As soon as you announce that you are expecting-- you can expect to be bombarded with questions about your pregnancy—like how is your pregnancy going? When are you due? Are you having a boy or a girl?
But what about after baby comes—people often start only asking questions about the new baby, rather than focusing inward on how mom is doing as well.
As a new mama, you have just brought your little one earth side and transitioned into the healing phase. Giving birth is one of the most intense and rewarding events in a woman’s life.
But with the motherhood transition comes changes biomechanically, emotionally, and spiritually.
As many of you know, Dr. Colten and I are part of a community called BIRTHFIT, in which we work to empower and educate clients in the parenthood transition.
Within BIRTHFIT, we often talk about the first two weeks being a period of co-regulation in the Motherhood Transition. The first two weeks can be a huge transitional period both physically and emotionally and need to be supported in a big way! Often times, we forget how much time is needed for healing and recovery. New moms are considered to be in the postpartum healing phase for up to a year. This is so important to remind yourself when you are working through this transition of your life.
So what can you expect P H Y S I C A L L Y
from the motherhood transition?
Your body may not look the way it used to, especially within the first week.
The truth is that every woman loses her postpartum weight at different rates. Regardless of the number you read on the scale, it simply just takes time for your uterus to shrink in size and nestle itself back into the pelvis. You may feel “after pains,” or contractions, that cause this shrinkage to occur, which can take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks. You are also still eliminating a lot of fluids, especially if an IV or epidural was administered during birth. Healthy eating habits, intentional movement, and rehabilitative exercise (I’m not talking about hitting the gym hard) are the best ways to assist your body in this transition.
Bleeding and discomfort will take place immediately following birth.
This is something that no one really talks about. The bleeding and discharge that occurs after a vaginal delivery or Cesarean section is called lochia. This is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra blood and tissue in your uterus that nourished your baby until birth, and is also a result of the wound left behind from your placenta detaching from the uterine wall. The first 10 days or so are the heaviest, but after that, you should see less blood. You may have light bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery. You should only use pads at this time because tampons can lead to infection.
When it comes to discomforts, many new moms don’t know how intense and long the soreness can take place. Make sure you have plenty of padsicles in stock and take it easy the first two weeks with lots of rest and cuddles with your new babe.
Remember, don’t over do it.
Digestive issues –whether it is constipation and/or hemorrhoids
Normally, bowel movements resume as usual within the first few days of giving birth. In some cases, constipation can occur. Some ways to help alleviate digestive issues naturally are:
Drink plenty of water – half your body weight in ounces
Eating prunes, a natural laxative
Get plenty of sleep
Drink warm liquids in the morning
Eat a high fiber diet
A hemorrhoid is a painful swelling of a vein in the rectum and can commonly occur following birth, especially a vaginal delivery. You may feel pain, rectal itching, bleeding after bowel movements or swelling around the anus. Some natural ways to help hemorrhoids include:
At first, it may not seem like you are producing enough milk, but remember that your baby’s stomach is very small at birth and the amount of colostrum that you produce is exactly what your baby needs.
Colostrum is the very concentrated milk produced early on that is full of nutrients and disease-fighting antibodies, and provides everything that your baby needs in the days after birth. Milk production typically begins to increase between 30-40 hours after delivery of the placenta, but it may take even longer than this for you to actually feel as though your milk “came in.” You will feel breast fullness, may leak milk, see changes in your baby’s feeding patterns, and also see changes in the color of the milk from golden to more white.
Twenty-five percent of mothers may not notice these changes until three days or more postpartum. The timing of this is hormonally controlled; however, mothers who breastfeed early and often have higher milk production on days 3-4, and their infants lose less weight and have less jaundice. Skin to skin contact can also help with milk production.
It is normal for breasts to become larger, feel heavy, warm and uncomfortable when your milk increases; however, some women experience engorgement. With engorgement, the breast will feel hard, warm and very tender while the skin will be tightly stretched and shiny. This can be so painful! A gentle breast massage, cool compresses, and hand expression can help alleviate any discomforts.
Finally, you may also experience nipple pain. Some mothers never experience any nipple pain at all, but the majority of women do.
Typical nipple pain can include:
Latch on pain that lasts no more than 30 seconds into the feeding
Pain that peaks on day 3 postpartum and diminishes within 2 weeks
No skin damage, like cracks, blisters, or bleeding
Nipple looks the same before and after feeding
Pain that is not normal includes:
Intense, excruciating pain
Pain that ensues throughout the entire feeding
Pain between feedings
Pain that persists more than 2 weeks
Any skin damage such as cracks, blisters or bleeding (9)
If the latter is experienced, I would highly recommend hiring an experienced lactation consultant to come to your house for an assessment. If you haven’t already, I would recommend finding a chiropractor who is trained in craniosacral and can work alongside a lactation consultant while making sure that your new baby is free from any stress or tension from birth.
Overall pain and discomforts
As baby arrives, mom’s center of gravity has changed, hormones are a rollercoaster, and her body is working towards nourishing this little one. Taking the time to recover and restore during the postpartum period is crucial for optimal healing.
A woman’s pelvic biomechanics can be altered during the birth process just as it has done all throughout pregnancy and is the most common reason for postpartum chiropractic care. While it is important that our structures are in proper alignment as hormones balance and soft tissue heals, chiropractic care can help the body adapt to the major changes that come with the motherhood transition.
Chiropractic care not only makes the recovery time easier, but also aids to reduce discomforts caused by poor posture during breast feeding, picking up or holding baby. I also recommend new mamas to seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist to work alongside a chiropractor—making sure that mom is fully supported on her healing journey.
With the motherhood transition can come not only physical changes, but emotional changes as well. It is important to not only hold the space for yourself during these changes, but to find people in your community to support you and help hold the space for you to heal as well.
So what can we expect to E M O T I O N A L L Y?
First, Breastfeeding is not as easy as people make it out to be.
Breastfeeding can be so emotional on both sides of the coin. On one hand, the connection you build with your little is overwhelmingly magical, but on the other hand, being needed constantly is exhausting. Add breastfeeding difficulties to the mix and issues can occur. Some studies suggest depression may be more common in women who attempt to breastfeed but experience difficulties. It is crucial to remember that that you are not alone on this journey. While breastfeeding is not always easy—it is is so rewarding. If you are struggling, I highly recommend you reach out to someone for support---- whether it is a lactation consultant, a mama group, a chiropractor, or a friend or family member.
Baby blues and postpartum mood disorders
The birth of a baby is a joyful and happy time, but as many as 60-80% of women experience a mild and temporary form of depression referred to as “baby blues.” This is due to sudden hormonal changes following a delivery, stress from inheriting a new role in life, and sleep deprivation. This usually occurs within the first week or two postpartum. Symptoms include exhaustion/tiredness; mood swings; feelings of loss, frustration or anger; unexplained weeping; irritability; and difficulty sleeping. You may find yourself crying simply because you are so happy and so full of love you don’t know what to do with yourself. This is still categorized under the “baby blues” umbrella. You should start to feel better within a few weeks, but if symptoms are persistent or worsen after 2 weeks, then postpartum depression or other mood disorders could be the case.
Postpartum anxiety has become more common now than depression and includes symptoms like feelings of restlessness, excessive worry, inability to relax, or even physical symptoms like stomach aches or being unable to sleep, even when you are exhausted (12). Be sure to find a healthcare professional qualified to help and social support who understand what you are going through.
Lack of Sleep
It is easy for new parents to ignore their own needs, especially sleep. While sleep deprivation is one of the most common post-birth side effects, it can also be one of the most damaging. Sleep is essential for your body to cope with stress. Without proper sleep, our brain is not able to process memories as well, leading to memory lapses. Normal daily activities can be more challenging due to reductions in cognitive abilities, and the quantity and quality of milk being produced can also be affected.
A more serious side effect of sleep deprivation is severe depression. The best way to avoid the detrimental side effects of sleep deprivation is to set your priorities by taking time for yourself and asking for help on things like housework or chores. Consider a schedule that ensures you or your partner is resting while the other is tending to the baby, or try sleeping when your baby sleeps.
If baby isn’t sleeping, especially if they are only taking short naps, not getting that deep sleep--- this is when I recommend looking into a chiropractor who is trained in checking and adjusting infants to see if there is any tension or stress on your little’s nervous system that is not allowing them to fall into that deep sleep.
Last, now this one is typically the elephant in the room---Your relationship with your partner may change or look different.
It is almost inevitable that the relationship between you and your partner will change. The focus will shift from being a couple to being parents. This is an amazing change, but it does take time to adjust. While you heal emotionally and physically, you need to be patient with each other. Evaluate your love languages and try to keep each other’s “tank” full.
If I can offer one piece of advice, it is to keep your partner involved as much as possible. Give him/her tasks that will help them bond with your babe. This will not only make them feel involved and useful, but also take some things off your plate. This will also help to diminish “marginalization” that can occur if one caretaker does most, if not all, of the parenting. Remember, you two were a couple first which can be hard to grasp especially once baby is earthside—but so crucial when it comes to feeling connected to one another.
Now that we have talked about the physical and emotional changes that can come with the motherhood transition—how can chiropractic help support you through postpartum?
How soon can I see a chiropractor?
As we have talked about labor and delivery can be exhausting along with bringing a new baby into the home, so we want you to get as much rest before venturing out of the house. At Free Spirit Chiropractic, we recommend staying in at least 2 weeks for “baby mooning”, but often see new babies on their way home from the hospital or birth center. Seeing a chiropractor after birth not only sets the foundation for the healing process, but also supports the body as a whole in the motherhood transition.
We want to make sure that you are not alone, which is why we wanted to jump on here and talk about all the things not many people talk about! At Free Spirit Chiropractic, support and connection are two of our biggest goals when working with parents.
Whether it is supporting you through this new transition or connecting you with other mamas in the practice who may be experiencing or have experienced the same things you are going through—WE ARE ALL HERE FOR YOU!
love + light,
Dr. Lacey Nevel