Recovery After Childbirth


Pregnancy and childbirth put a massive strain on your body. It spends months changing
and developing as it grows and houses your baby, giving up some of its own needs to look
after the life it's now responsible for. Pregnancy is a marathon, and it changes all of the time.
You get used to the morning sickness, then it's gone, and you're hit with swelling and exhaustion.
Even the best pregnancies are hard work.

Then, there's the birth itself. Your body has been working hard for 40 weeks (on top of all of the
hard work it does the rest of the time) and now it's got this mammoth challenge to contend with
as you become a parent.

Then, it's over. You've given birth; your baby is here. But, far from getting time to relax and
recover, you've got a baby to take care of. Night feeds, colic, nappy changes and cuddles
are all suddenly your job, and you've got no time to recover from the massive physical effort
you’ve just been through. Here's some advice to help you.


Sleep

Sleep is probably what you need the most, and what you are going to get the least of. Even if
your baby is a good sleeper, there will be night feeds for the first few months. Ask your partner
to help as much as they can. Even if you are exclusively breastfeeding, they could get up and
do nappy changes and then bring the baby to you to feed. Then, try to nap in the daytime when
you can. Even a 10-minute power nap will give your body some recovery time.

Assess the Damage

Pregnancy and childbirth affect us all in different ways. Which means we all recover at a
different rate. One of the first things you should do is take stock of the damage. If you are
lucky, you'll have some stomach cramps and a bit of soreness which passes on its own in a
few days.

If you're not so lucky, you may have stitches which need looking after, heavy bleeding,
fissures, infections and caesarean stitches. If you have any of these problems, it's important
to keep an eye on your recovery, so that you know when you need more help. If you don't think
that you are recovering properly, get help after your birth injury, and ask your doctor or midwife
to have a look.

Drink Water

Your body is trying to get back to normal, your uterus is shrinking back, you are bleeding,
you're tried, and you've got no time to take care of yourself. It's only normal to feel exhausted
and dehydrated. Make sure you settle down for every feed with a glass of water and a
healthy snack to give your body a boost and improve your mood.

Lie Down

You could be very sore for a few days or even weeks after the delivery. This is normal, but
you may find that sitting down makes it worse. Avoid hard seats, using a cushion when you
can, and lie down when you can to take the pressure off and give your body a chance to heal.

Exercise

You certainly won't want to rush out and run a 10k the week after giving birth. In fact, you
should avoid any strenuous activity for at least six weeks and then build up slowly when
you do start keeping fit again. But, some exercise is good.

Your stomach muscles have been through a tremendous ordeal to accommodate your
growing child, and now they need to go back to normal. Spend a little time each day gently
tensing them and holding the tense for a few seconds. As you get stronger, hold for longer.
But, if you have any pain, stop and rest before carrying on.

You should also do Kegel exercises to help everything else get back to normal. This will stop
any incontinence and help any stitches you may have had heal by increasing blood flow to the
area. Again, start gently, then add more reps and longer tenses as you start to feel better.

Take Stock of Your Feelings

The baby blues are completely normal, and most women experience anxiety, fear and sadness
to some extent. Your whole life has changed, your body hurts, your hormones are all over the
place, and you feel like you'll never get a good night's sleep again. A little mood fluctuation is to
be expected.

If at any point you feel it's more than this, or like it's not getting any better, speak to a
professional who can offer you further advice.

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