Monday, 4 February 2019

What I Wish I Had Known - Postpartum.

So you spend 9 months growing your tiny little human. 9 months eagerly awaiting their arrival. 9 months of being plunged into a whole new world of things you never knew existed and things you didn’t realise could happen. It’s a learning curve right? 

Whether it is baby number 1 or 6, I think all mummies to be try to educate themselves the very best they can. The world is constantly evolving and therefore the world of parenting changes rapidly in line with that. From the very first midwife appointment we are given all sorts of resources to read and digest. I also enjoyed doing my own research on various topics from the likes of breastfeeding to vegetarian pregnancy and weaning. 

This being said, I have still managed to get to 5 months postpartum and think to myself “I wish I had of known that!” about a handful of different topics. My blog seems the perfect platform to share my findings; after all they may be of help to someone else... 

Postpartum Hair Loss

Now I did know that during pregnancy the hair thickens in response to the hormones and obviously some of that will naturally shed following birth but I was not prepared to lose the amount I did. I was losing hair whilst brushing, washing, styling, you name it - it was fur ball city for a good few weeks. The worst part? I went bald in the temple area on both sides of my head! Yes bald! Mum life is fabulous right?!

Luckily after feeling rather conscious of my two new bald spots the hair has started to grow back. This is amazing news although I feel I have swapped the bald eagle look for a newly sprouting alfalfa resemblance. Hair loss may not affect everyone, surprisingly though since I have opened up about it with friends it turns out it has happened to more people I know than I had realised. It’s something I wish I’d have been prepared for as it did come as a shock. Pesky hormones!

Postpartum Migraines

A killer. Not what you need when you are already physically and mentally exhausted post birth of your little baby. 

I started getting frequent migraines following the birth of Oliver around 4 weeks postpartum. I don’t suffer with headaches or migraines usually, I’ve been very lucky in that respect, so for me to be getting regular ones was definitely out of character. 

Due to exclusively breastfeeding O and being anti taking medication, I was trying to manage the migraines by plodding on but I wasn’t succeeding. I told my mother in law who asked if I was taking a magnesium supplement as she had previously read an article on the association between low magnesium and migraines. Admittedly I wasn’t. I was however still taking my pregnancy vitamins as recommended by my health visitor. 

Back at home I decided to look at the magnesium content in my pregnancy vitamin - it was present but not as high as a standalone magnesium supplement. I decided to take an additional supplement for a week to boost my level of the mineral and I also opted for the breastfeeding postnatal vitamins to try and ensure my needs and the babies were being met.

A week later and my headaches had gone. I shared what I’d found with my health visitor when she visited and she was equally amazed. She specialises in post birth care and although she was fully aware of postpartum migraines and headaches even she hadn’t thought of using vitamins to aid recovery. 

Whilst reading various sources I realised something that naively I hadn’t thought of before. When breastfeeding a baby will take from the mother whatever nutrients they need. This commonly leaves the mother deficient in various vitamins and minerals which can have knock on effects. At six weeks old, baby and mother attend a check with their GP and if all is well with both they are discharged. I do wonder, should breastfeeding mothers take it on themselves to get a regular vitamin and mineral check? Every Mum wants their milk to be as nutritious for their baby as possible and it is important that they can feel their best too! 

I found reading about this subject fascinating. One particular article that is interesting is:

Diastasis Recti 

Thank goodness for YouTube. Seriously! 

I not only found out about but also recovered the separation in my abdomen thanks to YouTube.

What even is diastasis recti you may be wondering? Diastasis recti is a weakening of the abdominal walls in the centre of the abdomen due to pregnancy hormones and the weight of a baby. Basically a weakening in the tension of the muscle fibres. Not everyone will experience this however many will. 

I watch Anna Saccone’s vlogs - yes YouTube is my guilty pleasure. Anna had her 4th baby around a week before I had baby O so I found it great to watch her postpartum updates. Although I was subscribed to various baby websites that send you an email with weekly baby progress advice it was good to watch and see how someone else with a baby the same age was getting on. Fairly early on in the vlogs Anna identified her diastasis recti and whilst listening I thought this was maybe something I was experiencing. 

When I had baby number one my tummy snapped back within 7 days (I know, I know - sickening.. maybe it was down to me being only just an adult myself?!) However this time with baby number two I felt my tummy was taking longer to return to its former self. I want to say here that I have been very lucky regarding my postpartum body. Some people would have been more than satisfied with how I was but to me, my stomach felt weak. I could sense that nothing was being supported as well as before. Although I was back to my pre-baby weight my tummy certainly didn't feel as taught. 

To confirm my query I asked my GP when Oliver and I had our 6 week check and she agreed that I had a two/ three finger separation. Basically this meant that when I lay down and tilted my pelvis to tense my abdomen I could place two/three fingers easily in between either side of my ab walls! The GP told me that there was nothing available on the NHS to solve this problem as it was not classed as serious however, I could seek help from a physiotherapist or find some simple correction exercises online. Whilst it was not severe, she did say it was something I should focus on correcting as if I didn’t it could lead to the problem worsening in any future pregnancies or lead to other problems like lower back pain later in life. 

This is why the vlogs have and continue to majorly help. Anna and her PT, began a postpartum diastasis recti healing workout series. The initial workout was super gentle and as healing has progressed the series has since built up to now being a fairly intense HIIT session. Link to initial workout here >

The videos have been a god send. With a new baby that I am exclusively breastfeeding I don’t have the chance to get to a gym. I needed a solution that worked around family and this was it. I can now workout at home, at any convenient time. By working through the series at my own pace I have completely healed my separation and actually feel stronger than I ever have. Now when I lay down and tilt my pelvis it is clear that the muscles have completely stitched back together - no gap present! 

I have committed myself to these workouts - I feel I need to put this out there. I wouldn't lie and say it happened easily over night. I’ve been doing a video 2/3 times over 4/5 times a week alongside walking around 4.5 miles 5/6 days a week. I hate driving so if I can walk I will. I started with the first easiest routine when Oliver was 7 weeks old and I had been cleared by the GP and health visitor as safe to exercise again.

As always, I hope this post will be of help to somebody! I have added a link to Anna’s first workout video above and you can navigate to the harder ones from there. Please comment with your thoughts/ tips below, I love hearing from you!

Bethany xx

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