Protecting Your Spine and Joints After Having a Baby

 

The hormones of pregnancy which increase laxity in your joints in preparation for birth, can remain in your body for 6 months to 1 year after your delivery, and up to 6 months after finishing breastfeeding.  This can make your joints and soft tissues more susceptible to injury.  Caring for your newborn can be very physically demanding, and your core strength has likely never been so weak.  New moms often lift and carry more than they did before becoming pregnant.  An empty car seat can weigh as much as 7 lbs, and add to it a baby who is nearing the upper weight limits of the seat, a new mom can regularly have to tote around as much as 20-25lbs!  To prevent pain and injury in the post-partum period, it is very important to use proper body mechanics, and restore your pelvic floor and core muscle function.  In many European countries, new mothers receive several government funded pelvic floor physiotherapy sessions to help them restore their bodies after pregnancy, labour and delivery.

 

Here are some tips to help keep you healthy and pain free after your baby is born:

Lifting

Lifting the Car Seat

Carrying Car Seat in Front of You

CAR SEAT :  Engage your abdominals and pelvic floor, bend your knees and keep the weight in front of you.  Exhale as you lift, and use both arms.  Avoid lifting by bending to the side and lifting with one arm.   Avoid carrying the car seat on one arm as you walk.  Keep the car seat in front of you.   If possible, minimize the time carrying the car seat.   A snugli, sling or stroller work best!

Lifting Baby From Low Levels

LIFTING BABY FROM LOW LEVELS:  Squat down to the floor and engage your abdominals and pelvic floor.  Exhale as you stand up, ensuring that you keep your back straight and use your legs to do the work.  Avoid bending forward from the waist to lift.

 Carrying Baby

Carrying baby directly in front, not on the hip

CARRYING BABY: Keep your back straight and keep the load in front of you.  Avoid carrying baby on one hip.  This can put unnecessary stress on your back.  Engage your abdominals and pelvic floor as you lift.  For older babies, keep one hand under baby’s bottom and one hand across baby’s back. For very young infants, try to switch which arm cradles the head on a regular basis to avoid neck and shoulder strain.

 Protecting Your Thumbs, Wrists and Hands

As your baby gains head control, protect your thumbs, hands and wrists when picking up baby by keeping your thumbs pointed upwards and under baby’s armpits.  Avoid letting your wrists collapse.  This is especially important as the baby grows and gets heavier!

 

Other Tips

  • Since safety standards have changed, and crib rails are now fixed, it is important to engage your core and pelvic floor and exhale as you lift baby out of the crib.  Attempt to keep your spine as straight as possible with your knees slightly bent as you lift.  Teach older children to stand up at the edge of the crib before you lift.
  • When putting baby into a fixed car seat, kneel on the seat with one knee, keeping your back straight, and avoid leaning over into the car.
  • When getting your baby out of the car, you may need to get into the back seat, lift the baby into your lap, then turn your body, to swing your legs out of the car. Engage your abdominals and pelvic floor as you do this, then exhale as you stand up.
  • When bathing baby, kneel close to the tub. If you must lean over, rest against a folded towel on the edge of the tub.
  • Set up a change station that is at waist height, ensuring that you keep baby within arm’s reach at all times.
  • If you are breastfeeding, make sure you look up when feeding. After the latch has been established, give your neck a break from that downward turned position.  This will help avoid neck strain.

Restoring your pelvic floor and core function is necessary after you have had a baby.  After birth, the baby is typically the main focus of everyone’s attention.  We cannot forget Mom!  Taking care of yourself in the early days after the birth, with fatigue, sleepless nights and while trying to get to know your new baby,  can be difficult.  It is important to find a bit of time daily to begin to recover your pelvic floor and core function, especially if you have had a vaginal delivery.  Pregnancy causes the deep core muscles to become stretched and weak.  These muscles can become especially inhibited after a C-Section.

Physiotherapy can help new moms begin to restore the muscles of the core and pelvic floor.  This will provide a proper foundation to returning to a normal exercise routine, and help cope with the physical demands of caring for a new baby.  If you would like help to do this or to book an assessment, I am here to help!  Contact the clinic by telephone at 613-692-1847 or by email at office@manotickphysioworks.ca.

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by:  Cathy Cooney, PT
Registered Physiotherapist & Co-Owner
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