Little Mother's Helper

Everything You Need to Know about Healing Your Pelvic Floor

@amandasunnyside

@amandasunnyside

One of the hardest parts of having a baby is that most women don’t know there is a whole other trimester to follow the three others where you house and grow a baby. So much preparation and attention is given to your pregnancy and delivery, and often very little information is provided about aftercare for a new mom.

A week after delivering my son, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and still in pain. It burned when I peed. I was scared to poop. My vagina was still bleeding. And, I could barely sit because of the pain.

I did not know what to expect after childbirth, but this situation was not it.

The fourth trimester is often considered a time of transition for a newborn from the womb to the world. However, it is also a time of transition for a woman as her body is healing and recovering from the past 10 months of pregnancy and then labor/delivery.

During this time the pelvis, abdominal muscles, and vagina are also healing. Here are some strategies that can help recovery.

Trauma to the vaginal tissues from a vaginal tear or episiotomy can cause pain with peeing and pooping and difficulty sitting. For the first several days, ice is your best friend:

  1. Use an ice pack, bag of frozen peas, or a pad-sicle (a witch hazel soaked pad that you freeze and wear in your underwear) on the vagina for 20-30 minutes. This will help decrease swelling and inflammation.
  2. Sitting on a cushion and taking a sitz bath can feel soothing to healing tissues.
  3. You can also start performing kegels on day one following delivery. This may be the last thing on your mind, but performing these exercises early on and often can actually increase blood flow to the vaginal area to promote healing.
  4. Following a vaginal tear or episiotomy, scar massage can start 6 weeks after delivery by using small amount of vitamin E or coconut oil and gently massaging the healed incision for a few minutes a day.

Peeing may be difficult and painful initially due to the anesthesia, healing tissue, and shock to your pelvic floor muscles:

  1. Drinking plenty of water, walking around, running water, or soaking in a warm bath can help relax your muscles and initiate your stream.
  2. Use a squirt bottle to spray warm water on your vagina during and after urination and then pat dry with tissue instead of wiping.
  3. Urinary leakage may occur immediately after delivery as well. This should gradually improve and be completely resolved at 3 months.

Drinking plenty of fluids will help get you back to pooping normally:

  1. To avoid straining when you poop, use good positioning by placing your feet on a stool, leaning forward, and exhaling as you gently bear down. This helps relax your pelvic floor muscles and prevent hemorrhoids, prolapse, or damage to incisions.
  2. Stool softeners or fiber supplements may also be helpful in the early days, especially if you had any anesthesia.

Following a cesarean section, taking care of your scar and retraining your abdominals right away are essential:

  1. Most women may benefit from using ice over the incision site for 1-2 weeks and an abdominal binder for 2-6 weeks after surgery.
  2. You can also start to perform gentle belly breathing, start walking around (making sure you stand upright and not slouch), and do gentle abdominal and pelvic floor muscle contractions to initiate regaining muscle strength and function.
  3. Immediately following a C-section, perform scar massage using two fingers placed 3-6 inches away from incision and make small circular motions to promote blood flow. Once the once scar heals around 4-6 weeks, start massaging directly over scar.

As you start to get more rested and initial healing has taken place, gradually increase your activity levels. Start taking longer walks, progress your pelvic floor exercises to performing 8-12 contractions 3 times a day of quick and endurance holds, and wait until about 6 weeks before attempting more vigorous activity, including having sex. Rebecca is stricter than I am on timing of exercise in LMH, so do what feels best for your body. However, please give yourself at least the first six weeks postpartum to build up your activity level to vigorous levels of exercise.

The 3 months following the birth of your child can be exhilarating, exhausting, adventurous, and overwhelming. So much focus is put on this tiny beautiful human being, rightfully so, but make sure you are also getting the nourishment, care and healing you need. Our hope is that this info helps heal not only your vagina, but also your heart and soul during this tender fourth trimester.

Sara Reardon is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in pelvic health, helping women across the lifespan optimize bladder and bowel health, sexual health, and pregnancy and the postpartum period. She is a practicing clinician, educator, and author in the field women's health physiotherapy. She helps fix what can go wrong with a woman's body, and she is passionate about focusing on what can go right. She is a momma, New Orleans native, and wanna be yogi.

A Lot Can Happen in a Year

 No such time as spare time
No such thing as free time
No such thing as down time
All you got is life time
Go
 - Henry Rollins

"It's beginning."

These are words I've heard over and over the last couple weeks from friends, family and mother lovers as LMH landed in the hands of women and men around the globe.

When I look back at the last 365 days, they've been absolutely transformative and I didn't know what to expect. The outcomes have been incredible; and the feelings felt have been big and tender, vulnerable and real. 

In all honesty, I can say 2015 was a WILD ride. Srsly. Wild.

It was one of the biggest years on my personal record, even though I'll never compare it to the mentally and emotionally exhausting years after my dad died and a love of my life died. And, I can't compare it to the years of being a midwife and the hard, and easy births I was part of. Those are different stories. 

This year was wild and big, because I felt how much I give a massive sh*t about improving maternal health outcomes from an "on the ground" perspective and nurturing the growth of this community. This year was wild and big, and hard, because I learned a lot about asking and receiving help. This year was big, because finally, I feel like I am doing exactly what I was born to do in this lifetime and I'm really comfortable in my skin.

Alongside all the hard work it takes to do the work I love, and the constant hustle - I won't stop, can't stop, because this community is it. Improving maternal health is it. Building and expanding this business for you and future generations - it's everything. 

In 2013-14, I knew what was possible - in my head. I didn't know how to execute fully. It took time, and research, to listen to myself deep enough to hear how I was going to help. 

My mom was worried about my future. Sometimes people said I should consider quitting. But I knew in my heart I wouldn't stop. I'd make it work.

On Dec 20th, 2014, I sat on a plane bound for Colorado to spend the holidays with my family and read an intense amount of research on maternal health and postpartum mental health...and that's when I got "the download" on LMH.

From there, I started taking action. Daily action. And, LMH was conceived.

Highlights of 2015:

  • With the help of a rad editing and peer-review team scattered across the country, we wrote LMH.
  • With the help of this incredible rockstar community, LMH was born on Kickstarter. This was the light of my year. You are.
  • The funding of LMH on Kickstarter re-wired my heart, reminded me "love goes a long way," and helped prepare my soul for the next three months. The next decade.
  • After Kickstarter, the wild ride started with publishing deals, conversations with potential investors and broker firms, pushing myself to re-develop the business model and plan for growth strategically, sustainably, and wisely. I said, "Yes, please," and also learned when to say no. Everyday was a new adventure and I was learning to navigate new waters - it was hard. 
  • I stopped working with women one-on-one in October.
  • In November, I realized I couldn't be an army of one CEO. With the help of an stellar design and developer team, legal team, and a lot of support from smart family and friends I've taken big leaps, and landed in a pretty sweet spot.
  • We've pitched LMH to six innovative institutions that provide maternity care (aka hospitals & birth centers) and they love it. LMH is three months old.
  • We re-established our mission, visions and values in preparation for our growth, which felt incredibly grounding; and helped me envision what we will accomplish in 2016.
  • We went global. WHAT!?
  • We shipped LMH on time. Phew!
  • You thanked us, kept us in the loop, asked your questions, and told us to keep going. We delivered and we will keep delivering. Pinky swear.

This is what's in store for 2016:

  • As we re-established our MVV's, watched LMH place herself in the right hands, we felt the inevitable and impending growth. In 2016, we will make some important (and crucial) hires.
  • We will partner with projects that are fun, and the right fit for our family and community.
  • Our mission changed from solely focusing on postpartum health, to providing tools for women from childbirth to post-menopause.  We will do this through online and mobile apps, beautifully designed self-care tools (like LMH) as we strive to protect and preserve the wellbeing of strong mother's, healthy families and connected communities. Basically, we're getting down to business and there will be a lot of dirty handwork.
  • We will push out LMH #2, on restoring your core and pelvic floor, and expand the LMH model.
  • You'll see more content, and not just from me, from experts that span the gamut - body, mind, heart and soul. Experts who speak real talk and want to help improve women's health.  
  • There will be more opportunities to meet up, all over the country (and fingers crossed the world) with speaking engagements, workshops and retreats. It's really important to our growth that we show up, in person, to meet and engage with you more regularly. 

That's the gist. 

As we make these changes, I will keep you in the loop. It's exciting and my focus in unwavering on building a strong foundation to help women for generations to come.

Finally, tomorrow is my 40th birthday. Recapping the last year and setting stride into the next year feels just about right. My wish, my one wish, is that more women get solid and loving beginnings into motherhood over the next 10 years.

Thanks for riding with me on the tail end of my 30's. I hope in some small way I've helped you, because you've changed my life. For the better and brighter.

As the Kings of Leon say, "You've got to shine before you blow them away." Let's blow them away Mother Lovers, in this next decade. I am ready.

I love you with all my heart!
XO,
R

 

Hanging Out with The Girls

Getty

Getty

Today's post is written by our resident Women's Health Therapist, Meredith Larrabee, PsyD. 

After I posted a picture of a card from LMH on Insta the other week, she texted right away, "I wanna see more pics of boobs after nursing- to normalize it. Great we see nursing moms. Now? Show the after effects. Trust me: there is likely a direct correlation for many women between sagging tits and depression."

So we are, today. She wrote the words. I collected the images from mother lovers around all over. 

The comments are turned off to protect the vulnerability and integrity of the moms who were willing to expose themselves fully. We LOVE their hearts and having the ability to take such a brave leap (and share) deserves deep respect. 

xo,
Rebecca

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“Your breasts may or may not return to their pre-breastfeeding size or shape.Some women's breasts stay large, and others shrink. But sagging or staying full can be as much a result of genetics, weight gain during pregnancy, and age as a result of breastfeeding.”
                                                                     –babycenter.com

Maybe you have read about how women’s breasts can change during pregnancy, nursing and childbirth; but, like most things with pregnancy, you don’t know what is going to happen to you… and what won't.

For example, some women really like their breasts during pregnancy because they are “fuller”, while others hate how large they become because lets face it, there is a point where they get so sensitive you cant run or exercise without pain, your bras don’t fit, and they are just…enormous.

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And then there is the after.

The after of nursing and pregnancy can mean a number of things for boobs, but for some, its shocking. I remember a close friend of mine who kept commenting on her horrific “post nursing breasts." 

Honestly, she has always been prone to exaggeration, and is often dramatic and self-aggrandizing in service of making me laugh so I assumed that was the case. I mean I knew that most people experienced a “loss of fullness,” or stretch marks, but whatever, right?

sxbbs.jpg

How bad could it be? 

You should know that while she was nursing her boobs were truly glorious. She is a petite, athletic gal and usually an A cup so when they ballooned to a DD she thought it was fun! And they looked unreal…almost. prosthetic. She had huge, perfectly round ta-ta’s. 

 

So one day, while drinking endless cups of coffee and hanging with our 1 year olds I challenged her. She kept referring to “bags of skin” and I said, “I don’t believe you. I wanna see ‘em. They can’t be THAT BAD.” 

So she set her coffee down, and flashed me.

 

Look I’m not gonna lie to you, and I didn’t to her. They were exactly what she had been saying, “Two empty deflated bags of skin.” I was stunned. The point is that going from small chested to Pamela Anderson , andthen to this, was truly disfiguring.

It had psychological and emotional consequences for her; and no, she didn’t get implants or anything. I know she considered it for a hot minute, but she felt alot of shame about it. She didn’t want her husband to see her boobs and it took her awhile to grieve the loss of what they once were (not the Pamela Anderson's, but the little A’s).

When you hear women say their boobs are "messed up" from nursing, you should know what it might mean. And know, that like other parts of our body that transform in pregnancy, these can really change dramatically, too.

And lastly, what you do with your boobs is up to you, wholeheartedly up to you as long as you feel good and confident hanging out with your girls. 

 

 

"In Need of Grounding."

"Every age has its turn, every branch of the tree has to learn. Learn to grow, find it's way. Make the best of this short little stay...take your time, build a home, build a place where we can all belong"
- José González

Last week, I received an email from a mom and the subject line read, "In need of grounding and woo woo websites." Two of my favorite words! She was looking for some insight on seasonal shifts and how to help our bodies adapt, as well as our souls. The beautiful part was when she said, "I'm trying to change my life to something better, one that I truly want while I work full time and have less and less time for myself." We are all, and I love this!  

My first contact with "the woo-woo" was when I was 19. We had a rocky family moment and I lost my shit. More or less. I was a driven, pre-med student with my eyes set on med school straight out of college, residency done by 29 and family started. When it all broke loose, I started to look for things that helped me understand the depth of life. Something bigger than myself that would help me heal. 

I explored the new age phenomena in books and experiences. Yoga and meditation were two early practices that helped me pull the pieces back together again, and some therapy.

Even though I didn't go to med school, I pursued my intense interest in studying the origins of medicine, and how we heal as I continued throughout my college days. Ultimately, I graduated with a minor in holistic health and alternative medicine from a hippy school in Arizona. My major, education.

In order to dive into this question of grounding, connection with the earth, and seasonal changes I'm going to do a little series for the next couple weeks.

Each week, I'll add some websites to the posts that I go to regularly for insight, grounding, and connection.

The first go-to for me is something a teacher reminded me of recently, as life has been clipping by with opportunities and experiences that I never dreamed of experiencing. Sometimes, I've been completely overwhelmed an run down and this simple activity brought me back to center.

I have a teacher I've worked with for 10 years, she's taught and guided me through some incredibly hard years and beautiful ones too. The bright/messy years. Recently we talked and she said, "You have so many things coming at you all at once. Make sure you get outside, work in the garden, get your hands in the earth, go for a run, just be out and moving. It'll keep you grounded."

When I start feeling overwhelmed, outside I go. Sometimes I just sit or lay on the ground, and breathe. Other times I work in the garden, go for a run, do something in the yard or walk around, but also I take the time to stop, look up and absorb the energy (yep, woo-woo) that is the sunlight coming through the trees as they change colors or the wind rustling through the trees. 

Not rocket science, or even something you don't know, but if I had to be reminded I bet it helps you to have the reminder too. So many of us right now busy ourselves and it gets too hard to stop, and give ourselves time to just be. 

Try it this week if you feel frazzled. Take yourself outside and ground down. 

Regular go-to-woo-woo websites:
Chani Nicholas (astrology) 
Georgia Nicols (like having your grandmother tell you about the stars; she's awesome!)
Vidya Living (ayurveda, yoga, coolness factor on high, love Claire and what she offers)
The Local Rose (Shiva Rose's blog + follow her IG, she's lovely)

Do you have any simple grounding techniques you love? Let us know in the comments below. 

More on this topic next week! Until then, shine on and have a beautiful week.

Big Love!
XO, Rebecca

10 protective factors that contribute to Resiliency (that whole bouncing back thing)...

Right after we wrapped up Kickstarter, I learned my work would be featured on People Magazine

A few days after the post came out, I received an email from a mom of two young children, who said she still felt like she was struggling-4 years later.

She wanted to know if I had any tips for her. Immediately, my brain went to my friend Meredith - mother, editor of the "mind" portion of LMH, PsyD and maternal mental health specialist with grit and a BIG heart. I asked her if she'd answer this mom's question, since it's her arena much more than mine. 

Here's Mere's response...

No matter how easy your pregnancy and birth are, pregnancy and birth are stressors. Sometimes the stressors are psychological, and sometimes they are physical. Most often, both are happening simultaneously. 

How does pregnancy stress your body and life? More like how doesn’t it! Name a system. It’s probably in there. 

On top of it, you might have risk factors in your history for developing mental health problems. Do you have a first-degree family member with depression? Have you had it before? Chances are, if you have experienced challenges with metal health before, there is an increased risk it will happen again

I can’t tell you how it will look for you. But I do know the more you try to control it or stuff it down, the more likely it will be to come out after baby comes (because that’s when the real party begins).

You see, I've always believed (and recent research supports) that the signs, symptoms and indicators of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period actually begin before the birth of that baby in fact, “Fifty percent of “postpartum” major depressive episodes actually begin prior to delivery."

In mental health we look at stressors in relationship to protective factors. That is, what protects us from the severity of stressors in our life.

Protective factors contribute to resiliency (that whole bouncing back thing) and include: 

  • Close relationships with family and friends
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Feeling in control
  • Seeking help and resources
  • Seeing yourself as resilient (rather than as a victim)
  • Coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse
  • Helping others
  • Finding positive meaning in your life despite difficult or traumatic events

Chances are, pregnancy will require you to lean harder than ever have before on your protective factors.  So women need to be aware that pregnancy is a time when your “weaknesses” or your “stuff” will probably bubble up.

So, while you are celebrating that baby, looking at strollers, deciding whether or not to get married, PLEASE: Spend as much time (or more) taking a look at your “stuff”.  It will help you in the long run. 

And find someone to help you if you are struggling (who isn’t?) to help you increase your resiliency.

Tell us, have you struggled longer after having your baby than you imagined or were ever told? If you have a tool that really helped you get through your struggle that will help a momma out, please tell us in the comments below.

We're listening! 

I want to acknowledge the courage it took for this woman to step up and ask for help. I believe there's a lot more silent struggle than women lead onto in the early years of motherhood. I want you to know we've got your back. 

May you walk bravely into this week, exactly as you are! 

XO,
Rebecca