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11 Steps to Postpartum Recovery

postpartum recovery

Whether you’re a first-time mother or you’re pregnant with your fifth, there’s no denying it: Your body is undergoing some serious postpartum changes. And while a beautiful thing, pregnancy and childbirth can leave women recovering for much longer than they need to if proper recovery time and measures aren’t taken.

Trust me, I understand the desire to lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement just weeks after having a baby. If you’re itching to get back into your workout routine – or you’re feeling like there are some newfound aches and pains after the birth – you aren’t alone.

At Urban Wellness Clinic, I see mothers who are still recovering within their doctor-recommended forty days of rest. I have also helped uncover birth-related injuries nine years after a woman’s child was born.

Having a child is an incredibly magical thing and, understandably, the attention after birth tends to center around the new baby. However, if the needs of the new mother aren’t also addressed, she risks not being able to show up as her best, healthiest and strongest for the baby, her family, and herself.

And the impact of this can show up in many different ways – and for years.

So, give yourself some much-needed time and focus. You deserve it. Read on and learn my eleven postpartum recovery tips to get yourself and your body back on track after birth.

Postpartum Recovery Starts Before Birth

How you recover after having a baby depends largely on how you prepared beforehand while you were pregnant. During pregnancy, it is important to incorporate a strength training routine, practice breathing, and train your mindset.

Strength training during pregnancy has a variety of benefits. It reduces fatigue and helps regulate your mood, and it also allows your body to be strengthened and supported through the daunting task of bringing a new life into the world.

Specific postpartum strength training exercises help ease the birthing process by strengthening and stretching the labor muscles, like the transverse abdominis (TVA), which compresses as you push.

Implementing a breathing routine into your daily practice during your pregnancy is also key. When you go into labor, you want strong, deep, controlled breaths – not shallow, short ones. By preparing for this with practiced and proven breathing strategies, like the reverse breathing technique, you’ll strengthen your core, push more effectively, and maintain a level of determined focus on the big day.

Finally, preparing your mindset for childbirth is often overlooked, but can make the difference between a peaceful, calm experience and a frazzled, stressful one. There are many ways to train your mindset for childbirth, especially if you’re choosing to have your baby naturally and without medication.

By beginning the recovery process before birth, you set the tone and trajectory for your healing after baby.

Postpartum Sitz Baths

Immediately after baby, rest in a warm sitz bath to promote healing, ease pain, and keep the perineal area clean. Soak for 20 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day, right after birth to improve blood flow and decrease swelling. The number and frequency of your sitz baths can decrease with time – just ask a professional before switching up your bath’s ingredients or cooling the temperature.

Rest for Forty Days

Many mothers, especially ones who were previously very active, itch to resume their workout routine as soon as they feel ready. We also get anxious to get our pre-baby body back. Respecting the recommended forty days of rest enables your body to heal both what you can see – and what you can’t – so you don’t encourage unforeseen complications down the road.

Give yourself and your new baby the full forty days of rest you both need.

Gentle Walking

Although you may not be hitting the weights or logging the miles you used to, gentle walking after birth gives you the movement and sunshine you crave while still respecting your body’s need to heal. Start slowly and near home and lengthen your walks over time. Keep a relaxed pace to warm up your muscles, increase blood flow, and encourage healing.

Eat Warm, Nourishing Foods

Right after delivering your baby, it’s important to replenish your body with high-nutrient foods which promote healing and give your body the strength it needs to support itself and your nursing baby. Hearty stews, soups, and curries are easily digestible and nutrient-dense, and adding things like ghee, bone broth, and slow-cooked meats will add the healthy fats, iron, and protein you need to heal. Soups and stews are also an easy way to ensure you get your vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, legumes, and beans.

Sleep When Baby Sleeps

We all know new babies sleep often – and erratically. As a brand new momma, don’t forget you need your sleep, too! Immediately after birth, sleep when the baby sleeps. One, because sleep will help you heal, and two, because you’ll certainly be awake when the baby is!

Let it Go

When you’ve had your baby, so much has changed. Your body, your lifestyle, your priorities, your sleep schedule – and it’s OK. While things regulate and stabilize, both inside and out, don’t stress the small stuff. If the house is a mess, let it go. If your body doesn’t look as it did, be kind to yourself and instead focus on how amazing your body is. It accomplished something beautiful by bringing life into the world.

You are a mother, and this new reality is bound to shake things up a bit. Instead of fighting it and stressing over mess, lean into it and understand it’s all part of the process. Now’s the time to focus on recovery and baby.

Use Your Squirt Bottle

Right after the birth, be sure to use your perineal squirt bottle with warm water to wash the area – after your first bowel movement and while you’re healing, especially after an episiotomy. This prevents infection and cleans the area in a gentler way than wiping. After cleansing, delicately pat dry with a clean cloth or dry, soft toilet paper.

Active Release Technique

Tips 1-8 are for at-home, immediately after birth recovery. However, there are certain techniques we implement in the clinic to help new moms recover – especially when there have been injuries, damaging compensations, and tweaked movement patterns due to pregnancy.

Active Release Technique (ART) loosens scar tissue, which is especially helpful after a C-section. It also frees compressed nerves, improves oxygen flow, relieves pain, and restores movement to the parts of your body which have been strained or dormant along your journey to motherhood.

Neurokinetic Therapy

Neurokinetic Therapy is at the foundation of our philosophy at Urban Wellness Clinic. Through this type of therapy, we muscle-test to diagnose why a muscle is tense and overcompensating for weakness in other parts of the body. We are then able to uncover the root cause of your pain and help correct the movement patterns causing it.

Compensations are especially common in women who had tearing during birth, a C-section or an episiotomy. When we can determine where the compensations lie – and what other parts of the body are being impacted by it – we can then create a personalized recovery program or refer out to the appropriate specialist for additional care. For example, if we discover abdominal tightness or weakness through NKT, we’ll refer out to a Pelvic Floor Specialist who’ll help restrengthen those muscles.

I once had a patient who suffered from Plantar Fasciitis, the inflammation of a thick band of tissue running lengthwise across the bottom of the foot and causes stabbing pain – in both feet for nine years. She couldn’t even stand in the shower. Nine years prior, she had had an episiotomy with her son. Coincidence? I think not!

For years, she invested in personal training and therapy in an attempt to heal her Plantar Fasciitis, but no one ever thought to seek the root cause of her pain – or connect it to the birth of her son. I muscle-tested her core using NKT and found trigger points and dysfunction related to the health of her pelvic floor. After a few short weeks with a Pelvic Floor Specialist, she was well on her way to recovering from nine years of pain.

When I think of her case – and others we’ve seen just like her – I think of the unnecessary pain endured and how the pain impacted her wellbeing, ability to be active with her son, and opportunities to show up in the world like she wanted to as a woman and mother.

I just wish I could’ve helped her sooner!

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS)

DNS is a rehabilitation approach which stimulates movement control centers in the brain to activate how our bodies were meant to move by restoring and stabilizing locomotor function. During pregnancy, it’s common to shift the way you move to account for your new and growing shape and weight.

We use DNS to help new mothers retrain their natural movement so they don’t bring inefficient, damaging movement patterns into their postpartum exercise routine, which could quickly lead to injury and a prolonged recovery time. If you’d like to learn more about the importance and effectiveness of DNS, I wrote an article about it here.

As a mother who intimately works with women to optimize their postpartum health and movement, I understand the desire to get your body back after baby. However, I also know the best recovery path and what happens if you short-cut or choose not to take it and it’s not worth it.

To live a long, healthy, and pain-free life where you easily keep up with your kids requires intentional care for the vessel supporting you there. So, take time for yourself and your recovery. Your body and your children will thank you.

To learn more about how our therapies can help you recover postpartum, find us at Urban Wellness Clinic.

Best in health,

Dr. Emily Kiberd