How to Best Recover After Childbirth
Recovering from childbirth and sitting with your little newborn can be a wild and overwhelming process. That is why we have asked our house-midwife, Lærke, to come up with her best advice on how to best recover. From physical healing processes to mental well-being, we dive into how you can best support your body and mind in the first time as a new mother. Read along to discover Lærke's insightful guidance and steps towards a healthy and strengthened start to your motherhood journey.
Dear fellow mom, welcome to the world of motherhood. The world where we greet each other with a knowing nod when we pass by on the street, whether you're pregnant, pushing a stroller with the infamous "mom-bun," or walking with a child on your hip and one in hand - or whatever your situation might be.
First and foremost, you deserve a high five and a "YOU'RE DOING GREAT." Because I can assure you, you are. You are the strongest and most competent in this world when it comes to taking care of your child/children.
Secondly, here are some tips and tricks for taking care of yourself, and you can choose what resonates best with you.
Remember alone time. The time where you take a shower, care for your skin, take a walk, unload the dishwasher, or do something else without involving kids or a partner. A break where you can hear your own thoughts, focus on taking deep breaths, and try to connect with yourself in a daily life filled with others' needs. Personally, I love practicing mindfulness and doing a body scan. Everyone has their preferences for alone time but remember your mental self-care.
Whether you've given birth vaginally or via C-section, you've delivered, and it takes time to recover. Most first-time mothers experience perineal tears during a vaginal birth. Healing from a tear requires kegel exercises (you can start the day after delivery, unless instructed otherwise), massaging the scar tissue around the vaginal area (start gently on the outer skin during shower; this boosts self-esteem, speeds up the healing process, and reduces discomfort during the first sexual encounters), and good hygiene (though intimate soap isn't necessary). May I, as a midwife, point out that your perineum tears, it doesn't "split" 🤭 Healing after a C-section is somewhat similar (and at the same time not at all), and you have a scar in a different place that needs to heal; you can start kegel exercises on the day (and yes, even if your child hasn't been born through your vagina, you might still experience muscle laxity, incontinence, and/or prolapses), good hygiene around your genital area and the scar, and scar tissue massage (can be beneficial to minimize tightness after scar tissue forms). Regardless of how your child was born, remember to allow yourself time to heal physically and mentally.
Get to know yourself again:
Look between your legs during pregnancy and after childbirth - and feel free to take pictures! It might sound odd, but it's about how sometimes we feel a bigger mental change than what's physically visible in your vagina. It doesn't matter if you gave birth vaginally or via C-section. You should look down to your vagina and get to know her anew. After becoming a mother, nearly all women need to rediscover themselves, and this also involves rediscovering yourself sexually. For some, it's a quick process, while for others, it takes a bit longer. Did you know that it takes about a year after childbirth for most couples to feel that their sex life is back on track? If you can't see yourself in a mirror between your legs, how can you expect to open up and engage sexually with your partner?
Trust Your Gut Feeling:
There are countless recommendations and advice in this baby-filled world, but above all, you should follow your own desires during pregnancy, after childbirth, and for your child/children. I'm talking about diet, exercise, skincare, supplements, birthing methods, birthing positions, breastfeeding or formula feeding, solid food introduction or Baby Led Weaning (where the child feeds themselves what they need), co-sleeping, weaning, and MANY more topics. If you don't have a gut feeling, follow some of the recommendations until you can better sense your own gut feeling.
Speaking of recommendations... Let's talk about exercise and training. Exercise during pregnancy strengthens your body throughout pregnancy and childbirth. It's observed that women who have exercised during their pregnancy, and are therefore in better shape, recover faster postpartum. Many are unsure about what kind of exercise is safe during pregnancy, but there's NOTHING YOU CAN'T DO (both said in caps-lock, bold, and underlined!), HOWEVER, you should know that your pregnant body is influenced by many hormones, so if you're not used to exercising, don't jump into running long distances or lifting heavy weights. Instead, start gently. Exercise can also be "hidden exercise"; take the stairs, go for an evening walk, bike to meet friends or work. The earlier you start, the more you help prevent overloading your body as you progress through your pregnancy. And let me plant a little seed in the back of your mind; psst swimming is fantastic for relieving the body, strength, and cardio training. I just want to remind you that postpartum exercise shouldn't be used as a way to return to your old body, because mamma, you can't. You've created, nourished, given birth to, and sustained a miracle, and now you need to find your new self ❤️ And when you want to start, it's entirely up to you.