We’ve learned that exercise plays a crucial role in the treatment and possibly prevention of postpartum depression. Exercising postpartum is crucial for the health of mom (and therefore also the health of baby), but a lot of women get intimidated by the idea of working out in their newly postpartum body, even after they’re cleared for exercise.
We have in-person and online programs available to assist with this process, but we’ve learned that fitness is just one aspect of healing postpartum. Here are some tips from BIRTHFIT to assist in your postpartum healing journey.
Tip 1: Slow Is Fast
BIRTHFIT’s favorite mantra is “Slow is fast.” What we mean when we say this is that the slower that you take in your postpartum healing journey, the faster you end up recovering. It also means that the slower that you move through foundational, innate movements (like the Functional Progression), the faster that you’ll learn from your body in how to best support it. And the slower the pace you take with life in general, the faster you tend to enjoy it.
The BIRTHFIT definition of postpartum is broken up for simple referencing of appropriate activities.
- 0-2 weeks: co-regulation
- 2-6 weeks: recovery
- 6-12 weeks: rehab
- 12 weeks-12 months: rebuilding
You can break up the first year postpartum and use this guideline to determine what activities make the most sense. In the first two weeks, you’re ideally doing nothing but snuggling your baby, hanging around your house, and allowing others to take care of you. In the first six weeks, you may find yourself moving around a bit around the house, enjoying some intentional breathing or flowing through the Functional Progression, but definitely not getting to the gym for anything other than to say hi to some friends.
Around six weeks is a great time to start the BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series with your local Regional Director! Six weeks to twelve weeks is the time to focus on rehabbing your physical body from the inside out. Twelve weeks, at the earliest, is when we start to add volume, load, running, and dynamic movements and deeper stretching like yoga. These are general timelines. Reminder: your healing timeline may be a bit longer and that’s okay. And even if you feel great at nine months postpartum, that’s not a great time to set a personal record on your deadlift or run your fastest 5K: you’re still rebuilding.
Tip 2: Connection Is Key
A commonly reported symptom and factor in PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) is a feeling of isolation. But according to this qualitative study from BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, “peer support is a promising and valued intervention, and may have particular salience for ethnic minority women, those who are recent migrants and women experiencing multiple disadvantages.”
Creating your dream team for postpartum is as much a part of your physical healing as seeing a chiropractor and pelvic floor physical therapist. This can be enlisting your friends or family to help with tasks such as walking the dog, helping with other children, cooking, cleaning, or laundry. You don’t have to do everything alone. While you are healing, nourishing your baby, and recovering from the major life shift and athletic event that you just participated in, it’s worth enlisting a bit of help. This is where the BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series excels: physical and emotional healing are part of the class, but the CONNECTION that is established between the women bonding in class is huge!
Tip 3: Step Into Your Feminine Power
This is a bit esoteric sounding, but one of the most beautiful things about the Motherhood Transition is its call toward the feminine. It doesn’t matter what gender you identify as; you are made up of masculine and feminine energy. The masculine energy is more logical and rigid, while the feminine is more emotional and spontaneous.
The actual execution of motherhood may demand the more masculine structured energy, while healing and honoring your body will need the feminine energy. Now is a great time to actually get in tune with what your body is communicating to you. These might not all be accessible to you, but here are some tips for tapping into your feminine side:
- Wake up or go to bed with the sun. Make an effort to flow with circadian rhythms. (Expect that your little one will wake you a few times during the night, so you might as well get as much rest as you can!)
- Attempt to follow a routine rather than a schedule. A rigid schedule in the early postpartum days/weeks/months can feel a bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Routines can help you and baby get used to each other as she/he gets accustomed to the outside world.
- Take 10 deep breaths before you eat to allow your physiology to prepare for food consumption rather than survival, and start to recognize more of your internal hunger/satiety cues. Counting calories or macros can help with specific needs, but we intuitively know our nutritional demands; we’ve probably just been ignoring those cues for a while. Take a tip from Marc David, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and slow down before you eat! (Remember, slow is fast!)
At BIRTHFIT, we’re recognized for our intentional fitness training during pregnancy and postpartum rehabilitation, but the mind, body, and soul are all transformed when we bring new humans into the world, and they all need help adjusting to life postpartum.
Special thanks to Lindsay for sharing her expert tips with us!
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Lindsay Mumma is a doctor of chiropractic, Regional Director for BIRTHFIT NC, and the owner of Triangle Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Center. She and her husband Chris live in Raleigh with their two sons. She discovered a love for helping pregnant women during her first pregnancy in 2012, and began her role as a BIRTHFIT RD in 2014 along with a handful of other firestarters when they decided to try growing the BIRTHFIT movement. She now serves as BIRTHFIT’s COO and Editor in Chief as well as staff for the BIRTHFIT Professional Seminar.
Mumma (which rhymes with “puma” and is how most in the BIRTHFIT world know her) loves learning new things and writing her own script. She lives BIRTHFIT and its four pillars daily as a continual practice, which has been integral in the ongoing process of healing her autoimmunity.
Mumma’s core values are respect, autonomy, growth, movement, connectedness, and intention.