Guest Blog: Combating pregnancy discomfort and tips for recoveryWe chat to Becs from Leto Women's Health about how to combat pregnancy discomfort, ways to help with recovery post birth and tips to ease back into things.
What are some simple, safe exercises C-section mums can do during and post recovery?
The most important thing is to rest in the first few days to allow your body to heal. Use pillow support to help you keep in a good posture when you are sitting feeding and while you are sleeping. The airnest Nursing pillow is ideal for maintaining a good posture while feeding.
When starting back exercising make sure you take it slow and just increase slowly. Start with just walking to your letterbox then increase slowly each day. A rough goal would be to aim to walk 5-10 mins a day by the end of first week then increase by 5 mins each week so after so by 6 week mark you can easily walk 30- 40 mins.
While the scar is healing in the first 4 weeks it is best to just stick with walking as your main form of exercise, however it is important to start gently restoring strength of your pelvic floor and lower abdominals which have been stretched throughout your pregnancy. Even though your pelvic floor has been spared, the stretch of a vaginal birth it has still had 9 months of extra weight on it and changed hormones making it weaker. You can start gentle pelvic floor exercises as soon as you like after birth, again just start gently and slowly - aim to squeeze and lift and hold for 2-3 seconds initially and repeat x10 times. Try and do this 2-3 times a day. Slowly increase the time you aim to hold for and then try in more challenging positions like standing.
Once given the all clear of infection at your six week doctor check up, it’s a good idea to start some gentle C-section scar self massage. There are many layers of skin, fascia, muscle and nerves involved in the C-section operation, and they can tether together when healing. You can be shown how to safely do this by your women’s health physio. We usually get you starting gently using 2 fingers in circular motion massaging lightly above and below the scar and work up to directly over the scar. You can try in the shower, or with some light moisturiser.
After the six week mark, it’s time to get your body stronger, particularly your pelvic floor and deep abdominals. Your baby will be getting bigger and heavier and it is important you regain your core strength to keep up. Low impact exercise like yoga or Pilates, ideally run by a physiotherapist, is the best for this. Other safe forms of exercise are; walking, swimming, light weights, cycling. Leave the running or heavy weights until at least 12 weeks post birth.
Can mums do anything during pregnancy that will help with recovery after birth?
Be prepared. Get a good set up ready for feeding your baby as you will spend a lot of time in that chair in the first few weeks. Get a feeding pillow and foot stool which will also help.
Make sure you have support in place if you can from family and friends after birth so you can focus on rest and recovery as much as possible.
Pregnancy, birth and motherhood all place huge strain on the body so the fitter and stronger you are the more likely you will manage these physical stresses and strains.
Staying active in your pregnancy will really help in your recovery. Ideally aim for 30 mins of low impact cardio exercise 3-5 times a week and ideally add some resistance strengthening exercise also 2 times a week. The core and Pelvic floor muscles are affected most by pregnancy and birth so making sure you take care of these muscles but avoiding heavy lifting and straining, (having good diet and fluid intake will reduce risk of contraption which can really strain pelvic floor) and doing regular pelvic floor exercise throughout your pregnancy will reduce risk of PF issues like incontinence and prolapse after birth
How does a nursing pillow help with feeding a baby?
A feeding pillow provides support for both you and your baby. When you place your baby on a pillow on your lap, it helps to raise the baby up to your breast. When your baby is higher, you won't have to lean forward, so it's more comfortable for your back, neck, and arms. Placing your child at the right height also helps the baby to latch correctly. A proper latch is very important to help establish your breast milk supply and ensure your baby is getting enough milk. It can also prevent some of the common feeding issues that can arise from a poor latch.
What sleeping or resting positions can you recommend to C-Section mums that are comfortable but don’t put strain on their abdomen?
After a C-section you will probably not be very comfortable lying on your front so side lying is still the best position. You may still feel more comfortable sleeping using a pillow between your knees to help minimise the strain and rotation on your hips and lower back.
If you sleep on your back it is important to remember not to try and sit up from lying using your abdominals as this will strain the wound. So make sure you continue to roll onto your side and use your arms to push up when getting out of bed.
Getting up from a chair can also initially be difficult. Avoid low, deep or soft chairs as these chairs will be even harder to rise from. Use a pillow/s behind your back if the seat is deep and and ideally have a chair with arms so you can help push yourself up. Support your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles by moving to the edge of the chair before rising and gently engaging these muscles before standing up.
Are there positions, movements or activities that should be avoided in the recovery period after birth?
Your spine, pelvis and pelvic floor are all quite vulnerable after birth, especially in the first few weeks and months. The muscles, ligaments and joints have all been stretched and strained and will take a while to recover and rehabilitate so it is important that you take good care of your posture, especially when feeding, and avoid lifting anything heavy that might place strain on your back, pelvic floor and abdominal wall.
Rolling onto your side to get out of bed is still advised in the first few weeks and getting as much help as you can with any baby cares that involve lifting (such as the pram in/ out of car). If you do have to lift then make sure you get yourself into good posture and try gently engage your pelvic floor and lower abdominals before you lift.
Keeping mobile and active is really important after birth but make sure you just start slowly with short walks and low impact exercise and book in to see a women’s health physio for a postnatal check to guide you on how to safely return to your ideal exercise regime.
Do you have any tips in easing back pain during pregnancy
There are lots of ways you can help both prevent and ease back pain in pregnancy. The most important thing is to keep active - regular short walks or other forms of low impact exercise - especially strengthening exercises like pregnancy yoga or Pilates - will really help keep your postural muscles strong and keep your joints moving.
Being aware of your posture and your body shape changes is also really important. Ensuring you have a good work chair if you sit at work and using pillows for spinal support when sleeping will really help.
Avoiding heavy lifting is really important as your back is very vulnerable with the increased joint laxity and loss of core support in pregnancy.
If you develop back pain then it is important to remember that while it is common it doesn’t mean you need to just put up with it. There are various treatments, specific exercises and support braces and belts that can all really help so make sure you see a Women’s health physiotherapist for some advice on what is best for you to relieve your symptoms so you can get on with enjoying your pregnancy!
Back pain is very common in pregnancy with up to 50% of women experiencing discomfort. The hormones released during pregnancy cause a softening of the back and pelvic ligaments. This is compounded by the ever-increasing size and weight of your growing baby and the loss of core muscle support as the abdominal muscles are stretched. This results in a shift in your centre of gravity and the end result is a lot of extra pressure and strain on the spine.
There are a number of ways to minimise (or better yet, prevent) low back pain in pregnancy. The most important thing is maintaining good postural habits. As your pregnancy progresses and your body shape changes, it is very important to try and keep in good postural alignment to minimise the strain from the extra load going through your joints.
This means...no slouching!
When you are sitting, get into the habit of having a small cushion behind your lower back to support the natural curves of the spine and sit as far back into the chair as is comfortable. Try and keep your hips a little higher than your knees – use a small foot stool if needed. Get up regularly if sitting long periods - give yourself and baby space to move!
Side sleeping is advocated as the best position to sleep in during pregnancy - especially in your third trimester. Try lying on your side using your pregnancy pillows to add extra support where it is now needed. Use a firm but comfortable pillow for your head and place another pillow between your knees and ankles to help keep your pelvis stacked and minimize strain on the pelvic ligaments. Place a small pillow under your stomach to relieve any tension or strain on your pelvis and back from the weight of the bump. Try out our Body Support Pillow for comfortable sleep and rest.
Regular gentle exercise is a great way to stay in shape and keep those postural muscles that support your back in good shape. Short but regular walks, even ten minutes, are a simple way to incorporate exercise and time for yourself into your daily schedule. Keep up those good postural habits here too. Imagine a string going from the top of your head to the sky, the back of your neck getting longer. Avoid carrying a bag while you are out for a walk or if necessary, carry one across your body, or use a back pack. Keep your arms down by your side and let them gently swing as you walk. This will help mobilise the spine and encourage nice deep breaths.
Swimming can be a great exercise too, with the water alleviating the extra load the body is carrying. Do take care getting in and out of the pool!
Join a pregnancy safe Pilates or yoga class to specifically target strengthening your postural muscles
Other tips include...
- Sometimes applying a mild heat pad, or alternating between ice packs and heat can give some relief. Having someone gently rub your back or having a massage therapist do pregnancy massage may also help. Any massage you receive in pregnancy should be gentle and not painful – if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!
- Use a good maternity support belt. The Leto belt is designed specifically for back and pelvic pain in pregnancy and available www.leto.co.nz
- Do your pelvic floor muscle exercises! These are important muscles to exercise for both core muscle support during your pregnancy which will help support your back and pelvis and also help in preparation for birth. Doing regular pelvic floor muscle exercises can also help reduce the risk of developing urinary incontinence associated with pregnancy and birth. We recommend seeing a women’s health physio for advice on pelvic floor muscle exercises in pregnancy.
- Don’t be a hero when it comes to lifting, as your body changes lifting may strain vulnerable joints and muscles. Squat and lift with your legs when lifting small objects. Do not bend at your waist or lift with your back muscles. Don’t hold your breath when you are lifting. Do not try to lift heavy objects. Ask for help if you need it.
If you continue to have pain or discomfort when feeding then book in to see a women’s health physio for treatment and further advice.
This blog post was written by Rebecca Dodson and Stacey Law from Leto Women's Health.
Leaders in women’s health, Rebecca Dodson and Stacey Law both trained over 15 years ago as musculoskeletal and sports physios before their passion for working with women led them to specialise in pelvic floor physiotherapy, pre and post-natal exercise, clinical pilates and acupuncture.
Rebecca and Stacey believe that they can make the most impactful difference to lives by both educating clients about their bodies as well as giving them the tools for how to get the most out of them. They bring this approach to all the clients they work with; formulating a tailored assessment and personalised plan that takes the individual into account. They also advocate using exercise as part of the treatment (where appropriate) as that allows them to see how a woman’s bodies responds when her muscles are engaged, and how to best correct any issues that may arise from that.
If you are in Auckland, you can book in to see Becs or Stacey here.