Disclaimer for my Public Affairs heart: None of the recommendations/links below are endorsements by the DoD or USAF. They’re just my personal opinions and things I found helpful. Also, postpartum fitness is a tricky thing, so be sure to check with your medical team to be sure you’re on a healthy track.
It’s been four months since having my first child, and motherhood is awesome! I enjoyed the chance to stay home on maternity leave and get to know our new baby and figure out our new normal. Such a blessing!
That being said, this “fourth trimester” has definitely still had its ups and downs. One of the big obstacles for me the last few months has been my recovery and fitness journey. Although everything looked normal and fine through most of my pregnancy, at 40 weeks it was discovered that my baby was breech and required an unplanned c-section to deliver her. I wasn’t really ready for or knowledgeable about c-section recovery, so that was a curveball for me. The four tips below may not apply to all women who have given birth, but they are things that have helped me get back on my feet (literally!) over the last few months.
Focus on nutrition – the Noom App
I’ll admit, I didn’t have the healthiest pregnancy, and that was made more clear to me after I had the baby. I knew that I had gained weight, but when that weight stuck around after the baby was born it was a bit disconcerting. (Of course, body changes and weight fluctuations are totally normal after giving birth. I’m absolutely no medical expert! Talk with your doctor to find out what is healthy for you.)
However, it was tricky to try to lose weight because I couldn’t do any exercise other than lifting my baby or walking for the first 7-8 weeks, doctor’s orders. Then, even after that, I didn’t feel “right” and still needed to ease my body back into things. My usual go-to for weight management (running and working out hard) wasn’t possible. Enter nutrition! Around Thanksgiving I started using the Noom app, and I’ve lost about 14 pounds so far without much exercise, just focusing on eating well and within my calorie count. Even if you can’t exercise and your body is still healing, eating healthy food is always a good option that can help you get back into shape and promote healing.
Recalibrate and adjust – osteopath appointments
I tried running for a few days at my 8 week postpartum mark after my doctor had cleared me to exercise, but I just felt off. It felt like I couldn’t land squarely on my foot, and my knees and ankles hurt badly. I’ve concentrated on good form in running for a few years now, so I knew this wasn’t right.
I talked to my military PCM about my symptoms and asked about getting a pelvic/spinal adjustment referral. She agreed, and I learned that Tricare does not cover chiropractic adjustments, but it will cover osteopath adjustments. (Learn the difference between the two here.) I made an appointment and the osteopath confirmed that my pelvis and spine were crooked, basically, and did some manual adjustments. I’m glad to report that has pretty much fixed my symptoms! I just went running again this week, and it feels WAY better. Especially after basically front-rucking for several months and giving birth, your body may need help getting back into alignment. Again, talk to your medical team and see if this may help.
Scarring and Healing – scar massage therapy
Now this tip I stumbled upon serendipitously through a local masseuse. I received a gift card for a massage that I took to a local spa, and as I was talking to the masseuse I mentioned that I had recently had a c-section. She told me that she is experienced in scar tissue massage therapy and explained the benefits of scar massage for women with c-sections. I had never heard of such a thing! Being far enough along in postpartum healing that my incision was closed up, she offered to check it out and do a bit of massage on it.
I’ll admit, that was a little scary. My incision had been pretty painful as it was healing, so I had treated it gingerly, and now this lady wanted to put pressure and rub on it! It hurt a little bit and was a bit tender the rest of the day, but it was worth it. She was also able to check for keloids, a type of scarring that can cause big problems down the road. You can also do your own scar massage (lots of tutorials online), but it’s given me some peace of mind to check in with a pro every few weeks, too. (And to get a massage, obviously.)
Getting strong again – SheFit sports bra
Postpartum body changes can be crazy, and adding in elements like breastfeeding can make buying clothes and figuring out your size very difficult. When I was able to start exercising again, I found myself needing a lot more bra support than I did before, but I struggled with finding a bra that fit because my cup size could change hourly. (Wooo breastfeeding!)
I’ve tried out the SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra and found it to be an awesome solution for postpartum fitness needs. The straps and band are all velcro-adjustable, so it’s easy to make it fit correctly each time I wear it, even if my size is changing with weight fluctuations or breastfeeding. It has a LOT of support and even a front zipper! It’s been great for high impact activities like running and I highly recommend it.
These four things have been most helpful for me in the last few months of recovery. I still feel like I have a long way to go in getting back to “normal” and feeling strong, but I’m trying to be kind and patient with myself along this journey. I’ll get there!
For those of you military women that have also had kids, what things helped you in your recovery process to get back to a good fitness level? Anything you absolutely loved or would recommend to others?