Childbirth is a very stressful experience for the human body, and it is meant to be so – the huge effort for a baby to come out kick starts it into breathing and life. The shock of leaving the warm confines of the underwater existence, and bursting into the outside world.
Pregnancy, itself, can have a way bigger effect on the body than one realises. The baby is carried on the front of the body, stretching into the abdominal wall and the cavity that is normally used a girdle to protect the lower back from injury and stabilise the trunk to carry the upper body in all the activities required. The weight of a baby on the front of the body pulls at the flesh and hangs the shoulders forwards and so rounding the upper back. This creates excessive curvature in the lumbar spine, which can cause compression, resulting in the front edge of the discs and vertebra being overloaded plus a stretch of the ligaments and deeper smaller muscles causing pain. It is important to take it easy and not put too many demands in the last few months due to the sheer weight being carried.
Added to this in the last few months the body is releasing relaxin a hormone that allows the ligaments to give in order that the baby can pass through the birth canal. This relaxing of ligaments is not singled out to the birth canal but to all areas, and so making the joints of the body less stable. These do tighten up after childbirth, but it is important to respect the body at this time and in fact for a few months after childbirth while they tighten up again. If childbirth has been tough then the pelvis can be pulled around a bit and on occasion does not marry back quite right. Assessing the situation 6 months or so after this is a good idea to check everything has gone back into alignment.
Whether childbirth is done naturally or through a caesarian intervention there are different risks and lasting issues. The former has the risk of soft tissue tearing and ligament stretching of the pelvis. Often the baby is overdue so much more strain is put on the mother in having to carry for longer, which continues the ligament and soft tissue strain, also the fact that the baby is getting larger means the birth itself can be a tougher experience. The latter is a scheduled operation, so the mother’s body does not have to be put under lengthy delays, however, the abdominal cavity is cut into and any surgical intervention can come with risks in the process, but more importantly, the abdominal cavity which is our lumbar support is cut into and so it weakened and takes time to repair.
A baby can be heavy – so straight after what could a tough experience that leaves the mother weakened, she has a 5kg weight that grows every day to carry around, bend over and change the nappy of etc. If she was an athlete, one would say rest and sleep and eat well to recover – but her recovery is hardly relaxed, when her sleep is broken through breastfeeding and she is hardly able to rest, through tending to her babies needs of sleep, feeding and nappies.
A specific program to work on mobilising the body back into its correct alignment is ideal once the situation calms down a bit. Then it is all about stabilising and strengthening to be able to bend over a change table or a mat on the ground, push a pram correctly, climb up stairs with a heavy load of baby and bags etc. Pilates type exercises are excellent but need to be taught right and a true understanding of neutral spine and movement is really helpful as an initial grounding.