Does something feel odd down there?
So you joined the NCT, did the breathing exercises, wrote the birth plan, or maybe you didn't – well it doesn't really matter, because now you've had your baby, most of that information is totally irrelevant. More pressing is that something no one ever mentioned before has happened. While giving birth, your body was effectively put through the ringer – and it turns out the old jokes of squeezing a watermelon out of something the size of the lemon weren't fiction!
Most new mums are relatively unaware of the toll it will take on their bodies until it actually happens. Of course, we all assume it will probably hurt like hell, but most women also assume they will recover naturally.
But whether you gave birth naturally or by C-section, with an 'easy birth' or a 'hard labour' this momentous occasion brings with it its own personal challenges. While you're focusing on your beautiful new baby, it's easy to forget about yourself and your body.
Some women's bodies do recovery naturally but the pressure to get your body to 'snap back into shape' is immense and masks the utterly unrealistic. It's important to throw that idea in the bin straight away and tell any inner critics lurking about in your head to get back in their box because, at this point in your life, it's more important to feel good – down there. Yes, we're talking your vagina – or in the case of C-sections, your insides.
What they don't tell you
Unbelievably it's still one of the last taboos – but you need to know this.
One in three women suffer from some sort of postnatal vaginal or pelvic floor recovery issue – so it is ridiculously common. Symptoms can be incontinence – whether that's leaking just a little or life-limiting, enduring sporadic or chronic pain when you sit, walk or have sex or the result of a scar from an episiotomy or tearing that leaves you feeling something just doesn't feel right. Despite the frequency of these symptoms, they are still rarely talked about, so most new mums just assume they're a normal by-product of giving birth.
But it's not. Although common, it's not normal. Trying to put a brave face on it and just soldier on can put a strain on you, your relationship and your mental health and there are practitioners out there who can help – really help.
You don't have to suffer in silence.
Personal trainers are great, but for this kind of recuperation, it's critical to find a specialist women's physiotherapist who can help prescribe you with the right exercises for your body rehab right now.
You may have heard of Kegels but who knows how to really do them properly? Do you just clench? For how long and where exactly are you meant to squeeze? A women's physio will be able to tell you not just how to do these, but much, much more and will really help to improve and hopefully alleviate your symptoms without surgery.
In France, every woman who gives birth is offered physio recovery sessions on the state. They appreciate the benefit of prevention rather than cure. While we don't have that luxury here, it is worth investing in your recovery now. It can save you from all manner of pelvic pain, back pain, and incontinence issues further down the line.
Find a qualified practitioner near you here.