How to stay active and healthy in the first weeks after delivery

There’s a reason childbirth has another name: labour. You’ve worked so hard to deliver your baby. You have also spent nine months growing a whole new life inside your body. You are amazing!

So now that your baby has come home with you, what’s next on the horizon?

The first weeks are magical ones of gazing at, and bonding with, your beautiful baby. But your body can sometimes give you some not-so loving messages.

Issues such as sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts, constipation, and vaginal bleeding and discharge can make these weeks very challenging ones for a new mom.

Which is why keeping healthy and gently active is just as important after birth as it was during your pregnancy and maybe even moreso as you have a baby needing you (most often day and night!).

Have the right equipment on hand

Heavy duty sanitary pads

If you’ve given birth vaginally or by C-section, there will be bleeding and discharge of tissue. While the duration and the amount of bleeding varies from mom to mom, you’ll most likely have heavy discharge for the first four or so days, followed by lighter discharge for the next three to four weeks.

Ice packs

Whether you’ve had stitches during labour or not, chances are that you will still have some pain in your perineum. Keep both pain medication and ice packs on hand.

Warm compresses and more ice packs

Whether or not you have chosen to breastfeed your baby, your body will produce milk within the first days after giving birth. If there’s a build-up of milk in your breasts, they will basically feel overfull or engorged. Your breasts will feel swollen, sore, and heavy.

If you are breastfeeding, you can relieve the engorgement by hand- or pump-expressing a bit of milk from your breasts, or use a warm compress or shower to encourage the milk to come down.

If you’re not breastfeeding, the milk will dry up. While you might feel the urge to express milk, this will result in a longer time for the milk to stop producing. Use warm compresses and over-the-counter pain medication.

Nutritious and high-fibre food

Being busy with a newborn often leads to skipping feeding yourself. This is an important time to keep up your energy with nutritious food. While another joy of having your baby is the possibility of constipation, eating foods high in fibre such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans, and drinking lots of water will not only keep you energized, but it will keep your digestive system happy too.

Helping hands

One of the most important resources for you at this time is the help of others. Whether this is your partner, friends, or family, take up their offer to help! (And if they don’t offer, you are more than allowed to be pushy and ask for help). To allow you the important time to rest and recover, to have a shower, or to eat, ask others to bring you snacks or meals, to change diapers, do laundry, vacuum, etc.

Start to move your body in the healthiest of ways

While you might feel unmotivated, too tired, or can’t find the time, it’s beneficial to start to move your body to ease any stress you may be feeling and to energize your body. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, there are some simple exercises you can do within a few days.

Walking

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to start walking. For women who have had C sections, walking is highly recommended after surgery to avoid blood clots. While you may not walk more than to the end of the driveway on your first couple of days, try to increase your distance a bit each day.

Kegel exercises

As your pelvic floor muscles can become weak from pregnancy, Kegels are a great way to strengthen these muscles and prevent incontinence. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Locate your pelvic muscles and gently contract them for three to five seconds. Release for five seconds and repeat the contraction. Eventually you can work up to longer contractions and more repetitions.

Gentle stretching

Get those muscles moving with gentle stretches using a resistance band or just your own body. Rotate your wrists and ankles while sitting. Stand and gently tilt your neck from side to side. Raise your arms over your head or roll your shoulders back and forward.

Deep breathing

Release stress with deep breathing. While there are many deep-breathing exercises, you might want to start with lying on your back with your eyes closed. Keeping one hand on your stomach and inhale for two to three seconds. You should feel an expansion in your stomach. Focus on releasing any spots of tension from your head to your toes. Exhale slowly and repeat for two to three minutes.

Exercises to avoid

In order to protect your abdominal wall and pelvic floor, it is recommended that high-impact exercise such as running or skipping be avoided for at least six weeks after giving birth. Avoid overstretching of your abdomen by leaving crunches or pushups until approved by your doctor.

Key takeaways

At the end of the day, the best advice is to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby. Let others help, rest, eat, and move your body. And also take the time to gaze lovingly at your baby. They have a way of making anyone smile.


Read more about being a new parent:

Coping strategies to help you manage the “baby blues”

How being active helped me recover from postpartum depression

Getting your kids moving: An age-by-age guide

Stroller fit: Get moving with your baby

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