Pregnancy and childbirth change a woman’s body in many ways. Most of these changes are temporary, but some may last a long time or cause lasting problems like weak muscles and pelvic floor dysfunction.
Some women may experience fecal incontinence as a result of an unresolved diastasis recti or the laceration of their perineal muscles during labor and delivery (like an episiotomy). These symptoms can be treated with pelvic floor physical therapy postpartum.
Get Plenty of Rest
Some new moms feel exhausted after labor and delivery. This is completely normal. Fatigue can be compounded by around-the-clock care for a newborn. To combat fatigue, get plenty of sleep. Sleep when the baby sleeps, and ask for help if needed.
Most minor postpartum problems, such as hemorrhoids and constipation, are easily managed at home. Eat a high-fiber diet, drink lots of fluids and take a stool softener. Exercise is also important to reduce these problems. Your uterus and pelvic muscles may be weak from pregnancy, but a regular program of pelvic floor therapy can restore them.
If you had a C-section, the area where your baby was delivered, called the perineum, may be sore. You can use ice to reduce pain and swelling, and sit on a soft pillow when you can. You’ll probably need stitches to close cuts and tears in the perineum, which can take up to six weeks to heal.
You can help prevent depression by talking openly with your partner and seeking support from family and friends. It’s also helpful to avoid stressors, such as over-stressing about a messy house when visitors arrive. The key to coping with postpartum depression is getting enough rest, eating well and staying hydrated, limiting unnecessary visitors and allowing yourself time to relax and enjoy your new baby.
During pregnancy and postpartum, your fluid needs are higher than usual. The increased blood volume, higher heart rate and higher breast milk production all contribute to your hydration demands. In addition to water, you need lots of liquids that contain important nutrients like calcium, magnesium and vitamin C that support bone health. Milk is a good option since it is easy to sip and often contains these essential bone-supporting nutrients. Many dairy alternatives, like almond milk and soy milk, also provide a good source of these vital nutrients while being super simple to drink.
Aside from nursing, your body may need additional liquids to facilitate bowel movements (which can be irregular after delivery). Some women get constipated as a result of the hormonal shift in early postpartum, and straining can increase the risk of severe hemorrhoids, delay perineal healing and cause an incisional hernia.
Try consuming some high-fiber foods, like whole grains and leafy green vegetables, to help facilitate your bowel movement while you work on getting back to a regular routine. It’s also a great idea to keep some easily-preparable, portable snacks on hand that will give you a nutritional boost between meals. Nutrient-packed foods like hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt are both delicious and healthy options. Plus, they’re a perfect grab-and-go snack when you’re juggling a newborn and household chores!
Eat Healthy Meals
After carrying a growing fetus for nine months, as well as extra fluids and fat to accommodate the baby, your body may be feeling drained of nutrients. A nutrient-rich diet full of complex carbs, fiber, healthy fats and protein, plus adequate hydration, can help speed postpartum recovery. This helps stave off bone loss, replenish iron stores, head off hemorrhoids and much more, nutritionist Tara Bassi tells Romper.
Lean meat, tofu and fish are excellent sources of protein, which can help build your strength and aid in milk production if you plan on breastfeeding. You can also get plenty of protein from beans and legumes, such as lentils, which are a great source of iron (and can sometimes replace the need for an iron pill).
Another nutrient you’ll want to focus on is calcium. It can help strengthen your bones and teeth, which are both important after childbirth, as well as reduce the risk of certain postpartum issues, including depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, seeds and fish, can also support mental health. They contain the essential fatty acid DHA, which may help protect against postpartum depression and other mental health issues.
Pregnancy and childbirth alter many muscles in your body, including the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. These muscles provide support for your spine, lower back and hips while performing daily activities and during exercise. But these changes don’t necessarily make a woman less fit.
It’s important to progress slowly back into exercise postpartum, avoiding pain and injury, says Shefali Christopher, an associate professor in the doctor of physical therapy program at Tufts University School of Medicine. It’s also important to consider the impact of other lifestyle factors, like the amount of sleep you’re getting and how much energy you have available between diaper changes and feedings if you’re breastfeeding.
Aim to do a low-impact aerobic activity — such as walking — for 20 minutes a day and perform simple postpartum exercises, such as the glute bridges, which involve lying on your back with your knees bent and contracting your ab muscles and butt muscles at the same time to lift your hips off the ground. Increase your time and intensity over time, but always listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain.
Kegels can be a great exercise for the pelvic floor, but if you’re experiencing incontinence or other issues that don’t improve with regular at-home care, consult your healthcare provider for a referral to pelvic floor physical therapy. Also, avoid straining when having bowel movements. Straining can up your risk of hemorrhoids, delay perineal healing and even cause incisional hernias. 产后 修复