Contemplating baby No2? Check in with your body before you get back to baby-making, and get your little one off to the best start.
Growing a baby for nine months is one of the most demanding tasks your body has ever undertaken. And, if you’ve done it once already, then you’ll know that what follows next can put mind and body to the test, too!
If you’re considering trying for baby No2, chances are you’re ready to go again emotionally. But, before you ask your body for a repeat performance, it’s a good idea to check it’s back in shape and up to the job.
You need to be sure that your body is working efficiently and in optimum health before you embark on conceiving a second child.
That way, you’ll have a healthier, easier pregnancy. Research suggests that it takes a minimum of 18 months for your body to fully recover after the birth of your baby.
Your body needs a chance to recuperate from pregnancy and birth if it’s to do a good job. Even if you had a straight forward delivery, it’s advisable to wait at least a year before you try to conceive again.
And, if you had a c-section or a complicated birth, you’ll need up to two years to physically recover.
Your pelvic floor, the sling of muscles that supports your uterus, bladder and bowel, will have been stretched by your growing baby.
And a vaginal delivery may have further compromised these muscles. Even if you had a c-section, you’ll need to get your pelvic floor into shape so that it can support a second pregnancy literally.
Exercising these muscles will speed their reshaping: simply squeeze as if you are trying to hold a wee or wind in, release and repeat as many times as you can.
Healing from any surgery must also take place. If you had a c-section, remember there’s a scar on your uterus to match the one on your tummy! It must also be allowed to repair before it’s put under any strain.
It also takes time for hormone levels to stabilise after birth. Levels of pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone need to settle before you think about conceiving. These control ovulation and so affect fertility.
Some women find they get their period a month after delivery, others return to normal after six months or so, but it can take a year to get back to what’s regular for you.
And it’s not just the recovery of your reproductive system that you need to consider. Pregnancy affects every system in your body. They all need to be functioning efficiently before you get pregnant again.
For your body to operate at an optimum level, it needs an array of nutrients. But your nutritional reserves may currently be severely depleted because, when you were pregnant, your body also supplied your growing baby with all the nutrients he needed.
His needs had priority over yours, so your body handed nutrients over, regardless of your own requirements!.
Folic acid is used up in pregnancy and birth, and your baby takes up your store of calcium to form bones.
Iron is also key for your cardiovascular system, which circulates blood. It’s needed to make haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body and, when you’re pregnant, to your baby too.
During your last pregnancy, your body needed up to 50 per cent more iron than normal, as your blood volume increased and your baby was busy storing iron to see him through his first six milk-only months.
And then a lot of iron was lost during post-birth bleeding. Starting on a second pregnancy without restocking this store would affect your health, and you could feel tired and run down. It could also affect your ability to conceive.
The best way to make sure your body gets all these nutrients back is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Easier said than done when you’re in the throes of life as a new mum! But those quick-fix carbs and sugary foods that tiredness tempts you to consume won’t do the job. It’s hard to find time to eat a proper breakfast and manage your five a day, but nothing beats healthy eating.
Choose in-season fruit and veg, whole grains and lean protein. Top this up with a prenatal vitamin, and your next baby will have all he requires during those crucial early weeks of development and your replenished store will allow you to supply what your baby needs without it impacting on your own wellbeing.
Healthy eating also helps you with the next step to a healthy pregnancy; getting back to your pre-baby weight.
Carrying too much weight can affect your ability to conceive for a second time. And there’ll likely be more pregnancy complications if you’re overweight, too.
Normal problems, such as varicose veins, piles, aching feet and swollen legs are all made worse by carrying excess weight.
It’s not easy, but try not to become demotivated by celebs on your Insta feed who are back to their pre-baby weight in six weeks. Chances are they have a nanny, a personal trainer and someone doing the shopping and putting healthy meals down on the table in front of them!.
Above all, before embarking on another pregnancy, deal with any lingering health problems that may point to a lack of physical recovery. There’s a tendency for new mums to accept such issues as haemorrhoids, perineal pain and urinary incontinence as inevitable, but they’re all signs that your body hasn’t fully healed, so visit your GP for advice.
Be careful, too, that life as a new mum doesn’t mask conditions such as postpartum thyroiditis, which can occur in the first year after birth, with all-too-familiar symptoms of fatigue, weight changes and sleep difficulties.
Taking these steps to get your body into good shape will have significant benefits as a rule of thumb, you should aim to feel as fit and healthy as you were before you conceived your first baby. Give your body time to recover, and you’ll feel better, both physically and psychologically, ready to start the next chapter in your family life!.