Many parts of your body will change after pregnancy, at least temporarily, and this is especially true for your pelvic area. Many women struggle with restoring their pelvic area after giving birth vaginally.
This can happen even if you have a C-section as well, since the constant pressure of the baby for nine months can still cause postpartum incontinence and other issues. Here’s what you need to know about helping your pelvic floor recover after birth:
Know what happened during the birth.
Giving birth can be chaotic, and you probably won’t remember the details once you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. However, once you feel up to it, you should check in with your doctor and ask for more details about the birth, such as whether you have a tear and whether forceps were used. Getting the details of the birth will better equip you to help your pelvic floor heal up in the coming days and weeks.
Take care of it properly.
You will likely have at least a few stitches, regardless of whether you gave birth vaginally or via C-section, which means that you need to take proper care of the incision site so that it heals well and does not become infected. Keep it clean and dry during the day. Wash it gently with water while you are in the shower and then gently pat it dry with a soft towel. Don’t rub the area or otherwise do something that could irritate it. Most women leak blood and fluids for a few days after birth, so change your sanitary pad every few hours so it doesn’t get overloaded.
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Use pain relief as necessary.
You will likely experience swelling, discomfort, and pain in your pelvic area after giving birth, particularly around the tear or incision site. Using ice, cold compresses, and cool baths can help numb the area and reduce swelling. Your doctor might also prescribe medication or recommend over-the-counter drugs to help manage the pain as well. Be sure to follow the instructions for taking these medications.
Give yourself plenty of time to recover.
While you may be tempted to get back to your regular daily activities as soon as possible, it’s vital that you give yourself time to rest and recover. Most women shouldn’t do anything more than gentle walking and stretching for the first six weeks after giving birth, and your doctor might recommend even more rest time if you have an especially traumatic birth. This will also give you time for certain side effects, such as bleeding and postpartum incontinence, to lessen or resolve itself before you start trying to do exercises.
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Get to know your pelvic floor again.
Many women feel disconnected from their body, and in particular their pelvic area, after giving birth. Once you feel ready, try to get back in touch with this area of your body and get to know what it looks and feels like. You may want to start off with some pelvic breathing, which is gentle and won’t strain your body. As your strength improves (and your doctor gives the okay), you can do pelvic floor exercises with or without Kegel balls to further test your stamina, or pelvic yoga to improve your flexibility.
Be mindful of your movements.
We use our pelvis in a lot of body movements, and usually we don’t realize it. However, you may become all too aware of this after you give birth. Even normal movements like walking, sitting, and standing may suddenly cause pain in your pelvic area that wasn’t there before. Try to avoid putting unnecessary stress on that area as much as you can. Ask for help when lifting heavy objects, and roll onto your side first to get up from bed. Small changes like this will make a big difference in your recovery.
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Don’t strain your body.
Activities such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, jumping, and lifting heavy objects put a lot of strain on your pelvic floor. Try to minimize these as much as possible in the days following the birth. In situations where you can’t avoid it, such as coughing, you may wish to give yourself a little extra support by gently holding the area in place with your hand to reduce the chances of popping your stitches.
Keep things flowing.
Speaking of straining, you do not want to become constipated, as this puts major pressure on your pelvic and vaginal areas. After giving birth, drink plenty of water and eat a diet high in fiber such as whole grains and produce to keep things moving along. You might also need to use a laxative, especially right after the birth, to soften your stools and keep things moving. You don’t want to put off pooping, but you also don’t want to strain yourself while doing it.
Be careful with returning to physical activity.
If you had an easy birth and you follow the other guidelines on this list, you might start feeling really well even before your six-week checkup. Despite this, it’s important to refrain from activities that could stress your pelvic area, such as exercise and sex, until your doctor gives you the go ahead. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean that you’re fully healed up yet. Pushing yourself too hard and too fast could lead to injury that prolongs your recovery period significantly. Take it easy now, and you’ll be back to normal faster.
Your pelvic floor will get better after giving birth, but it takes time. Be patient with your body and give it the love and care it deserves. If you feel like you aren’t getting better, consider seeking out a pelvic floor specialist who can help you with your specific issues.