PARENTING

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YOUR OWN LIFE

Becoming a parent changes your life. Suddenly there seems to be no time for you, for the things you liked to do, for quiet moments with your partner or with friends. Sometimes you may feel that there isn’t even any time for the basic things in life like eating and sleeping.
But if you don’t give yourself some time and consideration, your batteries will soon be used up and you simply won’t have the energy to make a good job of being a parent.

YOUR BODY AFTER CHILDBIRTH

Having a baby changes your body. You may not like the changes, or you may enjoy feeling different, ‘more like a mother’. If you like the way you are, don’t let other people tell you different.
If you feel uncomfortable with your body you’ll want to make some changes. Some things will never be quite the same again – for example, stretch marks will fade, but won’t ever go away completely.
Other changes need not be permanent. A saggy tummy can be tightened up with exercise, and weight gain will gradually drop off if you eat and exercise sensibly. But don’t expect any of this to happen overnight. It took nine months to make a baby. Give yourself at least that long to get back into shape again – and it may take longer.
In the meantime, give your body some little treats to cheer you up.
For example, if it makes you feel good to paint your toenails, then make time to do it. Maybe for you that’s even more important than 20 minutes extra sleep.

Pelvic floor exercises
The muscles of the pelvic floor form a hammock underneath the pelvis to support the bladder, womb and bowel. You use these muscles when you pass water, empty your bowels and when you make love. Often they’re stretched during pregnancy, labour and birth. If you can improve their strength and function you’re less likely to have a leaky bladder, and more likely to enjoy intercourse.
You can do this exercise either sitting or standing, when you’re washing up, queuing in the supermarket, watching television – anywhere. You ought to do it for the rest of your life. It’s an exercise that’s just as important for older women as younger.
· Squeeze and draw in your back passage at the same time. Close up and draw in your vagina (front passage) upwards.
· Hold on for about five seconds, then let go.
· Do this exercise in sets of five, ten times a day. It helps to imagine you’re stopping a bowel movement, holding in a tampon, stopping yourself passing water. In fact, the best way to find the muscles is to try stopping and starting (or slowing down) the flow of urine while you’re on the toilet.
Curl ups
This exercise firms up your stomach and closes the gap in the abdominal muscles that opens up during pregnancy.
· Lie on the floor (rather than your bed) with your knees bent up high so your feet are flat on the floor.
· Pull your tummy in and gradually lift your head and shoulders, reaching for your knees with your hands. Then lower back down very slowly.
· Begin this exercise gently and build up.
Postnatal check
Don’t be so busy looking after your baby that you forget to attend for your postnatal examination at around six to eight weeks. This is an opportunity for you to talk to your doctor about any health problems following delivery such as perineal pain or pain following episiotomy, backache, piles, incontinence, etc. It is also an opportunity for you to talk about how you are feeling, for example if you are feeling low or depressed, and also to talk about family planning if you wish.
To ease back problems
· While feeding, always sit with your back well supported and straight. Use a pillow or cushion behind your waist.
· Kneel or squat to do low-level jobs like bathing your baby or picking things up off the floor. Avoid bending your back.
· Make your knees work instead. Change nappies on a waist-level surface or while kneeling on the floor.
· To lift weights like a carrycot or an older child, bend your knees, keep your back straight and hold the weight close to your body. Make your thigh muscles work as you lift.
· Try to keep a straight back when you push a pram or buggy, or carry your baby in a sling.


PHYSICAL PROBLEMS

A lot of women have physical problems, either as a result of labour and birth, or because of the kind of work involved in caring for young children, or both. Problems like an infection that keeps coming back, back pain, a leaky bladder and painful intercourse are much more common than people think. These sorts of problems can get you down, and some get worse if they’re not seen to.
For some problems you can do a lot to help yourself. The muscles around your bladder, vagina and back passage (the perineum) may be weak and that could be part of the reason for the ‘falling out’ feeling or leaky bladder that many women describe. Pelvic floor exercises can help.
A bad back can also be helped by exercise, and by learning to use your back carefully.

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