If you’ve grown a human being in your uterus and have given birth to a baby you know while it’s quite miraculous, it can also feel a bit like an alien takeover. Here you are, an incubator for 10 MONTHS (9 months is a lie- especially for first time moms), providing all the nourishment your body can muster for growing baby. Whether your pregnancy was fantastic or troublesome, no one really talks about what happens to the now empty incubating body once baby is out.
My daughter is now 5 but I still have to manage the after effects of childbirth. In this post, I’ll review 3 common health and body challenges women face after giving birth: postpartum depression, autoimmune disease and diastasis recti ( the linear hole in the tummy).
1. PostPartum Depression
I don't think women take postpartum depression (PPD) as serious as they should. It can be really hard to sort through all of the new, intense emotions after having a baby. How are you to know what this new postpartum normal is? Sure, everyone must have wonky sleep hours, cry more than usual, have difficulty remembering, feel moody and irritable, angry and withdrawn. Why would this be a trigger for a new mom to seek help? Isn’t this life? What we have here is a conundrum.
I say, when in doubt seek HELP!
The truth of the matter is that you really may not know for sure with self assessment. It never hurts to have your hormones checked and tap in with a mental health professional to see if the emotions you are feeling are the healthiest for you and your family.
The baby blues may last for a few weeks. The feeling of fatigue, unhappiness and worry are experienced by 80% of mothers. When the feelings of withdrawal, fear that something bad will happen, lack of appetite or excess appetite extend months and years past childbirth, it’s time to get help. I really like this CHECKLIST from The Postpartum Stress Center to help gage your current mental and emotional state. Therapist are like tech support for your life and it’s my opinion that everyone should have a counselor, psycholoigst and/or psychiatrist.
Even if you’re not sure if you have PPD, start gathering a list of resources so you have a place to call and someone to talk to when needed. If you or someone you know is in need immediately, call your doctor, call 911 or call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).
2. AUTOIMMUNE disease
Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune systems attacks a part of itself as if it’s a foreign invader. There are over 80 different types of autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, lichen planus, Hashimoto’s, sarcoidosis, vitiligo and many more. Autoimmune (AI) conditions are usually classified by part of the body they attack. For example, in rheumatoid arthritis the attack is on the synovial lining of certain joints, in multiple sclerosis the attack is on the myelin sheath of brain nerve fibers, in Celiac’s the attack is on the lining of the small intestine. Moreover, the effect of the particular AI condition includes systemic inflammation and the effects are usually not isolated to just one area of the body.
Many feel incredible during pregnancy. During this time the body sends many hormones surging and the immune system aims to protect the fetus to not see it as a foreign invader. It is believed that the fluctuation in hormones as well as immune system changes may trigger an autoimmune condition postpartum. I've known some women who do have a genetic predisposition for certain autoimmune disease and others who can't trace it in their gene pool. In either case, the onset of an AI condition has been precipitated by childbirth.
Stress, postpartum self care and their effects on the adrenal glands may also trigger an AI
Last, a woman having a c-section and the stress hormones and immunological changes associated with the procedure may trigger an AI disease. The physical, biochemical and emotional experience of the surgery certainly has a profound impact on the body, especially if it wasn't anticipated.
3. Diastasis Recti
"What the heck is that linear hole in my abdomen and where is my skin sinking to?", said many who have tried to make sense of their postpartum tummy. Personally, I was not prepared for diastasis recti, the gap between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. It can be really disheartening and takes some extra self love to embrace the sometimes zig zag, uneven appearance of one's stomach.
Diastasis recti occurs in about 30% of pregnancies and can improve over time with the correct exercises
Some women notice the occurrence during pregnancy with a bulge at the center of the abdomen. The gap between the abdominal muscles is caused by the over stretching of the ligament that connects the two sides. If you're like me, I was shocked to see that months and years after baby the gap was still there. Many professionals in tune with the needs of the previously stretched belly will guide women in core strengthening exercises to activate "turned off" stabilizing muscles.
Some exercises like crunches and intense ab works can actually make the separation worse. I recommend looking into finding a local fitness expert who is familiar with correcting diasitais recti. Even if not for vanity, it's important to have a strong core.
I recently came across the MuTu System, a 12 week course to help improve baby belly. This system helps strengthen the pelvic floor and core to reduce the gap between abdominal muscles. This separation has been the strangest thing for me as I can see it through my fitted tops- I will be starting MuTu next month. If your interested in joining one of the MuTu programs as well, consider accessing through my affiliate link here.
This post covered some heavy topics that have life changing implications. Postpartum depression, autoimmune disease and diastasis recti were not wellness challenges I thought about pre-baby but are so important to include in community conversation. I hope this has been helpful for you. Please share this post with friends and family whom you think would benefit.
Until next time.