Let’s just lay those fake social media images and happy videos to rest – your postpartum body isn’t going to look like it did before you were pregnant. After (a natural) birth, you may feel like your vagina is the size of a grapefruit or you may be too scared to move because you were opened from A to B and now have a gut full of staples or stitches holding you together. Whatever your experience was, know that it is normal to feel like you have been through the wringer.
If, by chance, you are full of energy and all smiles, kudos to you – we all want to know your secret! Most of us will get home from the hospital and be completely lost on what to do with the baby, let alone know what to do with the raging hormones and a body that doesn’t look anything like it did before pregnancy. And that’s totally normal! It is important for you to know that you are not the only one who is feeling this way.
After a week or so of playing new mum, the expectation to ‘have it all together’ may creep in. In fact, I often get mothers wanting to know how long it will take them to get their pre-pregnancy body back. I’ve even had women as early as two days after the birth ask that question. The answer? Hold your horses for a bit!
It took you nine months to grow that bundle of joy, and your body has been through some major changes in order to carry that precious cargo. That means it will take (most) women a good nine months or more to get their body back into shape – and even then, it may never go back to what it once was. And that’s okay! Your body has done something truly amazing and you need to give it a bit of TLC both physically and mentally. Here are a few things that we don’t often get told before pregnancy – and that I wish I had known.
The Effect of Relaxin on Your Body
Just before your birth, a hormone called relaxin increases within your body to help relax the ligaments in your pelvis and soften the cervix to prepare you for the birth. This hormone will be released whether you give birth naturally or opt fo a caesarean. It can then remain in your body for up to 12 months post-birth, though for most women it stays for around five. Whilst it is released to help with the birth of your baby, it also relaxes other ligaments and joints throughout the entire body.
A lot of women who I have trained (myself included) often have issues with the wrist and hip joints. Any type of physical activity involving pressure put through the hands, such as push-ups, are usually quite difficult and can be painful. Make sure to also steer clear from sumo or wide squats as your pelvis and hips have already widened somewhat. It is best to stick with hip-width stability exercises and look at building general strength rather than stretching things any further.
Ab Separation / Diastasis Recti
Some time after birth, some mothers gain what we call the “mom pooch” or “mum pouch”. It’s where the stomach muscles have relaxed so much that we get a protrusion of the abdominal wall and the belly sticks out, making some of us look like we are still three months pregnant. For most mums, as time goes on, this disappears as the ab separation closes. For others, the protrusion – and especially the stretched skin – can stay forever. The best thing for this is postnatal ab exercises and kegels. For the loose skin and stretch marks, massage some Bio-Oil onto your belly.
Love Your Postpartum Bod
Your body has been through a journey for the past nine months. The best advice I can give you as a trainer and a mum is to give your body some love!
You may find yourself looking in the mirror and feeling sad. I hear you – the extra weight, sleep deprivation, and who you were on the inside and out has now changed. If you feel any of this negativity creeping in, give these few tips a try to feel better about yourself:
- Stand naked in front of a mirror, smile, and hug your belly instead of shaming it.
- Thank your body for being strong enough to carry and grow your baby/babies.
- Sleep and get some rest – the dishes can wait.
- Start your kegels as soon as you can.
- Get dressed up and go out on date nights with your partner again.
- Take some time out to do something that you like for yourself.
The more you cherish and look after yourself, the better the chance of recovering after birth and moving into motherhood with all its trials and tribulations.