the moving gait and the still posture, Christophe can correct misalignment and asymmetry by creating custom-made orthotics to suit the exact needs of each client.