As a new mother, it is normal to let go of and dismiss your own needs to take care of your baby. Sleepless nights, constant breastfeeding, changing, puts your basic needs like brushing your teeth on hold. Women often ignore the little aches and pains that they are experiencing. Whatever good care you take of your body during pregnancy, you have to practice even more caution after you have given birth. Your postpartum health is equally important and ignoring small discomforts so you could take care of your little one might prove to be dangerous.
Women often experience a lot of postpartum problems; some are more serious than others. Each of the problems has distinct symptoms, and some have two or more traits in common.
The scary part is - most of the problems are linked to each other, and also to what your life routine was before and during pregnancy.
As no two pregnancies are ever alike, so are the postpartum changes happening in your bodies. Women rarely experience the same symptoms with the same intensity throughout the postpartum period. For example, you may have mild discomfort from hemorrhoids or constipation, another mother from your Lamaze or Bradley class may experience heartburn or even shortness of breath after delivery.
When is the right time to start thinking about postpartum health?
The best time to work on postpartum health is during your pregnancy. Why?
Because when you have your little bundle of joy in your arms, you may not be able to focus well on your own needs.
Preparing a plan and working on your well-being should start well ahead of delivering your baby.
You can check some tips on how to manage your health during pregnancy in this blog Click here
It is important to be in the best control of your environment, and your physical and psychological well-being till it’s time to deliver. You can practice, prepare and plan ahead in this period for a healthier you in the postpartum stage.
Remember, the way you manage your pregnancy and your overall lifestyle, health and food choices will have a significant impact on your postpartum phase. Most women expect a normal delivery and a healthy, happy baby. I am sure you do, too! But your journey doesn’t end there.
You have to manage your own health before, during and after pregnancy to achieve your personal health goals and improve and maintain the quality of your life.
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Healthy women should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, during and after their pregnancy. It is best to spread this activity throughout the week.
What Happens to Your Body During Pregnancy?
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy.
All your vital organs in your torso, like liver, stomach, small intestines get jammed upwards and laterally. Your diaphragm also gets squeezed upward in your chest forcing shallow breathing, and your ribcage widens out to the sides reducing the rib cage’s ability to massage the lungs (what I call squeezing the sponge) during exhale.
These organs may remain this way for months, even years after birth. The thoracic spine and diaphragm face restricted mobility after giving birth.
Whether it’s your first pregnancy or otherwise, the middle and lower back pain that you might have experienced is primarily due to this internal shift.
All these physiological changes, coupled with increased blood volume, a rise in blood pressure ala preeclampsia that causes the blood vessels to constrict, resulting in high blood pressure and a reduced blood flow that can affect organs in the body, including the liver, kidneys, and brain. During the final trimester these are reasonably occurring pregnancy related symptoms that you carry with you well within your postpartum phase.
Is C-Section an Avoidable Necessity?
There was a period when the overall cesarean delivery rate in the United States increased by 60% from 1996 through 2009, from 20.7% to 32.9%. Since 2009, the cesarean delivery rate has declined slightly, to 32.7% in 2013; however, nearly one-third of births continue to be delivered by cesarean every year.
However, the rapid increase in Cesarean birth rates from 1996 to 2011 without clear evidence of concomitant decreases in maternal or neonatal morbidity or mortality raises significant concern that cesarean delivery is overused.
The research and new guidelines from American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) prove that increasing women access to non-medical interventions during labor, such as continuous labor and delivery support, also has been shown to reduce cesarean birth rates.
Non - medically indicated C-sections should be avoided at all costs. Deliveries under 39 completed weeks of gestation can be reduced by the proper perinatal care that should also include breathing and calming exercises to ensure expectant mothers look forward to completing the full gestation period instead of struggling with pregnancy - related problems.
The risk of late preterm birth C-sections may contribute to the growing number of babies who are born "late preterm," between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.
While babies born at this time are usually considered healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born a few weeks later at full term.
A baby's lungs and brain mature late in pregnancy. Compared to a full term baby, an infant born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation is more likely to have problems with:
- Maintaining his or her temperature
It can be hard to pinpoint the date your baby was conceived. Being off by just a week or two can result in premature birth. This may make a difference in your baby's health. Keep this in mind when you think of scheduling a c-section.
Other Risks for the Baby - Anesthesia
- Some babies are affected by the drugs given to the mother for Anesthesia during surgery. These medications make the woman numb so she can't feel pain. But they may cause the baby to be inactive or sluggish.
- Even if they are full-term, babies born by c-section are more likely to have breathing problems than are babies who are delivered vaginally.
We already know that pregnant mothers can ease and shorten natural delivery times with a few simple breathing exercises.
With our Post Partum Exercises, they can regain what breathing volume and ease they lost and even develop way beyond what they had before pregnancy.
Post Partum Ailments
What to expect after you have delivered?
Postpartum you may face one or many of these symptoms. It has been proven that women who deliver via c-section typically face more of these issues than those who have delivered normally. However, in all the cases, a consultation with your health professional and your physical state is what will determine the safest route to delivery.
1. Postpartum Shortness of Breath
After delivery, you are at higher-than-normal risk for some scary healthy Complications and they may disguise themselves into something which is dismissed too easily.
Many women experience postpartum breathing issues like shortness of breath after giving birth, which can be a sign that something is off like fluid in the lungs or a pulmonary embolism.
But wait, before your heart skips a beat on this one, please remember that if you learn to manage postpartum breathing issues like shortness of breath while you are pregnant, you will be in a better position to have control over the situation, and can explain to your health professional about the exact nature of your problem, should it ever occur.
Why Does SOB Happen?
Have you ever wondered what happens to your abdominal organs when the baby grows very big inside you?
Did you face problems in taking a deep breath during pregnancy?
Have you thought about what happens after birthing?
It is very common for women to experience mid back pains after delivery or have difficulty taking a deep easy in-breath. The position of the fetus during pregnancy restricts the mom’s organs.
Liver and stomach get jammed up in the chest while the diaphragm and mid-thoracic spine gets restricted.
Getting your organs back in their proper place and getting your diaphragm and thoracic spine moving again is helpful to regain that sense of having your body back.
Parasympathetic based breathing should first be felt in the low front, sides, and back. Exercises like Optimal Core Development C1and Optimal Reflex Triggering C24, C25, C23 in the Port Partum Course can help greatly with this. This will also massage organs and lymphatic system in the torso and may reduce shortness of breath.
2. Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) is one of the potentially life-threatening complications of pregnancy, the underlying reason for which is unknown. PPCM accounts for almost 4% of maternal deaths. This form of dilated cardiomyopathy causes congestive heart failure in the later months of pregnancy or the first 5 months after birth.
Another reason we recommend our Oxygen Enhanced Exercise and Rest aka O2E2 to accelerate recovery.
Most hearts love oxygen.
But your health professional should ok any such approaches, not because they are inherently dangerous but because we do not want any potential liability for making this suggestion.
We have many well-researched books and articles for those interested.
Pregnancy leads to a variety of anatomical and physiological changes. The resulting changes significantly affect pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Particularly in the case of those with the cardiopulmonary disease before pregnancy, pregnancy causes exacerbation of the underlying disease, while certain conditions only develop during pregnancy or are specific to pregnancy (amniotic fluid embolism, pulmonary edema developing with tocolytic treatment, etc..
3. Postpartum and Blood Clots
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, women have an increased risk of blood clots for up to 6 weeks after giving birth. But new research suggests that the risk of a blood clot remains higher than average for a minimum of 12 weeks after delivering a baby. The research team, led by Dr. Hooman Kamel of the Department of Neurology and the Brain and Mind Research Institute of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, presented the study findings at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2014 (Source)
Though women are more likely to form blood clots throughout the pregnancy due to higher blood volumes, the risk often peaks after delivery. Clots start in legs, travel to the lungs where they can cause a pulmonary embolism or head where they can cause a stroke. Women undergoing C-section are at a higher risk because surgery also increases the risk of blood clots.
Pulmonary embolism can be hard to diagnose postpartum because the symptoms are fairly similar to SOB. Chest pain, palpitations, light-headedness, and dizziness, are often misdiagnosed as the SOB.
While the risks sound scary, you shouldn't worry about developing serious complications after having a baby. But it's just good to be aware that it can happen. Some women with a history of smoking, a genetic predisposition to blood clots, and obesity are at a higher risk.
4. Postpartum Fatigue
Feeling tired all the time post labor and delivery? Don’t let the symptoms fool you. Sure, you should feel like you just finished a marathon, especially if it was a normal delivery, but the fatigue that you experience should subside when you have rested sufficiently.
Caring for a new baby, loss of sleep and normal physical changes you may encounter as your body tries to return to its non-pregnant condition and will add to more fatigue.
It is important that you focus on healing and taking care of your baby for the first 6 weeks.
Eat regularly, choose healthy foods based on your health professional’s guidelines, take walks, and keep your blood moving with simple stationary breathing development exercises.
Your health professional may give you more specific instructions about Activities that you can engage in.
What makes the most difference is the number of rest breaks you can squeeze in during the day. Exercise rest, exercise rest and repeat.
The Postpartum Course at Optimal breathing Academy provides simple breathing and movement exercises that enhance the breathing reflex; are calming and relaxing to help enhance digestion, massage organs, and the lymphatic system.
They also help manage pain, reduce shortness of breath and improve the balance between blood plasma and carbon dioxide.
5. Postpartum Sleep Problems
It is common to lose your sleep while you are caring for a new life. To ensure you catch up on your essential 40 winks, make sure you sleep when your baby is sleeping or napping. Don’t spend the whole day in your bed; use it only for sleeping so when you lie down, you get a restful sleep. For daytime or too early waking, we recommend our MindFold sleeping mask for napping. It helps to create a sort of Pavlovian conditioned response when you put the mask on.
Ensuring a regular feeding pattern for the newborn also helps in managing everyone’s sleep. Proper, effortless deep breathing exercises help you relax, manage stress and calm your fear and anxiety.
6. Regaining Your Pre-pregnancy Shape
Just as the weight crept up slowly during your pregnancy, it may take some time to lose weight after your baby is born. Start with a simple routine like walking and toning and strengthening your sore muscles. Eating a nutritious diet helps a lot. If you find it hard to lose your weight, talk to your health professional about your goals.
It is hard for you to lose weight from your pregnancy, talk to your health professional about your goals. Remember that if you are breastfeeding, it is essential to get the right amount of calories and nutrients for your baby. As a nutritionist, I counsel to beware of most formulas.
If you have exercised before and during pregnancy, you have a head start on postpartum fitness. But don’t jump immediately back into a Vigorous exercise program. Develop a routine that eases you back into regular exercises. Remember to take it slow and focus more on long-term fitness than short-term results.
7. Postpartum Depression (PPD)
A CDC study shows that about one 1 out of 10 women in the United States experience symptoms of depression. It has become very Common to feel baby blues after the birth of your baby. There are plenty of reasons:- hormonal changes, not getting enough sleep, anxiety about baby care, angry because of fatigue. The list goes on and on. If someone tries to convince you that you are just feeling weak and it will wane off in time don’t believe them. Postpartum depression is a medical condition, not a sign of weakness.
You might want to dismiss it as moodiness or a temporary phase, but it might last from two weeks to three months after delivery.
Severe cases of PPD involve symptoms like despair, lack of interest in the baby, suicidal or violent thoughts, hallucinations, abnormal behavior - the experts call it postpartum psychosis.
How You Can Avoid or Get Relief from Postpartum Depression
I’ve read how many women going through PPD are left on their own, "it all
must be up in your head" after childbirth when their minds and bodies don't feel the same anymore.
1. Educate Yourself
Learn everything you can about postpartum depression. This will enable you to recognize the condition if it occurs and get help for it quickly. You will also be able to give your health-care practitioners the information they need to help you recover.
2. Sleep and Eat Properly
A nutritious diet and sufficient amount of sleep are critical to your health and well-being.
Limit your caffeine and tea intake and switch to healthy herbal teas and potions instead. Nutritional supplements taken after consulting your health professional can help.
Depending on your health professional ’s advice regarding your activity levels, you should try and get moving on your feet as soon as you can. Squeeze in just 15 minutes of walking every day. It will elevate your mood and help you feel better about your body. You could regain control over your body through some easy, but impactful exercises that can be done right in the comfort of your home, at your own pace.
4. Keep It Simple.
Avoid making significant life changes during or right after childbirth. If at all possible, don't get into any big life decisions such as buying a house or changing jobs, during or right after your pregnancy. If you keep your life as simple and stress-free as possible, your postpartum recovery will be faster and easier.
5. Speak Up
Let everything you feel is known. When in the delivery room, don't be afraid to speak up and express your needs and wants in the delivery room. Make sure your delivery is as comfortable as possible. If you think you want an epidural, tell the attending physicians. If you are uncomfortable, tell them about it.
6. Enlist a Support System
Make sure to surround yourself with people who can give you the support you need during childbirth. It could be your partner, or your mother, or your best friend, or all of them. Consider hiring a Douala to help you through the process. You must make sure you do everything to feel supported during delivery to have the best possible experience.
7. Prepare Yourself for Labor and Postpartum Phase.
This article in no way full preparedness. It is more about making sure the breathing is in as good a context as I can create.
Taking a childbirth education class is helpful. But you shouldn’t stop there. Read as many books, articles and watch videos on the topic as you can manage. Talk to other women about their experiences. Most childbirth classes skim over crucial aspects like C-sections, epidural, breastfeeding, even postpartum depression is rarely discussed, because everyone wants the expectant mothers to be happy and positive and not think about the negatives.
I f you are well informed about every possible outcome in the delivery room or during an assisted home delivery, there will be no surprises. If you know what to expect, you are less likely to have a traumatic childbirth experience that shadows over your joy during the postpartum period.
I can not stress enough that the breathing exercises practiced during pregnancy will help you relieve your anxiety, improve your body functions and give you a more dependable sense of calm and control over your physical as well as the emotional state.
8. Enlist Household Help During the Postpartum Period
For at least the first few weeks after your baby is born, you will need someone to cook meals and clean the house.
Especially after a C-section, you will need people to help you. Ask someone to go grocery shopping for you to stock up on frozen entrees and easy healthy snacks like fresh fruits, veggies, legumes, and raw seeds and nuts. Getting help from someone to vacuum the floors or do the laundry will come in handy as well. If you can, hire outside help until you’re back on your feet. Having someone come to your house to clean up twice a week and cook some meals for your family will be a huge relief for you.
9. Build a Strong Emotional Support System
You will need a support system to lean on when you feel frustrated, overwhelmed or are just tired. Talk about your feelings, and how your life is changing. You will feel a lot better after you vent it out and let it go. You should also use your support system to create some time for yourself whenever possible.
Let your partner or your mother or a friend watch the baby while you take a long, hot bath. Let your best friend babysit while you and your partner go out for dinner. Learn to manage your emotions with breathing techniques and exercises, as these simple exercises will help you get more oxygen in your body, relieve e stress and help you overcome your potential emotional roller-coaster journey better.
10. Attend a PPD Support Group
The best support often comes from people who have been where you are and know what you are going through. Talking to your obstetrician, a therapist, your baby's pediatrician or other moms help. Find your local PPD support group and attend meets.
Other Postpartum Symptoms to Watch-out For:
While you are recovering at home with your baby, be watchful of these symptoms and call your health professional immediately
- Abnormal or increased vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Urinary problems like infection or pain
- Constipation and hemorrhoids
- Infection of C-section Incision
- Perineal Pain
- Vaginal Discharge (Lochia)
- Swollen (Engorged) Breasts/Mastitis
We can’t help but marvel at everything that your body has endured in the past nine months.
Now that the pregnancy is finally over, and you have been rewarded with a living, breathing wonder, you also have a new title; Mom. To come to terms with your new role, and learn to take care of your baby can be overwhelming for any woman.
The postpartum period should be a blissful period of resting and helping your body heal from pregnancy and childbirth, rebuild its strength and begin to reach its pre-pregnancy glory.
It’s good to know what to expect, be prepared because it helps you cope better with the physical and emotional changes post -pregnancy.
There is help available for every ailment you may be experiencing in your body after birth. Remember, after delivery, most women need some time to return to their normal activities.