On April 9th, my husband and I met our beautiful, second son, Dylan. Weighing in at a whopping 8lb 8oz (almost 2 lbs bigger than our first son) we were blessed with a perfectly healthy boy! Other than being beyond ecstatic to have this new, precious addition to our family, I have been busy the last month learning how to be the mom of a toddler and newborn. Today I finally found the time to sit down and write this post…
Since I am a Prenatal/Postpartum trainer I wanted to use this newsletter as a way to answer the question a lot of clients and friends have been asking me…”How did my own fitness training during pregnancy influence the labor and postpartum healing of my second child?” I saw HUGE benefits and differences between my experiences of giving birth and immediate postpartum health this time around due to my intention and consistency in my prenatal workouts, fueled by my knowledge as a trainer.
Labor and Delivery:
Here is how my fitness training impacted my labor and delivery of my second son
**Please note, each pregnancy, birth, and baby are COMPLETELY different. I do not expect myself or any of my clients to be guaranteed a specific experience during labor and delivery due to training. However, I do firmly believe appropriate exercise tailored for each mom does have many benefits to mother and child during this important time.**
- Labor stamina: My labor time with my second child was the same amount from start to finish as my first. The “productive” part of that labor (contractions that effectively progressed the labor) was much longer this time. Still, I found I had much more energy at the end of the labor and delivery than first time around. Not only was I more aware and awake, but my body had the energy to deliver my child free of pain medication, naturally with minimum pause. My muscles were not as sore (especially my quads and glutes… probably due to the countless squats and deadlifts I did at the gym throughout my pregnancy).
- Strength in delivery: When I was in full active labor and then transition, with my second child, it was so nice to feel the strength and ability to change positions as needed to help baby continue down the birth canal. This is a stark difference to my labor with my first son, where I felt I did not have the physical ability to move from a certain position and it made the contractions very painful and less effective. Pushing was much shorter (partly due to positions and partly due to this being my second child) but my favorite memory of this part is my husband’s comment to me after “I was watching your arms and you have some big muscles! Where did those come from?” My arms didn’t really do most of the work but it is nice that overall body strength can contribute to a good delivery.
- Body awareness in labor and delivery: During the whole day of labor (all 21 hours) I felt a connection to my body and my muscles more than I did the first time. It was as if I could picture what was happening and therefore able to make decisions to assist it along. My inner abs knew how to assist contractions of pushing baby down (with the uterus) and they were much more activated and strong due to all my specific prenatal core workouts. My thighs and hips were flexible enough to get into positions that were helpful and I was able to tell when I needed those positions. I was also able to keep alignment of my body a little easier during key parts to discourage trauma to joints and areas of the body during labor.
- Clarity of mind: I did use Nitrous Oxide during transition and delivery (which helps calm the mother but doesn’t reduce pain). This, along with my physical fitness is what I contribute my clarity of mind at the end. Even between extreme contractions during pushing I was able to communicate with my doctor and nurses about what I should do and pause and decide for myself how I wanted to deliver my son. This not only helped the delivery, but it was an incredibly empowering experience to be able to choose for myself, confidently, what was best for my body and son. I also have an amazing OB and hospital staff to thank for giving me that opportunity to make those decisions! But this, too, was a completely different experience to my first birth, where I was too shocked and scared by the physical pain of labor to make decisions at the end.
I am only 4 weeks into my postpartum healing and I already see a huge difference between my physical and holistic health with this birth!
- Postpartum energy: Having two children offers much less opportunity to rest during this second postpartum period. Coming home to a very energetic three-year-old meant I couldn’t “nap when baby napped” unless someone was there to help. However, I have found my energy returning much quicker this time not only physically, but mentally as well. Even my mother-in-law (who graciously stayed with us to help) mentioned that I was recovering quicker and “up and about more” after baby 2. I have been able to enjoy playing with my toddler, visiting family, doing household chores, and even working a little these last weeks due to my return of energy. By the end of the first week I was actively trying to walk and ease into exercise. I have had to learn to be patient as my mobile joints come back together, but I am otherwise very excited to ease back into workout routines…even on very little sleep J.
- Strength to care for baby: One real result of my workouts from before baby 2 is my strength and physical stamina in caring for a newborn the second time. I dreaded picking up the baby carseat to carry for the first time but was surprised by how light it felt (even with a heavier baby). Even holding, nursing, carrying my son has been more enjoyable this time in the way that I don’t feel as fatigued and achy in certain muscles that I did before. It has also helped that I know several stretching and release techniques to help my body recover from such work too.
- Healing: My body has been feeling normal faster this time around even with a third degree tear in my perineum. This in turn has made me more impatient (and a little more emotional) about not being COMPLETELY normal a month out. Trying to pace myself and allow my body adequate time to completely heal has been harder for me this time because overall I feel so good!
- Prevention of Injuries: I came out of my first birth with many different types of hip and pelvic injuries that took about a year to heal and correct. I also had severe diastasis recti that required months of physical therapy to help heal. I am happy to report that the only injuries I have from this birth are my severe tearing (which is healing well and quickly) and an irritated sciatic nerve which is slowly calming down. My ab separation at 4 weeks pp is 1 cm at the belly button (almost what it was during pre-pregnancy with my second)! My hips are much more stable (don’t slide around as much and hurt). Not only am I able to heal quicker during this postpartum period, but I have not experienced any of my old injuries that happened during the previous delivery! This has been a huge relief and blessing!
- Emotional health: Any mom knows that having a baby/child is an emotional challenge daily. Sleep deprivation, hormones, and all of the life changes work against a woman when it comes to feeling emotionally stable. On top of that, having a toddler who needs extra patience, understanding has definitely proven to stretch me to my limits and break down regularly. However, I have found (as was true most of my life) that one of the best ways I can take care of myself emotionally (other than pray) is to work out regularly. Even a short walk has done wonders at improving my mood and outlook on a day! I am slowly trying to get up “early” again to get a little focused workout time in and it is proving to positively influence my mood all day long!
- Self Confidence: Being a mom has challenged my self-confidence more than anything else in my life. However, exercising throughout my pregnancy not only helped my body image, but it has helped me love my post-baby body more this time. I still see rolls and stretched areas from pregnancy, but I also see my body’s strength.
- Sleep and rest quality: With less chances to sleep and rest this time around, having quality sleep and rest has been really important to me. I have found that the days I am active physically, I sleep deeper and more peacefully. My body then feels even better and more rested the next day. A good cycle to try to uphold as much as possible!
In short, I am very happy with the results of my pregnancy fitness training after having my baby! I am even more of a believer in the type of training I do, not only to benefit moms physically, but in many other ways as well!
If you would like to learn about more of my training check out my website…www.thestrongmama.com. Feel free to email any questions to me as well at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Facebook for tips and ideas on workouts at The Strong Mama LLC.