Pregnancy and childbirth come with significant changes that affect both your body and mind. If you are a first-time mom, the changes are even more intense.
Your whole life takes a new direction.
The body continues to change further in the weeks and months following your baby’s birth. It recovers from childbirth and regains its strength.
It’s not always an easy ride
It can be difficult for a new mom to cope with all the physical and emotional changes that often lead to various postpartum problems.
We are astonished by what our postpartum bodies have achieved, yet shocked by the sudden change of our body image.
It’s not only a change in appearance, though. There are some things that no one warns you about beforehand. Like peeing yourself (because your pelvic floor is like a smashed egg). Or totally basic stuff like finding out that “I have actually nothing to wear that I can easily breastfeed in. Even that super fancy nursing top I bought when pregnant is pretty much useless.” (My case, lol )
Most common postpartum problems
There are plenty of postpartum issues that moms experience, some more serious than others. Just recently I asked ladies in my fav mom Facebook group about what they have been struggling with the most after having a baby.
1. Diastasis recti and weak pelvic floor
“I am a tiny mamma and the ab muscle separation took long time and therapy to heal” – Summer
“I had a diastasis recti as well as stage 3 prolapse. That was not fun” – Ashley
That mommy pooch, oh my.
According to webmd.com, Diastasis recti (or ab separation) means your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened. This is caused by much pressure on the belly during pregnancy. With this condition, the gap between front abdominal muscles is about 2-3 fingers (or 3 cm) wide.
A pelvic floor is a group of muscles around your bladder, vagina and anal passage. It supports your pelvic organs and, during pregnancy, also the baby inside your womb. Pregnancy and birth can cause the pelvic floor to weaken as the weight of your baby and the labor put a lot of pressure on these muscles.
Too weak pelvic muscles can cause more serious health issue known as prolapse – this happens when one or more pelvic organs sag down into the vagina.
How to fix it
Weak pelvic floor muscles and diastasis recti are symptoms of the weakened core. The core is the most important part of our bodies as it supports the whole body, protects organs and help us to stay upright.
Just like any weakened or injured muscles in our body, also the pelvic floor and abdominals can be repaired. And even better – they can be strengthened beyond their previous condition.
There are many effective exercises that will help you to fix your postpartum core. What’s even better, you can do them in the comfort of your home.
Your postpartum core training should consist of a few simple, yet effective exercises like Kegels and gentle core exercises.
IMPORTANT: If you suffer from ab separation, core exercises that put too much pressure on your abs like sit-ups and crunches are an absolute no-no! Always consult your OB/GYN if you are unsure!
Online workouts can help
Alternatively, if you feel like you need some guidance, you can choose from several specific online programs created by experts that focus on postpartum body recovery. Here are some of my favorite:
Amazing free resource created by Dr. Sarah Duvall. Her free guide will provide you with the best information on understanding how to get started healing your diastasis and pelvic floor through videos, articles, and self-assessments.
She also offers a FREE mini-course that takes you through an in-depth overview of how to get a fit and strong core, free of aches and pains. Make sure you check this out, it’s very valuable and I can’t believe Sarah gives this away for free.
3. Jenna Dalton 21 Day Postpartum Workout Plan (FREE guide)
Jenna is a certified postnatal fitness specialist and a mom. She created a unique home workout program that will help you to strengthen your core the right way. You’ll get 3 20-minute workouts plus videos showing you how to do each exercise properly. As a bonus, Jenna also sends you an easy meal planning strategy to complement your workout efforts. Yay!
“Taking time to actually care for myself” – Morgan
Because your bundle of joy is now priority number one, you may ignore your own needs.
But that doesn’t mean you have to neglect yourself!
Postpartum self-care is just as important as pregnancy self-care.
“You simply cannot do a good job taking care of someone else if you aren’t feeling safe, happy, and cared for. It’s that whole “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” you know? You must fill your own cup” says birth doula Carrie Murphy.
And she is absolutely right.
See, it is not about getting your nails done or taking a luxurious spa-like bath. Because when you’re breastfeeding around the clock and seriously sleep-deprived, having a pedicure session will feel completely out of reach.
I mean, there were times when a five-minute shower with a body scrub almost made me feel guilty (ha-ha)!
How to find time for yourself
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend hours in a day spa to enjoy some effective me-time. Here are a few easy ways how can you sneak in some self-care into your busy mom lifestyle.
Start journaling. You don’t have to write 3 pages a day about what have you been up to. One-line journal will do. The purpose of journaling is to get out a little of your frustration. It serves as an emotional release.
Create a routine where each day you write down one line about whatever you’re feeling at that moment.
Or, if you happen to have a friend who is on the same boat as you are, you can just write to each other one-lines about your feelings. I did this with my BF (who gave birth the same month as I did) and it helped me tremendously. Just the feeling that you don’t have to keep your frustration for yourself and that there is actually someone who totally gets it is great.
Dance. When you become a mother, you won’t get many chances to dance in social events for a while, right? 🙂 But dance is so much more than just a social activity or great cardio. When you move in tune with the music, your brain releases endorphins (also called the hormones of happiness), that create a feeling of comfort, fun, and power. So put that Beyonce on, mama!
Go for a walk. Similar to dancing, walking (or any kind of exercise) releases feel-good endorphins. Walking outside helps you to fight the postpartum blues by reducing your stress levels.
In fact, walking an hour a day can work wonders for you! On top of that – walking is actually the easiest way how to lose pregnancy weight naturally. I wrote a whole post about how can you start losing weight postpartum by walking, you can check it here.
Buy yourself something. I know going shopping with a baby is not that enjoyable. Check out online stores while your baby naps instead.
When was the last time you actually bought something for yourself that wasn’t related to pregnancy, motherhood, nursing or kitchen? Can’t remember? Gift yourself with something you really want. Jewelry, shoes, dress, new linen or a piece of art. It doesn’t have to be practical or needed. At all.
3. Saggy skin
“That extra skin that doesn’t seem to go away.” – Juliauna
“The tummy. Even when you feel muscles there, there is a thick layer of soft tissue/fat that just lingers FOREVER!” – Oksana
We tend to forget what our body and skin have been through for the past 9 months. Those months have been very demanding for your body and it now works hard to restore itself.
How to tighten the belly skin
Tightening loose skin after pregnancy is a long run, it just does not happen overnight. It may be challenging, but if you stick to a couple of rules, you can improve your skin condition dramatically.
- Hydrate – your daily water intake is crucial to maintaining the skin’s natural properties. Waters helps the skin to be more elastic. Apart from improving your skin’s condition, staying hydrated will help you to burn calories more effectively and reduce water retention in the abdomen area.
- Exfoliate – scrubbing or brushing helps to stimulate better the blood flow, removes dead skin cells and improves the quality of your skin. Using an exfoliation brush also helps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
- Exercise your core – building up a lean muscle underneath the loose skin helps to burn excess stomach fat and tone up the belly area which eventually leads to tighter, smoother looking skin.
- Wear a girdle – although it won’t make you lose weight, wearing girdle especially in the first weeks postpartum is essential. It gives you great back support, helps the abdominal muscles to regain strength and return to its normal size faster.
- Increase collagen levels – stock up with collagen supplements and pure Aloe Vera gel that you can apply directly on your tummy. Aloe has unique cell-growth stimulating properties that can help to boost collagen production in your skin. Eat protein-rich foods such as cottage cheese, legumes, tofu, nuts, and fish as these contain collagen and elastin forming components.
4. Clothes that fit the postpartum body
“Finding clothes that fit when the baby weight isn’t coming off very quickly” – Rachel
“Finding clothes that I could breastfeed in” – Amy
Who wants to spend money on new clothing while you’re in the process of getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape? On the other hand, sometimes it feels great to buy and wear something new. Just because you are mostly at home, that doesn’t mean you have to spend your early postpartum days in nightgown or pregnancy clothes.
You deserve to look and feel pretty.
Find your ultimate postpartum uniform
Pick a few comfortable and breastfeeding-friendly postpartum outfits like compression black leggings, maxi dress, oversized t-shirt, and nursing tank tops. Consider buying a few pieces of each and wear them until they wear out.
In addition, chose darker colors that not only make you look slimmer but also camouflage the countless milk leakages and baby’s spit-ups.
Finding trendy, feminine-looking clothes that are easy to breastfeed can be a hard task. Fortunately, there are plenty of online clothing brands that focus on breastfeeding moms. For instance, check out my favorite Undercover Mama for their fab One-hand nursing access tops
It’s natural to put your baby and its needs before your own. Although caring for your little bundle of joy shouldn’t be the only thing you pay attention to.
Your well being is just as important as your baby’s. That little human depends on you completely. And if you’re not taking good care of yourself, there might be a time when you won’t be able to take care for your baby because you won’t have the physical or mental strength to do so.
The bottom line
A happy mom is the foundation of a happy family. Because if mom’s not happy, the whole family suffers. Put the mom guilt away and sneak some me-time in, no matter what. You deserve it.
What about you? What was your biggest postpartum struggle? How did you cope with it? Drop me a comment below!