How to Prepare for Your Postpartum Body
A friend was telling me about how a few months after she gave birth, she decided it was time to start an exercise routine and get fit again. She took her jump rope, went outside to do a little cardio, and was astonished to find that she immediately peed all over her shorts. I had this exact same experience when my first young toddler was invited to a party at Big Wild Bounce Crazy-Land and I decided to join him in some bouncing. Needless to say, I was embarrassed, and the worst part was I didn’t have anything to change into. I wasn’t really thinking before I left the house “oh, I might wet my pants today, better throw another pair of jeans into my bag!”
Today’s article is addressed to you moms pregnant with your first baby, from your sisters who have gone before, with some of the juicy details on the things you might not expect from your postpartum body.
Those Sad Pelvic Floor Muscles: Incontinence!
It’s not really a surprise that incontinence is a very common issue for moms. Obviously a LOT of stretching had to happen for a baby to come through the birth canal. All the muscles that hold up your bladder and allow you to pee (or not) at will have been through the wringer. You’ve most likely heard of Kegel exercises for re-toning those muscles, but that might not be enough if it’s been several months since giving birth and you are still seriously having accidents when you cough or sneeze. There are physical therapists that specialize in pelvic floor strengthening, and there is even a surgical procedure for women who are done giving birth and would like to be done with wet underwear. Re-strengthening your pelvic floor is very important for a whole variety of reasons. All those muscles essentially hold up all your pelvic organs. When things get out of place they don’t function as well as they should…
…And I’m going to talk about poop again. Yours, this time, not the baby’s. All of that stretching during birth moves things around and re-shapes things and you may find yourself much more constipated than you used to be. It’s harder to get all the stool out, and if you don’t manage to get it all out in one sitting, it will linger there and harder and harder and… I guess I don’t need to elaborate too much. If you give birth at a hospital, they are probably going to give you a stool softener each day you are there, and it’s a good idea buy some to have ready for when you get home. Here’s a few other things that will help:
- Drink *lots* of water.
- Use some personal lubricant on your rectal area if you know it’s going to be hard to pass the stool. This can really save you from tearing the sensitive skin in that area.
- Magnesium citrate is a wonderful daily supplement for keeping things going smoothly (talk to your doctor first).
- See some of the ideas for high fiber meals after the next section on hunger.
Ravenous Hunger and Burning Thirst
My cat used to dabble in a little mouse-hunting. She didn’t hunt for hunger since we fed her regularly at home, but she liked to leave presents for us on the porch. However, after she gave birth to a litter of kittens, we noticed that in between nursing sessions when we let her outside she turned into the terror of the neighborhood birds. One day we saw her catch and drag a robin and devour it in about a second, feathers flying everywhere. We realized we had better start feeding her more or there would be no birds left outside.
The point is, after giving birth, breastfeeding mamas often experience extreme hunger, usually very soon after delivery. They won’t feed you anywhere enough if you are at the hospital, you will be constantly sending your partner to the cafeteria to bring back snacks. Like entire chocolate cakes. I got wise after my first birth and packed a case of Snickers bars in my hospital bag. There are probably healthier choices, but I knew that is what I would crave, and after the kind of birthing marathons I went through, I felt totally guilt-free about my chocolate.
You also will need a lot of extra liquid to make your baby’s milk. Not everyone experiences this, but when my milk lets down, I get an instant feeling of intense thirst at the same time. It’s wise to carry a bottle of water everywhere you go, and drinking every time your baby nurses will keep you hydrated. I get an insulated bottle and keep it full of ice- another instant sensation when my milk lets down is heat. I’m ready to throw off all my clothes, but I refrain since we women already get enough flack for showing our boobs in public while nursing.
I have a few easy ideas to share that will satisfy your constant hunger, need for hydration, and the need for extra fiber to keep your digestive system eliminating happily.
Tips and Tricks to Survive your Postpartum Body
- Did you know that raspberries win the fiber content competition at 8 grams per cup? I have found that Walmart has the best prices on frozen organic raspberries.I use them to make endless smoothies with milk, honey, and Greek yogurt, which is extra high in protein. If you can’t have dairy, be sure to put some sort of protein powder in with your chosen milk substitute. You protein to make good, rich milk!
- Make a big pot of beans and rice for the week, and keep a bag of whole-wheat tortillas in the fridge and some salsa and shredded cheese for fast burritos. This is a quick, filling fiber-packed lunch. Pair the rice and beans with some scrambled eggs for breakfast.
- Look for extra-high-fiber bread at the store. Some brands have as much as 12 grams of fiber per slice.
- Go Russian and keep a big jar of Kompot in the fridge. This is something hydrating and fiber-rich. It’s basically stewed fruits that you chop up and simmer in water with sugar, cool, and refrigerate. In my travels in former Soviet nations I can tell you that there is nothing better than walking up 5-10 flights of stairs to your apartment on a hot summer day and having a glass of ice-cold compote to meet you at the top. Use lots of berries and stone fruits like apricots, peaches, plums and cherries. and you’ll have a magically delicious drink that will certainly keep things moving nicely.
- Trail mix! Lots of nuts and dried fruits and oats or granola and chocolate, of course. One of my favorite things to do is mix it all up with plenty of chocolate in a plastic ziplock bag, leave it in the sun till it gets melty, squish the chocolate all around, and then put it in the fridge to harden. Then everything holds together so you don’t sprinkle the baby with oats when snacking while nursing.
- Make a big container of instant oatmeal. This is one of the best ways I get myself to eat a healthy breakfast. Mix together quick oats with your favorite oatmeal toppings- I like to put in plenty of fruit, nuts, chia and flax seeds and cinnamon. You can add dried milk for extra protein. Put a half-cup scoop in the container. In the morning, put a scoop in a mug, pour in boiling water until the mug is full, stir and wait about a minute or two. You can eat it right then, but I also love to top it with Greek yogurt and honey or maple syrup.
- Google or search on Pinterest for “snacks for nursing moms” and you will find that there are famished mothers just like you all over the world looking for a bite. If you are reading this before you’ve had your baby and you have the energy, a lot of the recipes that pop up are ones that you can make now, individually wrap, and freeze. And be sure to put a big TOUCH NOT THE SNACKS OF A NURSING MOTHER sign on your personal freezer snack box to protect it from family marauders. I have older children and a husband who are always feeling snacky, so this sign is essential.
We can’t cover everything you need to know about your postpartum body in one post- I could probably write a ten page article just on leaky boob problems. If you want to want to know more on a specific topic, you can post a question on our Facebook page and we probably will turn it into a post here, so ask away!
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/28/2017) Edwin & Kelly Tofslie (Flickr)