Here are 3 things mothers need to know about their body after baby.
With so much pressure to ‘bounce back’ after baby, sometimes we forget that we’ve gone through this miraculous journey of pregnancy and birth. Its important to accept that things are going to change in our bodies whether we like it or not. Many mums will find that they can no longer ‘bounce’ around without pain or leaking. Here are 3 things mothers need to know about their body after baby.
1. Your abs have parted
During pregnancy, your uterus expands and moves up from your pelvis into your abdomen. As your baby grows, it presses out against your abdominal muscles and connective tissue. The linea alba, which is the connective tissue between the two sides of your ab muscles, stretches to accommodate.
Unfortunately, in 40% of mums, an abdominal separation, or diastasis recti, persists after birth. This separation can be the root cause of back and pelvic pain. It can also contribute to bladder and bowel control problems. In fact 66% of women with diastasis recti also experience incontinence or prolapse.
Many mums start doing dozens of crunches and sit-ups in an effort to flatten their ‘mummy tummy’. But what they don’t realise is that these types of exercises can separate the abs more, and cause more pelvic floor issues.
It is important for mums to educate themselves about the right exercises to do. These include exercises that address posture and alignment, and those which incorporate the pelvic floor muscles and the deep abdominal muscle known as transversus abdominis (TA). The TA muscle wraps around the abdomen like a corset, and helps to provide strength, stability and support for your abdomen and spine.
2. Your organs have sagged
When the uterus moves up into the abdomen during pregnancy, it places pressure on the bladder, bowel, pelvic connective tissue and pelvic floor muscles. Couple this with the pressures of pushing a baby out of the vagina, it’s not surprising that those pelvic organs will feel like they’re falling out after birth.
Approximately one in three women will develop pelvic organ prolapse, which is when the pelvic organs sit lower in the pelvis. Women who’ve had a forceps birth have a higher risk of prolapse and bladder control issues. Mums who’ve had a c-section can also develop prolapse, especially of their uterus.
The tell-tale signs of prolapse are not just a physical bulge vaginally; women can also experience lower back pain, lower abdominal pain, a sensation of pressure in their pelvis or dragging and heaviness sensations. Bladder leakage is also directly related to prolapse, as well as changes in the urine stream. Having a slow flow, or needing to go back for a second wee within 5-20 mins, or feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bladder are common sensations.
Prolapse can be easily diagnosed and addressed by seeing your women’s health physiotherapist, who can fit you for a support device known as a pessary. Think of it as a bra for your bits that helps to push those pelvic organs back up, resulting in less weight on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor exercises are also super important, and not just kegel exercises, but doing functional exercise that involves activating your pelvic floor with movement.
3. Your lady bits hurt
One thing women underestimate is the amount of pain we experience when we become mums. No-one talks about the fact that many women experience pain with weeing, pooing, sexy time and even breastfeeding. Not to mention the back pain, pelvic pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, wrist pain, c-section pain, and all those pains associated with suddenly having to look after a 4kg+ load – your growing baby.
Up to 90% of women will have a perineal tear during vaginal birth, so of course there will be pain down there. If she suffers a a 3rd or 4th degree tear, then the anal sphincter muscles have also torn, which then needs surgery to repair it. Mums with anal sphincter injury will often experience pain around the back passage (and faecal leakage) for months after birth.
Regardless of whether you’ve had a vaginal or caesarean birth, scar tissue massage is important for releasing tight painful tissue. A women’s health physiotherapist can guide you on how to do this. Tightness in the pelvic floor muscles and the perineum is the main cause of painful sex, which your physiotherapist can help you out with.
Our bodies do change after birth. Though symptoms like pain, incontinence and prolapse are common, they are not normal. There are solutions for all these issues. It is important to have a women’s health physiotherapy check-up at 6-8 weeks postpartum or as soon as possible. Mums do not have to resign themselves to having to live with these problems, and they shouldn’t.
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