10 Steps to a Healthy Post-Birth Recovery

Because your baby deserves YOU at your best

For thousands of years, women in traditional cultures around the world have practiced postnatal health recovery using the self care techniques.  The period immediately following the birth is crucial for a new mum’s healthy and confident transition into motherhood.  It is surprising to realise that in western cultures, with all our advanced lifestyles and quality of living, we do not acknowledge the recovery time that is needed post childbirth and an honouring of the woman’s transition into motherhood.

Pregnant women are celebrated in our society; it is a time when everyone makes a fuss over the mother to be.  It seems that once a baby is born, in the west, we transfer care and attention over to the infant – when in fact the new mother also needs cherishing at that time.  After nine months of feeling special – it is no wonder that new mums can feel isolated and that the following issues are common in our society.

6 MUST KNOW FACTS for mums-to be.

  • Up to 20% of women have postnatal weight retention, at least 5kg by 6-18months postpartum
  • Up to 76% of women report ongoing fatigue in the postnatal period.  Fatigue is also a major contributor to depression
  • Between 25% and 34% of women report that their children’s births were traumatic, even though the staff and their support team may not perceive it that way
  • 15% of all Australian women suffer from Postnatal Depression
  • 83% of all new mums initiate breastfeeding and only 18% of new mums continue to breastfeed after 6 months
  • Approximately 50% of all new mums report ongoing backache

Research shows that mums who care for their health in the first few months recover quickly. Mums who don’t can take months if not years to recover, impacting family life, relationships, libido and long term health.

9 ESSENTIAL REASONS to care for your health and be supported in the postnatal period for the benefit of you and your family

  • Minimise your recovery time and regain your strength and energy quickly and sustainable
  • Regain your pre-baby tummy and body quickly, gently and natural
  • Support healthy moods during a time of great change
  • Feel supported during your transition intomotherhood
  • Support breastfeeding, by helping promote breast milk quality and flow, which is immensely beneficial for your baby
  • Help improve your quality of sleep
  • Help your baby to settle
  • Enable you to best look after your family’s needs
  • Help protect your long term health
  • By embracing traditional women’s wisdom and the best that western and complementary medicines offer, we recommend a unique natural approach that ensures your best possible recovery in the shortest possible time.  Following are 10 essential ingredients we’d like to share with you to recover quickly for the benefit of you and your family.

1. Plan

Planning is the key! We often find first time mums are so focused on the birth, they are unaware of the upheaval and huge time of change they are about to undergo.  Mums-to-be often expect their immediate family will be their only support, which is not only a big ask, it often takes away from the precious time and opportunity to bond together as a new family.

Thinking about the postnatal period while you are still pregnant enables you to plan what support you and your family will need when you are settling in to motherhood.  Mums need time to themselves too, and planning ahead enables you to enjoy your early days as a new mum, whilst ensuring your health and your family’s wellbeing is being cared for.

Tip:

Nutrition is so important in your postnatal recover.  Many recipes can be pre-prepared, frozen and defrosted.  If people ask if there is anything they can do to help, give them a recipe to prepare for you and your family.

  • Invest in a slow cooker as it is a super easy and nutritious way to cook.

Ask for help from friends and family-who can help with household chores? Who will take care of any older children?  Ask your friends for baby-sitting or housekeeping held as a baby gift.  Or maybe for someone to shop, cook a meal and wash the dishes for you.

Your partner or support person will benefit from understanding the process you will be going through both physically and emotionally, by encouraging them to understand the postnatal period, they can give you their full emotional and practical support.

  • Plan to have enough time off work to recover well, so you can return with energy, vitality and clarity.

If you are planning, or have had an unplanned caesarean, know that your recovery time is longer and lifting and driving are out for at least six weeks, so you may need additional support in home duties.

2. Rest

Across all cultures with positive postnatal traditions adequate rest is a consistent factor.  Many cultures have rituals that have a set period they recommend for rest from anywhere between the first month to several months.  The whole community supports this; therefore new mums in these cultures feel supported and accept that this time is important to their health and recovery.

Your postnatal time is a recuperative time-as with any other type of recuperation, the more rest you have the faster you recover!  In saying this, the concept of rest can be an alien one in today’s society.  Women are busy, they manage important careers, have busy social lives, organise households (often single-handedly) and take an active role in the care of others.

Without adequate rest fatigue can set in.  Up to 76% of women report ongoing fatigue in the postnatal period which significantly impacts on family life, relationships and libido, making seeking support to get some rest a priority for the benefit of you and your family.

Tip:  

Allow yourself at least one good rest each day in the weeks following birth, around when your baby goes down for a sleep, or when you have help to care for your baby.  Be gentler with yourself, give yourself permission to be cared for, accept help when it’s offered and seek it when you need it.  Learning to truly rest is a valuable gift that only you can give to yourself.

3. Nutrition and supplementation

Special nourishing diets are the cornerstone to recovery as your postnatal recovery is greatly enhanced when you eat well.  Specific postnatal foods help your body recover, increase your energy, encourages normal bowel function, support healthy hormones and support breastfeeding.

Few women realise that lactation places greater demands on the body and requires more nutritional support than pregnancy.  It takes approximately the same nutritional requirements to support breastfeeding that it does to actually grow your baby in-utero!  Another interesting fact that is not commonly known is that when a mother is nutritionally deficient, her body will still use all available nutrients for lactation.  There for the baby will continue to get reasonable quality breast milk but the mother will suffer from lack of nutrients, sapping her energy levels and leaving her depleted.

Tip:  New mums need foods that are highly nutritious, slow cooked, easy to digest and warming.  Find out which foods are good for you in the postnatal time and which should be avoided and source some specific recipes for the postnatal period. While nutritional intake through a quality diet is your first line in nutrition, sometimes supplementation can help speed your recovery and boost vitality.  A good postnatal naturopath can give you advice on specific foods and supplementation to enhance your recovery.

4.  Herbs and postnatal support products.

Herbs have traditionally been used to prepare the uterus for labour, to decrease blood loss after delivery, to help the uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size and to support the production of breast milk.  Herbal medicine is still used today in traditional cultures as it is in the west, to gently support new mums in postnatal recovery.

5. Support

In traditional cultures it is common to have a female family member stay with you to help with all aspects of running a home while the new mum recovers.  They also play another important role by offering emotional support and care.  By supporting the new mum during their transition into motherhood, women gain confidence in their ability to mother and learn new skills as their female family members encourage and support them.  Our research indicates a lack of adequate support can encourage postnatal depression.

We often live away from family and it’s not always possible to have them close once baby is born, or if they come it may only be for a short period of time.  Enlisting some support from friends or family close by can ease the risk of ongoing fatigue and can support you and your family to spend some quality bonding time together.  Post-pregnancy recovery programmes help provide the support and valuable contacts that you will need to feel supported and recuperate well.

Tip:

Often women feel that by asking for help they appear to be having difficulty coping.  This is not the case and in order to rest and recover fully in the postnatal period you will need all the help you can get. Of course the most valuable answer to any offer of help is ‘yes, I’d love some help” People to be delighted to help you and to feel needed.

6. Massage

Massage is one of the consistent factors involved in post-birth recovery across many different cultures.  Each culture has its own specific form of massage, generally applied to the entire body, including the abdomen and breasts.  Many different cultures use their own special blend of massage oils – often mixed with traditional herbs and essential oils to increase the benefit.

Benefits of massage for recovering new mums:

  • Renews strength and energy
  • Helps tone and regain your pre-baby tummy
  • Encourages healing of abdominal muscles
  • Improves skin tone and nourishes your skin
  • Relieves muscular tension, abdominal and back pain,
  • Supports healthy weight loss
  • Helps eliminate pregnancy fluid retention
  • Encourages normal bowel function
  • Supports lactation and helps prevent lymphatic stagnation and mastitis
  • Provides relief and comfort to breasts 
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Relaxes your mind and body 
  • Supports health moods 
  • Helps baby settle more easily.

Tip:  

Find a fully qualified massage therapist, who should have a diploma in remedial therapies with specific additional qualifications in postnatal massage. 

7.  Tummy Wrapping.

Many different cultures the world over have practiced the ancient ritual of tummy wrapping after childbirth. It is still practiced today in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Mexico, and China. Guatemala, Java, the south Pacific, India and the Philippines, and in different cultures including Muslim, Mayan and Hmong.

The abdominal wrap is worn from anywhere between a few days or up to several months.  In some cultures, the wrap itself may take eon a special significance as wearing such a belt around the belly was in it was a symbol of motherhood.  In traditional cultures it is generally believed that the wrap helps to return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy position, warm the reproductive organs, support the stomach muscles and close the birth canal, while helping the tummy to return to its pre-pregnancy shape.

Western women are now discovering the many benefits to adopting this ancient practice.  New mums report that it its supportive and comforting to wear on the lower back and abdomen and many find that it helps to flatten their post pregnancy tummies.

8. Mummy and me Yogababy classes

Gentle exercise is important to introduce in the first few weeks to help your strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, stimulate circulations and help you regain your pre-pregnancy body and vitality.  Specific postnatal yoga and exercises help to 

  • Stimulate circulation
  • Stimulate lymphatic drainage
  • Gradually strengthen muscles
  • Help you regain muscle tone
  • Improves oxygen intake
  • Increases energy levels
  • Lifts your mood
  • Gets you back out in the world again after birth

Tip:

Walking is a good place to start and gentle walks in the weeks following birth while pelvic floor exercise are crucial to help strengthen and repair the pelvic floor.  Book into our Mummy & Me yoga classes

9. Breastfeeding

We recommend spending some time researching whether breastfeeding is the best thing for you and your baby, or not.  Each woman is different, there is no right or wrong, however ensure you are making the best decision based on having all the facts.  If you choose to breastfeed you may want to do some reading and research before hand.  Breastfeeding is a new skill that requires practice; you may choose to have some personal breastfeeding instruction before your baby is born.  This will help you learn the basics in a relaxed environment.  Contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association for more information on support available <cite>https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/

Research shows breastfeeding supports the best possible start to a baby’s health, growth and development and provides valuable short-term and long-term health benefits for babies and mothers.  The World Health Organisation recommends that all babies are breastfed exclusively up until a minimum of 6 months of age.  While in Australia 83% of all women initiate breastfeeding and only 18% of new mums continue to breastfeed after 6 months and 40% of all Australian women have ceased breastfeeding before their baby is 1 year old due to inadequate milk supply.

Benefits of breastfeeding for babies.

  • Provides the perfect food for your growing baby
  • Protects your baby against illness and infection, particularly gastrointestinal tract illness, respiratory tract infection and middle ear infection.
  • Helps to protect against allergies and asthma
  • Helps to decrease the chance of childhood obesity
  • Evidence suggests that breastfeeding protects against a range of chronic illnesses which can develop in adulthood, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
  • Aids in the development of babies eyesight, speech and intelligence
  • Promotes a special loving bond between mother and baby

There are also significant benefits for mums

  • Significantly reduces the risk of pre-menopausal cancer
  • Beneficial in promotion the mothers recovery from childbirth 
  • Helps to minimise the risk of haemorrhage post birth
  • May assist in accelerating with loss and return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • May reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers 
  • May decrease the risk of osteoporosis
  • May be protective against type 2 diabetes
  • Hormones released during breastfeeding help to reduce maternal stress and facilitate bonding.

Tip:

If you plan to breastfeed, good nutrition is essential for both mum and baby. It takes the same nutritional expenditure in the first four months of breastfeeding as it does for the full nine months of pregnancy; approximately the same nutritional requirements are needed for successful lactation.  So if the mother’s diet isn’t adequate she will suffer as the body uses all available nutrients in the production of breast milk.  Healthy snacking while you are breast feeding is ideal to ensure adequate nutrition, and having healthy snacks on hand ensures you don’t reach for junk food.  

While pregnancy women are celebrated in our society, it seems that once a baby is born, we in the West transfer all care and attention over to the infant- when in fact the new mother also needs the care and attention at that time.  

In traditional cultures it is the mother who is celebrated, especially in the early postnatal periods-for her bravery and strength and her contribution to the community, her transition into motherhood is revered and celebrated across many cultures.  

Tip:

It is important that we recognise and honour the impact of this major life transition and celebrate ourselves as a new mum.  Follow these ten steps, plan a post-pregnancy recovery programme, ask for help and do something special with your partner and girlfriends to honour this new era in your life.  This subtle shift in focus will help you to gradually adjust to your new role and the challenges and joys of motherhood.

Many thanks to Embracing Motherhood for their wonderful research and paper on the 10 Steps to Postnatal Recovery.

Note:  Prevention of Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)

Birth is not over when the baby is born. It goes on and on in the woman’s mind. If the birth was traumatic, it takes longer to come to terms with it. Sometimes PTSD develops.

Between 25% and 34% of women report that their children’s births were traumatic, even though the staff and their support team may not perceive it that way. Birth trauma includes physical injury, danger, or death to mother or baby, or the perception thereof  by the mother or partner. It also includes feelings of extreme fear, aloneness, disrespect, lack of control or helplessness.

Some of the following risk factors during labour can put you at risk of PTSD:

  • Unexpected complications requiring a change from the birth plan
  • Unwanted routine interventions; lack of understanding of or disagreement over reasons; feeling coerced, powerlessness or being discounted
  • Loss of control over responses to pain (panic, loss of rhythm, crying out, writhing, dissociation)
  • Perceived poor treatment, disrespect, lack of communication from staff
  • Poor support from partner, doula, family
  • Mental defeat, unable to continue, hopelessness sets in
  • Profound opposite of how you wanted the birth to be
  • The good news is that most traumatic birth experiences do not result in the syndrome of PTSD. The feelings associated with traumatic births usually fade in intensity, and become resolved with time, empathic listening, and support from key people in your life.

Seek opportunities for postpartum support and counselling.  Private Counsellor Jane Campbell-Kaye - 3368 1300 or Birthtalk - 3878 7915