Few people would argue against the fact that childbirth is a totally life changing experience - one that shifts your priorities, outlook on almost everything in life, financial circumstances... However, what seems to have been neglected is the importance and quality of postnatal care and recovery. Our healthcare system puts considerable emphasis on prenatal care but little or no guidance is provided for how to improve and promote healing and recovery after delivery. The extremely fast paced nature of our society, perhaps the need to go back to work mere weeks after delivery, the rarity of paid paternity leave and the tendency for families to often live hundreds of miles away (to name a few) seem to put more pressure on us women to just bounce right back into our roles (the numerous ones that we have - wife, mother, housekeeper, cook, cleaner, social events organizer...) - and in this process we forget that our bodies just went through a severely physical event, that our organs need time and care to shift back into place, that a severe shift in hormones have occurred which can bring about anxiety, nervousness and restlessness (or just be plain overwhelmed!).
I got thinking about this more deeply after I recently attended a workshop by Valerie Lynn - she is the founder of the Post Partum Wellness Company and author of The Mommy Plan. I heard her talk about a truly holistic and traditional post pregnancy recovery program (diet, activities and personal care, knowledge acquired largely through her time in South East Asia, mainly Malaysia). This made me think back to my own post birth experience, especially as my ancestry is also Oriental (Korean). I was discharged from the hospital with some standard leaflets, given names of lactation consultants I may want to contact, but that was it. After that, I was on my own. I came home and cried for good few hours wondering how I was supposed to function from this day on. Then my mother arrived a week later - oh and the frowns and shakes of the head that showed disbelief on her part as I brushed off many of her “you really should do this if you want to recover properly from the birth and look after your body in the long term” advice. Old wives’ tales? Paranoid mother who likes to preach? I sure thought so at the time.
However, in the same way I learnt (and am still learning) about nutrition through my holistic health coaching education at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so much of what she said about post birth recovery also holds true. Our ancestors may not have known the anatomical reasons why certain foods, activities and practices are desirable or undesirable immediately post pregnancy, but what they did worked. And as our society moves increasingly towards a more holistic approach in many ways, can be increasingly proven. I know from my own personal experience also that after birth women often just want to do everything that you did before, the way you did it before baby. This applies to exercise also (actually often in this case, many women want to immediately ‘take it up a notch’). However, as I come into contact with more and more amazing women in the field of pre/postnatal care and childbirth and continue to learn from them, I know and am affirmed in my belief that this life changing event calls for evolution, adaptation and certainly modifications to lifestyle and exercise.
In exercise terms, gentle certainly does not equal less effective.
Modifications do not mean that you are taking a step backwards, but that you are specifically adapting to your body’s physiological needs to allow your body to function in its most optimum state, not just today or this year, but for the rest of your life.