By: Kirstie Gordon-Loiello
Congratulations mama, you did it!! Baby is here. Baby is beautiful… But WHAT is going on with this postpartum body?! Here are some after-birthing issues that so many of us mamas deal with – but none of which have to become our “new normal.” Here’s what you need to know:
Incontinence is Real
It’s very, very common for a new mama to have those “Whoops! I peed a little!” moments immediately after birth. Even a surprise poop can happen now and again. The technical terms are urinary and/or fecal incontinence, and they occur because the muscles of your pelvic floor have just been through a major trauma. (Translation: Pushing a baby out can kinda break your….lady bits!) But no matter how common it may be, incontinence should be a thing of the past by 6 weeks postpartum. Yes, even those dribbles when you cough, or laugh or sneeze! If you need more diapers than baby, ask a pro for help. Pelvic-floor muscle retraining is specifically designed to get you back to your old self in no time!
Intercourse Can be Painful
Let’s face it: Just the thought of intimacy can cause some major anxiety for the postpartum mom. Stretched, stitched and now sex?! No, thanks! First thing you need to know is that postpartum hormones can really do a number on you, and those estrogen levels can make you feel like your body has gone crazy – especially if you’re nursing! Estrogen decreases to promote milk production, but it’s also the hormone that affects sexual arousal and vaginal lubrication. Less estrogen equals less arousal with more dryness, so if you’re going to get frisky, make sure you lube up first!
Then, of course, there’s the issue of healing. Depending on the degree of tearing, whether you had an episiotomy, or if you had a C-section, your body may have some major mending to do. Some women recover within days, but for some others, it can take weeks. Healing of vaginal tissue often causes some mild discomfort during sex, but the pain of penetration should decrease every time, and be entirely gone by a few months postpartum. If penetration actively hurts, or if the discomfort doesn’t diminish, don’t give up – get help! There are ways to make sex great again.
A little discomfort in your postpartum pelvis? Totally normal – kind of expected, really. The feeling that your internal organs are about to fall out of your body? Not normal! Pregnancy and childbirth can leave your pelvic floor feeling weak, and things feeling a little out of place. But within a few weeks, that should settle back to normal, with muscle strength returning and that heavy feeling subsiding. If this isn’t the case for you, if you feel heaviness or pressure, or especially if you actually feel or see something coming out of your vagina, come and see us. You aren’t broken – this is fixable and we can help you learn to boost things back up to where they belong.
Abdominal Muscle Separation
This is one of those pregnancy and postpartum things that women freak out about. Diastasis Recti – when your abs separate as your tummy stretches to accommodate a growing baby – can make us feel self-conscious, worrying that we still look pregnant for ages after birth, and fearful to exercise. And it can be scary, because regular exercise doesn’t always fix it. No worries! There are specific exercises to focus on that can help tighten your abs, and get your strength (and confidence!) back on track.
You may have been reading this blog, mentally checking off some of these boxes. Now what should you do? You can consult a physiotherapist with a specialized training in women’s health/pelvic floor. We are there to listen to all of your questions, perform a thorough assessment and come up with an exercise program geared specifically to your goals and needs to get you feeling more like yourself again. A postpartum body can feel scary and unknown, but know that you’re not alone. You’ve got this mama and we’re there to help!