Home > Body > Health > Why You Should Prioritise Healing Not Fitness in The Fourth Trimester

Have you heard of the fourth trimester? It’s the time when you’ve immediately had the baby and might be looking at ways to get yourself back to being that pre-baby person again.

Postpartum self-care is often a misunderstood and neglected part of motherhood. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of women’s health specialist Bonney O’Connell to explain how to relax and heal your body naturally with 5 easy tips.

Bonney explains that getting back to our pre-baby selves is something we’ve all felt immense pressure to do. Although you may feel the urge to get up and go, the first few weeks postnatally is the time to really nurture your body and allow it to heal.

Should you exercise?

Embarking on any sort of exercise regimen will depend on what stage you are in postnatally and will certainly be unique to you. But one thing remains universal: we should prioritise healing, not fitness. Also, getting informed, professional advice at this stage is key. So many mums count down to their six weeks postnatal check-up, eager to jump back into their favourite pre-baby fitness activity. While this is certainly admirable, I truly urge you to slow your roll. Not only can this cause pelvic floor issues (think incontinence), but how your entire body looks, feels, and functions. How you treat your postnatal body in these first few weeks sets the stage for what comes after. Whether you are aiming to run a marathon in the future, or simply want to avoid weeing yourself when you sneeze, your body will thank you for taking the necessary time out to allow your body to heal.

Here are five ways to help your body to heal during the fourth trimester.
1. Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)

Having a well functioning pelvic floor is crucial in preventing issues such as prolapse, incontinence and back pain post birth. During pregnancy the pelvic floor has an increasing load on it (which is why, even if you have a c-section it needs rehab post birth) then, during birth, expands to allow baby to come through, you may have torn, had an episiotomy or instrumental delivery, all of which cause damage to this area that then needs help to recover. Kegels (contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor) whilst not a long term, functional pelvic floor plan, its useful postnatally. They allow you to start feeling connected to that area again, promote blood flow and facilitate the process of healing. Be aware that initially you might not feel much you might not feel much, but sensation will return eventually. How to Kegel: Seated and upright, relaxed, imagine the seat you are sitting on is hot and as you breathe out lift the opening of your vagina (or the whole area between your legs if easier) away from the heat, inhale and relax. Think of these as HEALING not EXERCISE.

2. Improve your posture

Postnatally, you’ll most likely be holding, carrying and feeding your baby pretty much every day. Your body will bare the brunt of this, and common signs of the this will include backache and tense shoulders. To help with your posture, sit in a comfy, supportive chair when you are feeding and have all the cushions and anything else you need to allow you to sit in upright position. If you are struggling with upper back pain, try feeding lying down slightly. Invest in a sling – it’s a great way to support your posture. Relax your shoulders – trust me, do this often! Stick a post-it note to the buggy with this on to remind you.

3. Eat balanced meals and up your water levels

Eating balanced meals and keeping your hydration levels up will undoubtedly help your body recover more efficiently after you’ve had your baby. Balance out the carb cravings by eating regularly to keep energy levels up. Ditch or at least limit the caffeine. It can deplete nutrients, affect hormones, and increase stress levels. Water is key, especially if you are breast feeding – ensure you drink it regularly during the day. Take the time out to take your supplements, vitamins C, D, B12, Omega 3, magnesium and zinc are a good combination to strengthen and support your body. Batch cook a load of food that you can stick in the freezer before baby arrives. This literally stopped us from starving when I had my fourth baby. Have decent snacks in stock – so when you have run out of time there is something healthy you can grab to keep you going.


I know, I know, easy to say, harder to do when you have a new-born, right? But it’s worth highlighting that when you are relaxed, it’s easier for your body to heal. My go-to method for relaxing when it seems like there is no time at all is to focus on my breathing (even if it means hiding in the loo for five minutes to do so) Try a five count inhale/ five count exhale for just 10 breaths – This will not only help you relax, but also start the process of recovery for the muscles of your pelvic floor and core that have been under a lot of stress during pregnancy and labour. These long slow breaths will help calm your nervous system, reduce stress and re-engage the tummy muscles.

5. Get moving!

As humans, we are designed to move. But for the first few weeks it’s crucial that you let your body recover. Now I’m not suggesting you take up residence on the sofa and stay there (unless of you want to, after all, you just grew and birthed another human, you get to do whatever works for you). However, you can start to embark on low impact activities like walking. One of the things I was most grateful for when my kids were small was having a family dog. It meant that no matter what I got some fresh air each day, even if it was just taking the dog out for a quick walk around the block. Stick baby in the buggy or the sling and go for regular strolls. It’s safe, easy to do (even in the current lockdown situation) and if you’ve got a cranky baby, it will probably sort that out too! Start small – 10 minutes per day is enough and then build up gradually. The most important thing is that you listen to your body and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone’s postnatal journey is unique.

Based on what you love