Author: Ma. Theresa Hilario-Jimenez, M.D., FPPS
A lot of changes occurred in your body during pregnancy. During the postpartum period, changes continue to occur as your body returns to its pre-pregnancy state. This is also the time your body will heal and recover from the stress of pregnancy and delivery.
In this article
- Postpartum Confinement in the Philippines
- Getting Enough Sleep
- Post-Natal Exercises You Can Do
- Eating Right
- Pampering Yourself
Wellness is an important part of the process of your postpartum care to have a full recovery. But what is wellness? Wellness has been defined as the act of practicing healthy habits daily to attain better physical and mental health outcomes so that instead of just surviving, you're thriving.1
Planning for your wellness will help you have a guide to achieve a healthy lifestyle after delivering your baby. Practicing wellness can help in your recovery and healing as well as cope with the daily stress of parents. The task of parenting may seem overwhelming and planning for stress-reduction measures may serve as a proactive intervention to lessen the incidence of maternal distress, postpartum stress syndrome, or postpartum mood disorders.2,3
Postpartum Confinement: Philippines Tradition
After giving birth, a mother enters a pivotal transitional period known as post-partum. In these 4-6 weeks, she must regain strength in mind, body, and emotion, while adjusting to new domestic and social roles.
Many things can help a mother during postpartum, including support from family and healthcare providers, avoiding complications, eating a balanced diet, and having a safe and clean environment. It's also important to have emotional support during this time. By taking care of themselves, new mothers can ensure a smooth transition into motherhood.
Self-care after giving birth is oftentimes called postpartum confinement. In this period, the mother is required to follow certain practices and traditions which are aimed at supporting the health of the child and mom. Southeast Asian countries are known to have unique practices, ranging from diet and socialization to personal hygiene.
In the Philippines, there are a few postpartum confinement practices. Here’s a rundown of some of those traditions to know if they are helpful:
1. Burying Placenta Tale: After a woman gives birth, it is believed to be important that the placenta and afterbirth are buried as soon as possible. This is thought to help end labor pains and bleeding. In Filipino culture, the baby's father is often responsible for this task. Mothers are supposed to stay warm, rest well, and remain indoors for 30 to 40 days post-birth. This helps the mother heal physically and prevents "cold" or "wind" from entering her body, according to Filipino beliefs. The mother is also given special foods to eat so that she can produce nutritious milk.11-12
Keep in mind that there is no scientific basis for this. It is best to keep a healthy lifestyle and diet to help the body recover.
2. Colostrum: The First Milk Myth: It is a common belief in the Philippines that colostrum, the first milk produced by a mother, is not healthy for babies. Therefore, until the mother's milk comes in, babies are commonly given an alternative by family members. This is a known misconception about postpartum. It is salient to always discuss with a healthcare provider what’s best for you and your kid. Moreover, colostrum is packed with nutrients that are healthy for your child.11-12
3. No Negative Emotions: In the Philippines, some individuals also refrain from breastfeeding when they're tired or have negative emotions. This is because they don't want these feelings to transfer to their little ones.11-12
Although you may think that this is a myth, a study from Harvard University confirmed that milk from mothers with postpartum depression had lower immunoglobulin A or antibodies levels.14 Anxiety also has a negative effect as it brings lower levels of antibodies on breastmilk.14 These antibodies are important as this might help grant immunity to your kid.
4. The Belly Wrap: New mothers typically receive ample time to recover after childbirth. In many cases, her family will pitch in to help with general chores and allow her opportunities to bond with her new child. Additionally, some mothers may wrap certain items snugly around their abdomen to support post-birth uterine healing. 11-12
Doctors usually suggest postpartum belly wraps for moms who experienced major abdominal surgery such as Cesarean section. Belly binding can help relieve pain and heal muscle and incision.15 It is best to ask your doctor if belly wrap is needed during your postpartum period.
How do I make Postpartum Care Right?
Just like childbirth, planning and following your postpartum wellness can lead to a less stressful transition to parenthood. Your postpartum wellness plan will help you identify your support team which will help you develop the partnership you need to face everyday challenges.
1. Getting Enough Sleep
Photo by tirachardz from Freepik
During pregnancy, sleep disruptions, inadequate sleep, and insomnia symptoms are common.5 Answering your child’s needs requires you to adjust your sleeping habits. Hormonal changes and changes in your melatonin levels can also affect your sleeping patterns.5
Lack of sleep can be hard as you are also providing care to your kid and your family. Know that there are some techniques you can do to get that much-needed sleep:
- Rearrange your sleeping schedule. Take a nap when your child is asleep. Understand your kid’s sleeping pattern so you can schedule opportunities for sleep and rest.5
- Share the workload. Sharing responsibilities with your partner or relatives will help provide the much-needed time to sleep.5
- Go for a morning walk. This can help you recharge after a sleepless night. Moderate exercise can also help you sleep better at night.5
- Don’t consume alcohol. Aside from not being recommended for breastfeeding, alcohol decreases the quality of sleep.5
2. Move, Move, Move
Photo by tirachardz from Freepik
In general, it is safe to start exercises a few days after giving birth. The intensity of your exercises will depend on the manner of your delivery.6 It would be best to consult your obstetrician or healthcare provider about this before embarking on your exercise plan. The benefits of exercise are:
- Promotes weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake7
- Improves your cardiovascular fitness7
- Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles7
- Boosts your energy level7
Staying physically active can also help:
- Relieve stress7
- Promote better sleep7
- Reduce symptoms of postpartum depression7
Here are some guidelines when doing physical activities:
- Start with low-impact activities like daily walk7
- Take time to warm up before and cool down after exercise7
- Begin slowly and increase your pace gradually7
- Drink plenty of fluids7
- Wear a supportive bra, and wear nursing pads if you're breastfeeding in case your breasts leak7
- Stop exercising if you feel pain7
Gentle exercises post-delivery include pelvic floor muscle exercises or Kegels, deep abdominal breathing exercises, walking, gentle stretching, and swimming.7
Vigorous exercises include running or jogging, yoga, and strengthening exercises.7 It is not advisable to do sit-ups/abdominal crunches, push-ups and planks until you have the all-clear from your obstetrician or healthcare provider after your first postpartum follow-up.7 Doing these exercises too early may further stress your abdominal muscles which were weakened and stretched during pregnancy.7 It may take a few months before you may be able to do abdominal crunches or planking as your core muscles need time to become strong again.7
Post-Natal Exercises You Can Try
Pelvic tilt exercise - this will strengthen your abdominal muscles.8
How to do this:
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.8
Kegel exercise - this will help tone your pelvic floor muscles which support your uterus, bladder, small intestines, and rectum.6 Doing this regularly will help reduce urinary and anal incontinence.8
How to do this:
Contract your pelvic floor muscles, as if you're attempting to stop urinating midstream. Hold for up to 10 seconds and release, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.8
Happy baby yoga pose - this will help can help relax and gently stretch your muscles to relieve pain.8
How to do this:
Lie on your back and bring your knees toward your chest. Open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Keeping your arms on the inside of your knees, use your hands to hold onto the outside of your feet or ankles. Bend your knees so that the bottoms of your feet face upward and gently pull your feet downward to lower your knees toward the surface. Focus on relaxing your pelvic muscles as you work toward holding this pose for about 90 seconds.8
3. Eating Healthy
Photo by tirachardz from Freepik
Nutrition is another very important part of achieving postpartum wellness. Being well-nourished can help you speed up your recovery, promote adequate milk production, and support overall well-being.9 Your diet should be healthy and diverse -- eat a greater amount and variety of healthy foods, including milk, to help you feel strong and well.6
When creating a diet, choose a wide variety of foods from all food groups such as protein, vegetables, fiber-rich carbs, fruits, and healthy fats (avocados, seeds, and nuts). Calorie intake will depend on your body size, activity levels, and more. Moreover, if you have health concerns like diabetes, you should follow a different dietary pattern to control blood sugar.
While on your postpartum and breastfeeding, it’s important to take note of these guidelines:
- Breastfeeding mothers need additional calories to meet their nutritional needs while breastfeeding.10
- Additional amounts of some micronutrients, such as iodine and choline, are needed to support your baby’s brain development.10
- Certain types of seafood such as deep-water fish contain some mercury and should be consumed in limited amounts.10
- If you are a heavy coffee or caffeine drinker, you might consider decreasing your caffeine consumption.10
Remember to consult your doctor for your nutritional needs since each new mother may need certain nutrients more than the other.
4. Celebrate You
Photo by lifestylememory from Freepik
Living a healthy lifestyle also involves celebrating and loving yourself! Motherhood doesn’t mean that you will put off all the things or routines that make you happy and fulfilled. Pampering and taking care of yourself is an important step in postpartum recovery. Here are some pampering and self-care tips that you can incorporate into your postpartum routine:
- Make a Haven Inside Your Home: Create that perfect nook where you feel comfortable and happy. It doesn’t have to be grand, just a small and comfy space where you can unwind for at least 10 minutes.13
- Schedule Beauty Trips: Feel good, look good! Find time to schedule beauty trips such as haircuts, manicures, and facials. You can also explore new beauty routines! Just make sure to use products that are safe for you and your kid.13
- Try Journaling: Journaling can help you reassure yourself. It allows you to uplift yourself and be reminded of things that you can be grateful for.13
- Have Fun: Find materials that entertain you. Watch your favorite series or movie. Read new books. Revisit your old passion.13
Postpartum wellness should not take a back seat from your responsibilities as a new parent. Your wellness may mean your baby’s wellness as well. Following your wellness plan may seem more difficult than you think now that the baby is at hand. But following your plan will help lessen the anxieties and stress of your new role as a mom. Quality sleep, correct exercise, and proper nutrition are needed to put you in the wellness tract. Always consult your doctor for any questions or any changes that you feel in your body which make you uncomfortable.
- What is wellness?, available at https://www.pfizer.com/health-wellness/wellness/what-is-wellness accessed on 12 October 2022
- An intervention to prevent and reduce maternal distress in the Netherlands-Its development from start to finish. Women's Health International, 2(1), 115 10.19104/whi.2016.115. Accessed on 12 October 2022
- How childbirth-related stress may be contributing to increased postpartum disorders in new mothers. Midwifery Today, 126, 51–53, available at https://midwiferytoday.com/mt-articles/how-childbirth-related-stress-may.... Accessed on 14 October 2022
- A Fourth Trimester Action Plan for Wellness, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7159799. Accessed 16 October 2022
- Postpartum Insomnia, available at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/postpartum-insomnia. Accessed 30 October 2022
- Postnatal Care of Mother and Newborn, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304191. Accessed 16 October 2022
- Exercising Postpartum, available at https://www.enfagrow.com.my/articles/exercising-post-partum. Accessed on 16 October 2022
- Exercise after pregnancy: How to get started, available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth... on 16 October 2022
- Postpartum Nutrition: What to Eat After Giving Birth, available at https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/postpartum/postpartum-diet-nutri.... Accessed on 16 October 2022
- Maternal Diet, available at https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/di.... Accessed on 16 October 2022
- Birthing belief in the Philippines, available at https://classroom.synonym.com/birthing-beliefs-philippines-9141.html. Accessed on 03 November 2022.
- Baby Birth Traditions Philippines, available at https://www.ucbaby.ca/baby-birth-traditions-the-philippines#:~:text=Bury.... Accessed on 03 November 2022.
- Post-partum Self-Care, available at https://hellopostpartum.com/postpartum-self-care/. Accessed on 03 November 2022.
- The relationship between maternal postpartum psychological state and breast milk secretory immunoglobulin A level, available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25589451/. Accessed on 03 November 2022.
- What is a postpartum belly wrap?, available at https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-is-postpartum-belly-wrap. Accessed on 03 November 2022