In the United States, you have prenatal doctor visits frequently throughout your pregnancy. After you give birth, you have about one to two visits and the doctor sends you on your way. There is very little support for your physical and mental health. I could write a whole blog on the lack of support and care for parents in the United States but I can’t change legislation and healthcare with a blog post, so for now I want to focus on what I can control.
What I can control is taking my health into my own hands. I learned a lot after my postpartum experience with Jack, particularly what I should have done to take care of my mind and body. The second time around I prepared ahead of time and set up my postpartum care routines so they would be in place after Beau was born.
In the spirit of what Settle Up is all about, I am sharing the routines below in the hopes that you learn something new about how to take better care of yourself after birthing your babes.
Postnatal Chiropractic Care. There is a local chiropractor in Seattle, Tree of Life Chiropractic, that specializes in prenatal, postnatal, and family care. I saw her during my last month of pregnancy and have loved it even more for postpartum care. Pregnant bodies go through so much physical transformation. Having Dr. Shea adjust me just two weeks after birth and each week thereafter (12 weeks of total care) helped my pelvis, low back, and upper back. It supports my pelvic floor recovery, getting better sleep, back aches from breastfeeding, and so much more. I would recommend getting a referral from your doctor to help with the insurance coverage.
Postnatal Massage. You might be wondering why I didn’t just choose chiro or massage. Why do both? Massage benefits are different than chiro benefits. Postpartum massage relaxes muscles, increases circulation, and lowers stress hormones, bringing both physical and emotional relief. My massage therapist even swaddled me up and performed a head massage to help my body feel contained again, after stretching itself out in pregnancy. It was a little strange at first but it felt so good once I settled into it. It was like having a tight hug after a stressful and exhausting first few weeks postpartum. Ask your doctor for a referral, so that your health insurance will support you with coverage.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy. I regret not doing this routine after Jack’s birth. I remember learning about it when Jack was 10 months old and I thought it was too late to do it. I was so very wrong. The pelvic floor is carrying the weight of the baby and all the internal organs so it’s stretched a considerable amount during pregnancy. If the pelvic floor is not strengthened after birth there are many unpleasant symptoms like incontinence, incomplete bowel movements or constipation, lower back pain, painful sexual intercourse, and lack of libido. During pelvic floor therapy, my therapist teaches me exercises to stabilize and strengthen my core and the major muscles that stabilize my trunk, including the pelvic floor, abdominal, back, and diaphragm. I am re-training and strengthening my pelvic floor muscles. If you only have time or resources for only one of these routines, this is the one I would recommend choosing.
Postnatal Supplements. Early on in my postpartum care research, I was hoping to find a postnatal vitamin that would support my internal health and recovery. I found Anya and I can’t say enough good things about it. Anya is a postpartum care plan offering supplements, teas, tonics, and lotions for total physical support. You can opt into the monthly subscription plan (3 products for $70) which will curate your products based on what your body needs during that postpartum month or just buy the products individually. You can make changes to your box, delay delivery, or cancel without penalty, too. I love the simplicity of the process so I never miss getting the products and supplements I need, when I need them. My fav product, aside from the supplements, is the Scalp Serum to support hair regrowth after postpartum shedding.
REST. Seems obvious, right? When Jack was a baby, I remember rolling my eyes when someone would say “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” While some days it is impossible to get a nap or sleep when the baby sleeps, this time around I have made it a priority to be still and rest. I let Beau sleep on me and I just sit and allow my body to totally relax. I leave the laundry for another day. I make time to take a shower everyday. I listen to my body. The difference has been huge. Releasing the pressure to get so much done during the day has been a practice but it’s been so worth it. Slowing down and resting also gives me time to connect with Beau and myself. I know now that this baby phase goes by in a flash. There’s no award for the house being perfectly clean every day. There will only be regret if I don’t rest my warrior body after birth and hold that beautiful baby I worked so hard for.
Additional Mental Health Resources
I could have added this to the list but I felt it was so much bigger and it required its own section. Our mental health should be taken just as seriously as our physical health, especially during such the massive life transition of welcoming a baby into your life. The obvious offering is to seek counseling and therapy to support you. I think it’s critical no matter what your postpartum experience is but it’s even more important if you are experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Talkspace is an online therapy site that matches you to a therapist who specializes in the support you’re seeking and sets you up with a financial plan that works for your budget and/or health insurance coverage.
If you do not have the resources for therapy, books can be a great, affordable resource to support you. Here are a few recommendations.
Remember, you are never alone. There are resources, health providers, and other mamas like me that are available to support your postpartum journey. We have to be responsible to take action to care for ourselves and it’s a great practice to get into early. If we build in these routines to prioritize our mental and physical health now, it is more likely that we will continue to do it consistently as our babes grow up.
You got this, mama.
Stretchy pants, Glennon Doyle's Untamed, meditation + manifestation, whiskey on the rocks, Kamala Harris, date nights at home with Z, and singing the ABCs with Jack.