Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Postpartum Body Expectations

Recently, my husband got a big lecture from me. We were at the park and walked by a couple with a new baby (probably 1-2 months old). After we were out of earshot he remarked, “Look at that lady, a new baby and she’s already pregnant again!” I turned to stare at him, and when I realized he was serious, the lecture commenced. That woman wasn’t pregnant again! She had a new baby! That’s what your body looks like after you have a baby! To be fair to my husband, he has no experience with babies or pregnant women. Like many men (and women) his ideas of what a “post-baby body” looks like come from television and magazines. And there lies the problem. The whole world sees these celebrities with headlines cheering them for getting back to their pre-baby body in just a couple of weeks – and unfortunately this is negatively affecting new moms. Remember a couple of years ago when Duchess Kate had Prince George and she came out of the hospital still sporting a bump? There was a huge outcry of support that finally someone was showing what is normal after childbirth. I want to see more of that! Unfortunately, that’s the only time I can think of a celebrity showing off their normal body after baby.

Here’s the truth. It took your body 9 months to change into the condition it is in postpartum and it doesn’t and shouldn’t go back overnight. We have to change this idea or expectation through education because women are actually doing damage to their bodies by trying to achieve this cultural “norm.”
I have women who I see a few months postpartum who are coming to me due to pelvic organ prolapse. Here’s something that needs to be understood. Your body needs rest after childbirth. Due to the hormone changes and all the pushing, your internal structures that support your organs are like warmed up taffy. 

This is important to understand. Women shouldn’t be returning to high impact activities, lifting heavy weights or doing other things (Oh God, not burpees!) that can damage their bodies! I have women who have done just that. Moving 2 days after delivery and lifting heavy boxes. Returning to Crossfit 2 weeks after delivery.  Part of this is due to a lack of education about the importance of letting your body rest. The other part is due to feeling like they are expected to get back to their pre-baby weight/body ASAP.

So here it is straight from the horse’s mouth. If you have just given birth, you have permission to rest. Take care of yourself and your newborn. There will be time for getting back to your exercise regime, but it’s not in the first 6 weeks. Please take care of your body! It’s the only one you’ve got! I recommend seeing a pelvic PT for education and instruction in safe return to exercise postpartum. 

And FYI, my husband now has a very good understanding of what happens during pregnancy and afterward and what he can expect if we ever have children. He won’t be making that mistake again!

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