So much of Postpartum Recovery is up to women to figure out on the fly. It is not something we are adequately prepared for, and I know I sure as hell was not. For starters, my son was born via Cesarean after a very long and complicated labor, which on its own is horrible to recover from. He was also born during the worst part of winter, and we live in Denver. My husband and friends were working, and we had no family nearby to help. Much of my postpartum life was sitting on the couch feeling like a milk maid, watching television all day, just me and my kid. If it was colder than 40° outside, we wouldn’t leave the house. If it was over 40° I would bundle him up and we’d go for a three mile walk around the park down the street. I was wildly sleep deprived and incredibly bored.
Let me clarify for those of you who have never stayed home with a newborn while recovering from major bodily trauma – Postpartum is not a vacation from work. It is its own little hell that you are never prepared for.
According to the British Journal of General Practice, 13 million women annually suffer from Postpartum Depression. That is an insane statistic! The Mayo Clinic lists the following as postpartum depression symptoms: depressed mood, severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from friends and family, loss of appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, overwhelming fatigue, reduced interest in activities, intense irritability, fear of being a bad mother, hopelessness, feelings of inadequacy, diminished ability to think clearly, restlessness, severe anxiety and panic attacks, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Although never officially diagnosed, I experienced some of these symptoms, most prominently after lacking sleep for three or more days. From what I have experienced, when a new mother decides to share these feelings with another she can be met with judgment for not being “grateful” for time with her newborn. Maternity leave can be a very isolating time, even more so when experiencing depressive symptoms and feeling judged for it.
Here are just some of the factors effecting mothers after giving birth: recovery from major bodily trauma which includes both natural childbirth and cesarean, lack of help, sleep deprivation, lack of preparedness, Postpartum Depression, seasonal depression, loss of monetary compensation due to a lack of maternity leave options through employers, feelings of isolation, and caring for another human that relies on you for absolutely everything. When adding these factors together, how is a woman supposed to find the time and energy to exercise?
Despite a lack of adequate studies regarding the effects of exercise on antepartum and postpartum depression, there are a few that have concluded women who regularly exercise during and after pregnancy have a lower chance of experiencing postpartum depression. However, most of these studies only provide data regarding walking with their child in a stroller, not the effects of other types of exercise like yoga, Pilates, or resistance training. It is safe to say that more studies are needed regarding this issue, but in the meantime, we can assume that if studies found walking beneficial to mothers’ mental wellbeing, the effects of any type of exercise can possibly be similar.
Personally, my pregnancy was filled with complications, so I was unable to stay active. Once I recovered from my C-section, I made the time and effort because my mental health suffered during pregnancy as a result. I knew I had to take care of myself, or I would not be a great mother, so I evaluated every nap time by asking this question: What is more important to me right this second – sleep, food, shower, or exercise? Despite where this blog is leading, exercise was hardly ever the answer in the beginning. However, asking that question helped me determine exactly what I needed in those 45 minutes to take care of myself so I could be the best version of the zombie mama I had become. Eventually, it became easier to manage my time and fit exercise in when I could.
That being said, aside from long walks, I did not start resistance training again until my son was 10 weeks old mostly because I was afraid I would injure myself. It was difficult to find postpartum exercise regimens, so I ended up modifying the workouts I completed pre-pregnancy to something I was comfortable with. However, finding information on how to rebuild core and pelvic floor strength was largely missing on the internet. After becoming a Fitness Trainer, I devoted myself to researching and developing a Postpartum Recovery Series dedicated to gradually rebuilding core and pelvic floor strength in a way that makes mamas feel as strong and capable as I know they already are! Once you become a mother you turn into a superhero, serving as everything to everyone, and are capable of so much more than you ever thought possible. However, our society tells us that in order to be an amazing mother we must give ourselves up completely to help others, which is totally inaccurate. I learned very quickly that in order to support my family I had to support myself first. Finding time to exercise and build my strength back up went to the top of that list and I am infinitely happier I made that decision. I am a better mother, wife, and friend when I make myself a priority.
The Postpartum Recovery Program I have developed is a 12-week series, low impact, using resistance bands and a Pilates ball, and is Diastasis Recti safe. This program is effective for any woman postpartum, whether she is six weeks postpartum or six years. We focus on breathing techniques used in conjunction with low impact cardio and resistance training to rebuild core and pelvic floor strength, heal Diastasis Recti, and rebuild overall strength. Our bodies are massive systems that all work together, which means doing 100 Kegels and crunches a day just will not cut it. My program looks at wellness as a holistic approach, taking care of body, emotion, and mind together.
I knew I had the strength inside me, and I know you do too. Let me help you build the best version of yourself that you possibly can.
Resources for Postpartum Depression
Resources for Depression
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
**Although this should not have to be stated, despite how difficult my maternity leave was, it in no way diminished the love I felt for and still feel for my son. Yet, I still feel the need for a disclaimer so as to not upset readers.