I hope you enjoyed reading more about my birth story with Mack. Personally, I always find it so interesting to hear how things go for women when they deliver. If you haven't read Part 1 of my birth story, you can read it HERE. Now I'm going to get you caught up on how my recovery has been going (including what I do for my own exercise).
My birth story through postpartum recovery
Currently, I am at 3 months postpartum which feels like hardly any time at all! Overall, my recovery has been going pretty well and I haven’t had too many complications. Initially, I was feeling pretty good! I did not have any perineal tearing and very minimal soreness afterwards. The rest of my body was sorer from using those muscles during the pushing phase (so much hard work to do that).
Initial recovery & tissue healing
Knowing what I know about tissue healing, I was very diligent about icing for the first 48 hours as much as possible to get any inflammation out of the area.
I also soaked in the tub daily for at least 15 minutes to help my tissues heal and to also help avoid any infection (don’t wash the area with soap otherwise you will kill off the good bacteria that you want...trust me, I learned this the hard way with my first baby).
It also gave me a little reprieve and ability to take some time for myself every day, which is so important for our mental health and ability to deal with all the hormone fluctuations and changes occurring (something that is part of most women's birth story).
Limiting my physical activity
Once we got back home with the baby (and all the kids), it was very difficult to limit my activity. My husband did most of the physical tasks with the kids to give me time to rest so that I wouldn’t overdo it. I also had help from family here and there but ultimately, with 3 kids under 3 years, it’s impossible to not do any lifting of them. This was and still is the hardest part of my postpartum recovery because I do not have the core stability and strength to tolerate it.
Healing a diastasis recti
After birth, I had a diastasis recti (DRA) of 3 finger width so this led to discomfort on my abdomen and low back pain. Slowly but surely these muscles are getting stronger and my body is getting more stable to tolerate the physical demands in my life, but it will still need work for a while.
I am lucky to have some of the best physical therapists in the area at my fingertips (shoutout to Dr. Jen and Dr. Jennie!) so I have been getting weekly treatment to work on recovering from my DRA. This has helped SO much and my DRA is down to 1.5-2 finger width and I am only getting low back pain occasionally at this point.
So, just my little PSA for all those reading...we ALL could use some help recovering after birth and I would strongly encourage you to seek out help from a pelvic floor physical therapist. Our birth stories are all so different so it's important that our recovery looks different also.
Practice what I preach!
A lot of patients will often ask what I do for my own exercise and for my own recovery after birth. And I truly do practice what I preach when it comes to postpartum exercise! For those that have worked with me in the past, you might find some similarities with my exercise progression.
Exercise plan for the first 4 weeks
I started with basic, isometric core and pelvic floor contractions within the first 1–2 weeks after delivery. Around 4 weeks postpartum I started doing more isolated TA (the deep ab muscle responsible for our core stability) exercises that are still very gentle and also some bodyweight squats. I noticed that my lower body had gotten so weak and it was difficult to get up off the floor or couch, so squats became pretty important to start regaining that strength.
Exercise plan from week 4 to week 8
Then from 6–8 weeks postpartum, I started doing a pretty basic strengthening circuit with bodyweight exercises. I still avoided any planks or plank positions and focused heavily on my lower body (especially my glutes) and my upper back muscles to help with my posture. After about 8 weeks I started adding in some resistance to my workout, gradually increasing.
Exercise plan currently
Currently, I am still working on increasing my resistance, but am just about ready to modify my program and change up the exercises (check out the program in the pictures below). I also started doing some low-impact HIIT 1 day/week. However, I feel I’m ready to maybe add in some plyometrics at this point. I’ve also been progressing my core exercises throughout this time frame as well. I am also adding in more challenging hip strengthening exercises for stability.
General postpartum exercise guidelines
The recommendation for postpartum exercise is to progress only if you are not having any dysfunction including incontinence, pain or pelvic pressure. While I haven’t had any of those symptoms during my recovery, I know that my core is still very weak, and I am mindful to not overdo it so that I don’t injure my back. However, it is important to do strength exercises because our muscles tend to weaken during pregnancy and we need that strength to be able to do functional tasks, like getting up off the floor.
We see women at the office frequently wait till they are 6 weeks postpartum and then start to run again without doing any strengthening exercises. This is extremely hard on the body and our bodies need to be strong first before they can handle the high demands of running and plyometric exercises (like what you’d get in a HIIT exercise class).
My fitness goals
My current fitness goals are to increase my strength and my stability. I typically spend a good chunk of time at the start of my workout on stability work because it is so important for long term function and health. Having 3 babies in under 3 years has left my body in a much weaker state than it was before babies and my ultimate goal is to regain that.
Yes, I also have excess body fat on my body...I have never been one where the weight just falls off easily and quickly. And I’ve carried over excess body fat into each pregnancy. So yes, I do want to burn fat as well, but I know this takes time and building muscle is the best way to burn fat. So, I am *trying* to be patient with the process and put the hard work in to get to a point where my body feels strong and healthy.
My goal is to play competitive tennis and return to racing motocross this coming summer. I plan to start training for those once I regain more of my strength and muscle mass.
Get guidance for your recovery
Hopefully, this might give you some ideas on how to handle your own postpartum recovery and I think it’s sometimes helpful to hear that even the “professionals” need help too. Knowing when to seek out help is such a valuable tool. I wish that more women do this during and after pregnancy so that they can feel healthy and strong in their day-to-day life.
And please remember, your body is not broken if you are having issues. Your body did extraordinary things and sometimes it may need more help to recover from that and that is okay. It’s all a process and a journey so keep on chugging along! 🙂
If you want guidance for your recovery, take advantage of our free consultation to talk with a pelvic floor physical therapist and get a game plan on what to do to get back to your "normal".
If you haven't yet, read Part 1 of my birth story with Mack HERE.