How To Keep Your Heart Healthy During Your Postpartum Period?

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February is American Heart Health Month

How to keep your heart healthy during the postpartum period?

Most expecting moms try their best to prepare for parenthood before their babies arrive. They take the suggested prenatal vitamins and eat healthy, they get outside for some fresh air and light exercise, and they read every baby book out there. But what about after the baby is born?

Preparing doesn’t stop once the baby is born. That is when it gets real. It’s important to take care of both your body and mind during the postpartum period. Getting proper postpartum care and establishing a support system are vital to maintaining your physical and emotional health so you can enjoy precious bonding time with your newborn.

Your heart health depends on both your physical and emotional health. In honor of American Heart Month, here are some ways to keep your heart healthy after giving birth and during your journey as a mother.

Why Postpartum Care is Physically Important

Giving birth is a beautiful but strenuous experience. Whether you give birth vaginally or by cesarean, you are likely to be tired and sore. While some new mothers may be determined to get up and start moving days after giving birth, it is extremely important to rest and give your body a chance to heal.

As a midwife and mother of three, I recommend the following to stay healthy during your postpartum time:

●      Resting your body – you just burned 3,000+ calories by giving birth. Your body is going to be exhausted, and you are going to be busy constantly feeding, changing and soothing your baby. Newborns typically only sleep every two hours, so take that time to rest and recover. Don’t worry about that pile of dishes in the sink or the laundry that needs to be done. Your body will thank you for it.

●      Eating a healthy, nutritious diet – This is especially important if you are breastfeeding. Make sure you and your baby are nourished by sticking to healthy, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, proteins, and good fats (i.e. avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil) while limiting sodium and trans fats (stay away from anything hydrogenated). Have lots of snacks at your bedside. Eating healthy will also help your body recover from childbirth faster.

●      Continue taking a prenatal vitamin postpartum – why stop after birth? Prenatal vitamins are packed with nutrients that both you and your baby need.

●      The “one-week” method – I like my clients to expect one week under the covers, one week on top of the covers, one week in your room or same floor as your room, and one week throughout your house during the first month postpartum.  This is a mindset but if you can physically do this your body, mind and spirt will thank you.  There are links related to how we care for ourselves and heal during our immediate postpartum time and our peri/post-menopausal time period.

●      Light exercise when you are ready – once you feel your body has sufficiently recovered and you have been cleared for exercise, try adding some light activity into your daily routine. Start with a 10-15-minute walk around the block every day. As you get stronger and have more energy, extend the time and distance to suit your needs. Light exercise will help you get back to feeling normal without overdoing it.

●      Do not take a dual hormone pill – if you are considering hormonal birth control after childbirth, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider. All birth control has benefits and side effects, but dual hormone pills are more likely to hinder your milk production. Instead, a progesterone-only “mini” pill is usually recommended for nursing mothers. As always, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the best options for you.

Why Postpartum Care is Emotionally Important

Most people don’t consider the emotional aspect of heart health. Preparing for the postpartum period is also important for your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. After nine months excitedly preparing for your new baby the moment is finally here. Your hormones will fluctuate in order to return to pre-baby levels, you’re sweating and peeing out all the excess fluids your body no longer needs, and you have a tiny baby who seems to constantly cry the first few weeks. This is an emotionally charged time in a woman’s life.

I recommend the following to emotionally prepare for postpartum:

●      Get educated – it’s important to know what to expect from the postpartum time period and when to seek help. While getting the baby blues can be a normal occurrence, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are serious conditions that can impact you, your newborn and your whole family. Learn the symptoms of postpartum depression before you give birth to help you know if and when you should contact your healthcare provider.

●      Have a plan – Who is going to walk the dog because you can’t get out of bed and your husband is at work? Who is going to make dinner when you’re both too exhausted? What are you doing with your other children, if you have any? Not having to waste brain power on making these decisions will leave you less emotionally and mentally drained, giving you more time to rest and peace of mind knowing there is a plan. Line up a support system in advance and consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you if possible. Use your community and ask for help!

●      Know when to say NO – Some moms may relish the seclusion of being alone with a newborn for days, but humans are social creatures. While quiet time is important, it is also necessary to break the monotony, even by just having another person in the house. Ask a friend or family member to just sit with you can do wonders for your mental and emotional state. That’s not to say you have to have someone over as soon as they ask, but don’t be afraid to ask for help and company when you need it. That goes the same for saying NO to visitorsEveryone wants to meet the new little one. But you need to learn your baby’s cues, learn how to breastfeed, and sleep when baby is sleeping. This time is precious! One way is to set a block of time every other day to allow for visitors. Even a one-hour visit can be exhausting. Be prepared to say NO. Your visitors will understand, and if they don’t then they might not be a visitor that should be coming in the first place. 

At Fredrick Birth Center, we make sure that your physical and emotional health are taken care of. Our CNMs are dedicated to preparing you and your family for all that may come during postpartum to ensure that this period goes as smoothly as possible. Take the time to rest your mind and body, and enjoy the precious time you have to bond with your new bundle of joy. Be sure to give us a call at 210-577-8149 for more information.

Mychal Pilia