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GUEST BLOG - How to Help Lose Your 'Mummy Tummy' After Birth - Permission to stop and lie down!

by Nina Parnham, Suffolk Women's Wellness Centre As a new mother, you have so much to content with after the birth of your baby. Your body is going through a profound change to return to its pre pregnant state. You are expected to give 24 hour care to a tiny dependant and you may also have expectations, whether being influenced through the media, your own peers or yourself, that you need to get your body back to a condition that makes you feel confident and back to being ‘you’ again.

1 in 10 women reportedly suffer with postpartum depression. The weeks and months after birth mothers must contend with wildly fluctuating hormone levels and a sense of disconnection between both body and mind. Even though you have given birth, you may be still carrying extra weight and almost definitely not feeling like yourself. How could you? Your breasts are still swollen, your body may be sore from the birth, and you’re exhausted. Compounding the problem is the pressure on a lot of new mums to return to their jobs.

In our new era of quick turnaround births in the hospital setting, society also expects women to bounce back from birth instantaneously. It wasn’t always this way. Mothers were encouraged to stay in hospital for up to a week after having their baby to regain some strength and learn how to care for their new-born with 24-hour support. Today women are advised an early discharge from the hospital in as little as 2 hours after birth, be back in full swing within a couple of weeks and down to a size 8-10 in a month!

What is not considered is that after every woman gives birth, her energy system, not to mention every cell in her body, is in shock. For 40 weeks her body has focused exclusively on nourishing and protecting her growing baby. After her baby is born, her body needs time to recoup. Our fast-paced society doesn’t accommodate new mothers.

Women can end up feeling exhausted, frustrated and depressed. As a new mum it really is down to you to ignore the negative signals from outside and focus on what your body needs. For at LEAST three months, the focus of your life should be taking the best are possible of yourself and your baby.

Mums need sleep! Rest and recuperation should be prescribed and is so underestimated. Daytime naps are essential for healing and your sanity depends on it. Rest is possible and a little change in mind set over this notion can give great results to your recovery after birth. Relaxing and resting helps to improve your ability to respond without reacting, and generally slowing down from a manic pace does regenerate your wellbeing.

When your baby sleeps you should aim to rest or sleep too. If you have other children try and make some provision that several times per week, you have help in caring for them so you can rest. The housework will wait. Worrying about this amongst other things can interfere with your production of serotonin which is a hormone produced by the brain and helps to elevate your mood and stop your feeling depressed. You should stay away from stressful situations as much as possible, and find healthy ways to deal with stress once it comes your way such as practicing yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Massage therapy has been shown in several studies to help cut down the stress hormone cortisol while boosting serotonin levels and increasing dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centres. People with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction such as overeating and sugar cravings. I have found that exhaustion in new mothers can trigger destructive eating habits that can continue for decades. Massage can therefore be an essential and valuable part of healing for mothers and not a guilty indulgence.

Go out in nature every day and walk. It doesn’t have to be an epic, gruelling chore, sometimes just a few minutes makes all the difference. Really focus on your breathing, taking in the fresh air to blow away ‘cobwebs’ and calm the mind. Getting some natural daylight can help the production of serotonin.

Don’t put any unnecessary pressure to lose weight overnight. Stress about matters like this can cause a rise in the production of the hormone cortisol which is linked to increased body fat around the abdominal section, and therefore compounding the very situation you are putting pressure on yourself about. High cortisol levels wreak havoc over time, deplete your happy brain chemicals like serotonin, and deprive you of sleep. High cortisol is likewise linked to depression and food addiction and inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Rest assured that if you follow the right advice on how to restore properly without extreme dieting, you will gain positive and sustainable results.

Exercise is a great way to boost your serotonin levels. Exercise causes an increase in tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. The tryptophan persists well after exercising is finished, suggesting that mood elevation may be present for hours after the exercising has finished. What is important to note is that you must work out at intensity levels with which you are familiar. Consistent serotonin release is linked with exercise that mothers feel comfortable with, not exercise that pushes women past their endurance and energy levels. Intense exercise can release excess cortisol so can retard the efforts you are aiming for.

Optimum nutrition, supplementation where necessary such as omega 3 fatty acids to improve serotonin levels, adequate rest, exercises designed to stretch, strengthen and energise, along with remedial massage will allow a mother’s body to heal from the inside out and help to lower depression, anxiety and stress caused by unrealistic recovery methods. Mothers need time to recharge. It is not a luxury rather than a medical necessity. Babies? Well, they just need a mum who is strong and healthy and fit enough to care for them.

For more advice on how to recover your body in the best possible way after childbirth please contact Nina Parnham

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