What Is Postnatal? The Effects Birth Can Have On Your Body

What is the postnatal period?

Postnatal is a term that refers to the period after childbirth. Technically this period never ends, equally some of the effects of childbirth may last a lifetime; therefore your need for postnatal care doesn’t end when your baby is grown up! 

How will pregnancy and giving birth affect my body?

The excitement of becoming a mother is a feeling like no other, an indescribable happiness, that you will only ever understand once you are in that position. However, something that is talked about a lot less is the feeling once that initial excitement has worn off. 

After a few days of being in your ‘new baby bubble’ you might start to notice how pregnancy and giving birth have affected your body. It should come as no surprise that your body goes through a lot of drastic changes in a short amount of time while you are pregnant – further than just your tummy growing. Pregnancy significantly affects your hormones, posture, and balance too. 

There is a lot of pressure on your muscles, joints, and ligaments while your baby is growing – particularly on your abdomen and pelvic floor. Due to this, it is common to experience some musculoskeletal symptoms during pregnancy, such as urine incontinence, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pelvic girdle pain. 

The way you manage these symptoms will depend on your strength and fitness – if you are fit and active you are likely to find them more manageable. It is really important to try to keep fit and continue exercising during pregnancy as this will better prepare you for the physical demands of motherhood. 

It is important to remember that every pregnancy is different, as are every woman’s pre and postnatal needs. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ guide on how things should go and how you should feel. Therefore, you should seek specialist advice on how best to care for yourself rather than just going off general advice on the internet, as that will not be tailored to you. 

Doing this will make a significant difference to how you cope in both pregnancy and postnatal. At MyHealthcare Clinic, our women’s health physiotherapist can assist you to alleviate pain, guide you on the best, safe exercise options during pregnancy, give you tips on how to manage common prenatal complaints, and advise you on best practices for a safe recovery postnatally. 

Postnatal depression

The first thing to note about postnatal depression is that it is NOT uncommon, and it does not mean that you are a bad parent. It in fact affects 1 in 10 women and can also affect fathers and partners. 

As soon as you feel that you might have postnatal depression, it is important to seek help to ensure that your symptoms do not get worse and begin to have a negative impact on yourself, your family or your baby. Most women make a full recovery from postnatal depression with the right help and support. 

Postnatal depression symptoms

After giving birth most women experience something referred to as the ‘baby blues’, feeling a bit down, tearful and anxious in the first week or two after giving birth. This is not something to worry about and is considered normal. However, if your symptoms start later on or last longer than 2 weeks then you might have postnatal depression. 

Postnatal depression typically starts anytime during the first year postnatal. Here are a few signs of postnatal depression: 

  • Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the outside world
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • A constant feeling of sadness
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Feeling tired and having a lack of energy
  • Struggling to concentrate 
  • Not wanting to socialise 
  • Distressing thoughts e.g. about hurting your baby

It is important for your health and the happiness of your family that you seek help if you believe you have postnatal depression. Please book an appointment with one of our private GP’s or therapists to discuss your symptoms. 

Postnatal depression treatment

Postnatal depression can feel very scary and lonely, but effective treatments are available to you. 

Therapy – You can book an appointment with one of our GPs to discuss the best plan of action for you and your family, they may decide to refer you to one of our therapists. Alternatively, you can have a free telephone assessment with one of our therapists so that they can understand and advise on the help you might need. 

Antidepressants – If your depression is particularly severe and other treatments have not helped then our GP’s may recommend you take a course of antidepressants (there are medicine options that are breastfeeding safe). 

Self Help – You can try things yourself to try and lift your mood, such as talking to family and friends about how you feel, resting as much as possible, taking time to do things that you love, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. 

It is important that both female and male postnatal depression is taken as seriously as any other mental health illness and dealt with accordingly. For more information on postnatal depression please take a look at this article by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Postnatal MOT

Following your 6 week postnatal review with your doctor, we would highly recommend a postnatal MOT (assessment) carried out by one of our specialist women’s health physiotherapists before you return to your regular exercise routine, especially if it involves abdominal workouts, high impact exercise or sports. 

We particularly encourage women who have had symptoms of pain, pelvic floor or abdominal problems to have a postnatal MOT, however, it is suitable for those who just want a check-up, some advice and information too. It’s important to note that all mothers are considered postpartum – whether you have a baby or teenagers! So, feel free to book an MOT even years down the line. 

During your postnatal MOT we can assess the following:

  • Pelvic organ prolapse 
  • Pelvic floor muscles and bladder concerns
  • Scar assessment (of c-section or episiotomy scar)
  • Diastasis Recti or Tummy Gap (abdominal separation) and core control 
  • Assessment of any musculoskeletal issues you may have
  • Return to sport and exercise

Your treatment may include a personalised pelvic floor programme, treatment of any musculoskeletal issues found, abdominal and core strengthening exercises, how to manage scar tissue and advice on nutrition, posture, ergonomics and returning to sport. We also have the ability to provide a real time ultrasound which is great as a teaching tool for learning pelvic floor exercises. 

Our physiotherapist Farhana Sonday is a specialist in pelvic health, musculoskeletal and oncology physiotherapy. She has a special interest in pelvic health, pre and post natal care and breast oncology care. Book an appointment with her at our Fulham healthcare clinic today. 

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