Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight – feeling weak & achy post-baby is NORMAL! There is nothing wrong with you, and you haven’t done anything wrong.
The key here, is understanding the reasons why you feel weak & achy post-baby, and what is happening inside your body during pregnancy & postpartum. This way you can appreciate why you are feeling different to before you were pregnant, and find out how to feel stronger again.
The following 4 reasons explain this:
1. Your body is NOT meant to bounce back!
Typically, the journey a woman’s body has gone through in pregnancy, childbirth & postpartum is completely underestimated. It is a common misconception that women should just be able to bounce back once their baby is out in the world, but this is not the case at all!
As a society, we really need to work on changing this perception to valuing what a woman’s bodies has gone through to bring their bundle of joy into the world. On top of the obvious changes that occur to the physical body of a woman, there is a lot more that goes on, deeper than the eye can see.
2. The Effect of Pregnancy Hormones
The female body can sustain pregnancy and then give birth, due to the changes in hormones that occur during pregnancy. It really is incredible what the body is capable of.
In pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called Relaxin, which relaxes/softens ligaments to make space for the growing baby, and prepare the pelvis to allow the baby to pass through. However, this hormone doesn’t just affect the pelvic ligaments; it can influence the whole body. It is unknown exactly how long Relaxin continues to circulate in the body after childbirth, and therefore it can still be having an effect on your ligaments after having a baby. As a result, this is one reason why you may feel weak & achy post-baby in your joints.
3. The Impact of Childbirth
Whether you give birth vaginally or via caesarian section, your body has gone through a major transition. As a result, women can feel weak & achy post-baby around their vagina and lower abdomen. Again, this is normal after birth, and can take weeks to settle down.
In order to maximise your recovery in the early days, it is integral that you listen to your body and pay attention to the sensations you are feeling. It is within the first 6-8 weeks that your body will do a significant amount of healing from pregnancy and childbirth. As a result, you need to ensure you are getting adequate rest, working on your core muscle activation and not pushing yourself physically.
To facilitate your recovery after having your baby, it is essential that you maintain your strength & fitness during pregnancy. To find out what exercise is safe during pregnancy click here. There are also ways to best prepare yourself for childbirth that can make a huge difference to your body’s recovery post-birth. Click here to find out.
It is for this reason that I highly recommend all pregnant women have a consult with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist at the beginning, middle and end of their pregnancy. In addition to this, having a consult at 4-6 weeks postnatal is pivotal to check your pelvic floor, discuss any health concerns and to teach you core exercises.
4. The Effect of Hormones Whilst Breastfeeding
Unbeknown to many new mums, there are hormone changes that occur to facilitate breastfeeding. During this time, oestrogen levels are much lower. This can contribute to you feeling weak & achy post-baby because oestrogen is important for muscle strength. In other words, low oestrogen levels whilst you are breastfeeding can cause your muscles to feel or look weaker.
This is another reason why women can’t expect their body to bounce back after having a baby – because from a hormone perspective, it is just not possible! If it is impossible for your hormones to bounce back, then it is impossible for your physical body to.
It’s important to keep in mind that your hormones and therefore menstrual cycle will not go back to ‘normal’ until after you have ceased breastfeeding. As a result, your body and joints may not feel as strong until your cycle is back to normal. The time at which this occurs is different for every body. Even if you are only doing one feed per day or night, you cannot expect your body to feel as strong as it did pre-pregnancy. I tell mums that their strength will return after they have finished breastfeeding, their cycle is back to normal, and they have been exercising safely & regularly during their postpartum period. This can take 12 months or more.
Feeling weak & achy post-baby is different to postnatal depletion.
Many new mums feel depleted as they are in new, unknown territory, and are giving all their energy to a baby. Whilst feeling weak & achy post-baby may accompany this, it’s important to differentiate postnatal depletion from the effect of hormones, as described above.
If you feel completely depleted, have difficulty coping with a newborn or depressive thoughts, please seek immediate help from your healthcare provider. Don’t suppress these feelings or suffer in silence, instead speak up and get the help you need. The Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) is a good place to start.
If any feelings of weakness or achiness persist a month after you have stopped breastfeeding, or are getting worse at any point, be sure to seek medical advice. It is so important that you feel empowered during your postpartum journey, so make sure you feel supported. I recommend seeking help from an Integrative Doctor to ensure you are getting a wholistic perspective on your health.
Be reassured that your body will return to feeling strong again, but it takes time and consistency of strengthening your body. My advice is to do Physio-led Pilates 3 x week that focuses on strengthening your body safely, helping you to feel more yourself so you can better enjoy motherhood. My online program offers you just that – sign up to The Postpartum Academy here!