Best postpartum practices to adopt and practitioners to consult.
Women can experience a wide range of symptoms and issues postpartum. Let’s face it, bringing home a newborn is quite an adjustment in itself, but mums need to care for themselves during the early days after birth more than ever. Luckily, Hong Kong has a diverse community of pro-mama practitioners who can get you on the fast track to postnatal recovery, so you can focus all your energy on your little bundle of joy. From belly binding to emotional support, get all the help you need right here in the city.
When To Get Help With Postnatal Recovery
Postnatal Recovery And Rehabilitation Therapies (physiotherapy, postnatal massage therapy, chiropractic care, osteopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, abdominal binding)
Multi-Disciplinary Postpartum Services In Hong Kong
Abdominal Binding Practices In Hong Kong
When Is It Time For Postnatal Fitness Training
Postnatal Fitness Practices And Trainers In Hong Kong
Support Classes And Groups For New Mums
Editor’s note: There are many practitioners in Hong Kong and this list is comprehensive, but not complete. Being a new mama herself, the author of this post has tried a selection of these practices herself but it’s best to get a personal or medical recommendation before trying any of the therapies or postnatal practices mentioned below.
When To Get Help With Postnatal Recovery
Often as a new mother, you might not know when or if you need to get help to aid postnatal recovery. Because pregnancy is a natural process, many expect that healing will happen on its own, without adequate time and care. We spoke to a few experts in different fields of health and wellness to discuss the postnatal healing journey to recognise what is normal and what is not.
Jenny Fielding, Director of Women’s Health, Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Joint Dynamics:
- Know when to get help. Leaking urine, vaginal heaviness, tightness around scar tissue, back pain, and abdominal weakness is expected in the early weeks. However, this does not mean they are things you should accept; beyond 6 to 8 weeks, this is not normal. Don’t accept symptoms you are unhappy with; help is available!
Michelle Zhou McCulloch, Clinic Director and Registered Chiropractor at UP! health:
- Postnatal chiropractic assessments are recommended 4 to 6 weeks after birth. Do not put up with aches and pains in your body. Don’t just ignore the warning signs and keep soldiering on. You will be surprised how good you feel with a better aligned and mobile spine, and it will add to your experience with the time you spent with your baby.
- Try your best to keep all your activities relatively symmetrical. If you are used to holding your baby on your right arm, you should try and balance out with some time on the left too. If you bottle-feed, again change side from time to time. Change which side of the cot you use to put the baby down; that way, you use a different side of your body when you put down and pick up.
Dr Ruth Lee, Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Dietitian at Balance Health:
- New mums should seek help from professionals is they experience constipation, fever, prolonged bleeding, loss of appetite and insufficient breast milk.
- Another time to seek help is if they suffer from emotional disturbances like feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with daily life, loss of interest in herself and the new baby, withdrawing from family and friends, or recurrent thoughts of self-harm.
- Mothers should come in the first three months after delivery for a general consultation to check their wellness and create a treatment plan to address any issues in the early stage.
Postnatal Recovery And Rehabilitation Therapies
There is a range of rehabilitation therapies that women can choose to aid healing after giving birth. While some of these are specifically for postnatal recovery, others can be used by any person whose body needs to recuperate. These services range from therapies that have roots in medicine to fitness, beauty and wellbeing exercises. Some of the treatments mentioned include:
- Chiropractic therapy
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Postnatal massage
- Postnatal fitness
- Belly binding and more.
It’s not always easy to understand how these treatments work, especially when it comes to postnatal recovery, so we have explained the many benefits of each and where you seek help here in Hong Kong.
Physiotherapy for postnatal health focuses on exercises that help ease pain and discomfort while strengthening muscles that have been affected during pregnancy. The aim is to help rebuild muscle tone and improve control of the pelvic floor, vagina muscles, bladder and bowels, while also treating prolapse and abdominal separation, alleviating pelvic and back pain, treat, dealing with C-section scar issues, and also improving sexual intimacy discomforts. Physio can help you remain active but, most importantly, can help women enjoy the fourth trimester.
Postnatal physiotherapy focuses on your pelvic floor and lower core. A vaginal examination of your pelvic floor is recommended to ensure you activate the muscles well, are effectively relaxing and aren’t using other muscles to compensate. For some women, the issue is also hyperactivity of the muscles and in these cases, continued “Kegel” style exercises can worsen their symptoms. You need to relearn how to relax the muscles. If in doubt, remember C-section mamas also have pelvic floor issues.
Some of the techniques physiotherapists recommend for postnatal recovery can be:
- For runners and women who carry out activities which demand more of the pelvic floor, physiotherapists may also prescribe vaginal weights, which can be hugely beneficial for strengthening and endurance.
- Physiotherapists can use Hypopressive exercises – a breathing technique that helps in exercising the pelvic floor, toning the abdomen and training your core. It can be used to treat prevent or recover from postnatal incontinence or organ prolapse. Some believe that it can also boost metabolism and burns calories.
- As part of physiotherapy rehabilitation, women can also check out electrical stimulation if the pelvic floor is particularly weak or has nerve damage after delivery. The treatment helps activate and engage muscles allowing the natural progression towards regular exercise. According to experts, this treatment is also much easier for the client to do independently and more frequently. Some recommendations include devices such as the Elvie as it gives you objective feedback to see the progress. Short term or long term devices such as Contiform, Urestra, or other pessaries aid with stress incontinence or prolapse as symptomatic management while undergoing rehab.
Postnatal Massage Therapy
It’s no question that an expert massage by a professional massage therapist can do wonders for a new mum. A massage like this not only offers much needed physical relief but it is a perfect way to get in some well-deserved self-care, which is hard to come by for busy mamas!
Pregnancy has a way of changing everything about your body; the most apparent is weight gain. This displaces pressure, ultimately causing pain from the overcompensation. Massage therapy helps to decrease this back and spine pain. It also improves blood circulation, enabling better mobility. After a C-section, mamas often experience numbness; massage therapy can activate those muscle tissues and help them regain strength. Massage therapists can also focus on stimulating milk supply and unblock milk ducts easing breastfeeding pain.
Speaking of weight gain, aside from those aches and pains described above, it can also cause pressure on your spine discs, spine curvature and joints. This is where chiropractic care can benefit new mums.
The main focus is to restore the pelvis and spine’s alignment while the body is going through its natural healing stage. Neck pains and mid-back tension are common with new mums, mostly due to posture-related issues that come with taking care of a new baby. A chiropractic adjustment will not only offer relief, but your chiropractor can also address any ergonomic issues you may be experiencing, from feeding or pumping posture to wrist care. Addressing these issues early and treating the inflamed joints can help with the breastfeeding journey as well.
Osteopathy is a gentle and manual treatment for pain and injury, including neck and back pain and osteopaths are required to have a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology. As a form of manual medicine that recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions, osteopathy focuses on how your skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit.
Naturopathy is an alternative medicine promoting natural and non-invasive treatments; it encourages self-healing. In the postpartum period, naturopathic medicine is a useful tool to speed up recovery, whether you had a natural birth or a C-section. This could include helping your uterus return to its normal size, treating vaginal tears or C-section incisions, blood loss, improving breastmilk production and quality, dealing with mastitis or nipple issues, enhancing energy levels and fatigue, and treating anxiety, depression, and mood inconsistencies due to postnatal depression. Hormonal health can be successfully supported through naturopathic care as well.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
A TCM approach to the postpartum period is characterised by “confinement”; recovery focuses on nutrition and diet, with particular nourishing techniques. Postnatal TCM treatment helps alleviate the above symptoms and positively affects mood, immunity, hormones, and other systems. Acupuncture, moxibustion/herbal medicine are also TCM practices that help to replenish the systems most affected during postpartum.
When it comes to acupuncture and micro-needling, it’s important to note that the two practices are not the same. However, they are often performed by the same practitioners and use the same idea – tiny pricks with a needle to allow the body to repair itself.
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s acupoints and is known for healing internal and external diseases and ailments. Acupuncture requires the insertion of thin needles into the body’s surface to regulate its related meridians, easing pain and treating internal conditions and associated postpartum issues such as anxiety, PPD, and breastmilk production.
Unlike acupuncture which can help treat deeper issues, micro-needling focuses on the skin. It is a technique that helps lift the saggy abdominal skin and reduce stretch marks for postpartum bellies. Micro-needling is a modern version of the ancient therapy named plum-blossom needles. The treatment boosts collagen production and other growth factors on the overly stretched abdomen skin allowing it to regain its elasticity improve its appearance.
Abdominal binding is external support to help the widened body frame heal back inwards. As a baby grows, the body structure changes to accommodate the additional weight. So you will find the added weight borne primarily by the pelvis and rib cages also flaring out as the baby grows upwards towards the chest. In abdominal binding, external support helps the body structure to return to its position (reversing what happened as the foetus was growing).
In the postnatal recovery period, it’s important to first allow the pelvic floor to heal. Additional pressure on the weakened region can do more harm than good. Finding the right practitioner or choosing an abdominal binder or corset is critical as incorrect pressure used during binding may cause organ prolapse later on in life.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Fighting Stretch Marks
Postnatal Recovery: Multi-Disciplinary Practices In Hong Kong
The team is a multi-disciplinary team focused on women’s health, pelvic health, wellbeing, and fitness. The clinic supports women through their pre and postnatal journey, treating pelvic floor symptoms, pelvic pain, abdominal separation, C-section scar issues, and teaching them how to keep fit through pregnancy safely. It also guides women on when to start postnatal rehabilitation. The physiotherapy team carries out postnatal assessments to assess the pelvic floor (via internal examination when indicated) and abdominal separation (via ultrasound and manual assessment), teaches scar massage and helps women return to physical activity.
Services: Physiotherapy, osteopathy, pre- and postnatal fitness training, rehabilitation and more.
The team at UP! health is an excellent resource for postpartum recovery treatments, offering a variety of health services. It works with local businesses and non-profit organisations and also hosts regular workshops with proceeds donated to nominated charity partners.
Services: Chiropractic, dry needling, massage therapy, TCM and more.
Balance Health offers a range of health services for all members of the family. For pregnancy support, postnatal recovery and women’s health issues, you can consult Dr Ruth Lee, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner and dietitian at Balance Health. She applies the traditional wisdom of Chinese medicine with a modern touch, using a combination of acupuncture, customised herbal medicine, cupping therapy, moxibustion, Gua sha, and dietary and lifestyle advice to help patients with prenatal and postpartum care.
Services: TCM, prenatal Shiatsu massage, prenatal nutrition, micro-needling, acupuncture and more.
Central & Stanley Wellness believes in treating the person, not the illness through integrative and functional medicine.
Services: Physiotherapy, acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy, clinical pilates, and much more.
Central Wellness, 6/F On Lan Centre, 15 On Lan Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2866 0287
Founded in 2003, this centre takes a multidisciplinary approach to physiotherapy and provides pre- and postnatal assessments, rectus diastasis checks, pilates and pelvic floor strengthening.
Services: Physiotherapy, pilates, women’s health, podiatry, myotherapy and more.
Their team of experienced physiotherapists can help prevent or address any issues you may have. Treatments include massage therapy, postural re-education, exercises including core strengthening, and stretching while offering advice on what to do and what not to do – perfect for pre and postnatal stages.
Services: Physiotherapy, osteopathy, dry needling, women’s health and more
OT&P Aesthetics and Wellness offer a range of treatments that new mums can seek out during their postpartum recovery, whether it be plastic surgery for skin, breast, and abdomen aesthetic issues or laser treatment for skin pigmentation.
OT&P Family Clinic also can offer physiotherapists and osteopaths with extensive experience in managing postpartum changes and pain. Additionally, they can do postnatal rehabilitation such as pelvic floor training, core stability, urinary incontinence treatment, etc. They also have a Keto Programme to help kick start your pregnancy weight loss.
The clinic also offers functional medicine treatments for various common post-delivery conditions, such as hair loss, fatigue, and mastitis. For example, breastfeeding mothers may be reluctant to take antibiotics to treat mastitis, and alternatively, the practitioners at OT&P can offer a more natural approach by starting with a good probiotic.
Services: Physiotherapy, osteopathy, functional medicines, plastic surgery and more.
OT&P Aesthetics and Wellness, Clinic 6F, The L Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, 2155 9055
AOS Clinic was founded by midwife Pascale Maitre and offers a long list of services related to pregnancy, post-pregnancy and baby care, pelvic floor rehabilitation, as well as adult and child physiotherapy. Pascale offers packages that perform efficient pelvic floor rehabilitation with electro stimulation and biofeedback or manual techniques in the sessions. Jennifer Roumi, the in-house physiotherapist, uses the Hypopressive Method for Diastasis Recti recovery. It allows a safe rehabilitation of deep abdominal muscles and protects the pelvic floor while decreasing back pain. It can also prevent abdominal hernia and reduce the waistline by strengthening the abdomen. You will also improve your posture and balance and increase your breathing capacity.
Services: Hypopressive physiotherapy, electrostimulation and more.
Postnatal Recovery: Abdominal Binding Practices In Hong Kong
Belly & Bloom’s postnatal therapy comprises traditional massage techniques, the use of paraben-free natural herbal ingredients and the Jamu binding procedure from Indonesia. The founder is also a Reiki practitioner and provides relaxation and energy work for new mums.
This centre started as a Jamu massage specialist but has also created its patented slimum® treatment since. The treatment uses natural bodywork, postnatal massages and abdominal binding. This includes the use of body scrubs to lighten and improve pigmentation, warm compress massages to improve circulation and abdominal binding to shrink waistline, tummy, and hip size and acts as a support for pelvis and spine.
Other Abdominal Binding Practices In Hong Kong:
Read more: New Year Beauty Resolutions For Busy Mamas
When Is It Time For Postnatal Fitness Training
Fitness will naturally a big part of your postnatal recovery. Before you start though, hear what experts have to say.
Jenny Fielding, Director of Women’s Health, Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Joint Dynamics:
- Take it slow. The 6-week check from the doctor is not an “all clear”. While looking at your overall healing, scar/stitches, uterus and wellbeing, it’s not a check of your musculoskeletal system, your pelvic floor, your abdominal wall, or your fascial recovery.
- Birth, whether vaginal or caesarean, will cause some trauma to your body, and a gradual return to activity is critical. However, things like sit-ups and planks can be precisely what some women need for their recovery journey, even with Diastasis! Get a tailored programme and make sure you are progressing.
- Do not run before 12 weeks. However, your birth went, and whatever your recovery so far, this is nearly always non-negotiable. The time it takes for your muscles, ligaments, and fascia to heal and for your body to regain sufficient strength for the demands of running and there is growing research in this area to help test when you are ready.
Kristen Handford, Mama, Fitness Coach And Personal Trainer:
- Get started at home. Bodyweight workouts are fantastic to get started postpartum. If you want to take things to the next step up, resistance bands are a fabulous option as they help us begin to strengthen the posterior chain (your back, butt, and hamstrings) and core.
- There is a lot of contradictory information on which exercises are “postnatal safe” or “diastasis safe.” Physically, almost all women will have some degree of diastasis recti (abdominal separation) in the first few weeks after giving birth. In most cases, this is resolved within six months. You will need to learn to manage your intra-abdominal pressure with proper breathing and core/pelvic floor work and ensure that your exercise doesn’t make things worse. The same goes for pelvic floor dysfunctions such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Ziggy Makant, Mama, Personal Trainer And Group Fitness Instructor:
- From 0 to 6 weeks, I recommend rest and focus on good breathing and posture. Short walks around the house or a quick 10-minute stroll outside just for some fresh air for your mental health can do wonders for postpartum recovery. Also remember, community and connection are pivotal in the motherhood transition.
- Abdominal work involves strengthening the connective tissue between the rectus muscles (the linea alba) —lots of Transverse Abdominal (TA) work. Then progressing the TA work and re-learning to work the rectus muscles (think the six-pack muscles). In conjunction with breathwork, this is with pelvic floor work.
Postnatal Recovery: Fitness Practices And Trainers In Hong Kong
Esther Bland is a certified personal trainer and a pre- and postnatal coach at Aqua Terra Performance. She has a passion for working with new mums and mothers-to-be. She can help you adjust your training no matter where you are in the postnatal healing journey and help you get back to your desired fitness level. Esther offers rehab treatments that can assist you with pain, pelvic floor issues, and abdominal separation.
Kristen Handford, based in Discovery Bay, offers 1-on-1 personal training and women’s group classes ranging from boot camps to babywearing. She understands that every mother is different, and tailors her advice to an individual mum’s needs.
Ziggy Makant is a strength and conditioning trainer and a group class instructor. She runs pre- to postnatal strength classes and a fun outdoor baby boot camp as a chance for mums to workout, spend time with their babies, and grab coffee!
Support Classes And Groups For New Mums
This online educational resource offers intimate group classes and private consultations on all matters that matter to women’s health, including post-birth healing, pelvic floor issues and much more.
Classes cover topics ranging from post-birth healing to changes in the fourth trimester, diastasis and postnatal training. Experts include physiotherapist Jenny Fielding, personal trainer Ziggy Makant and sleep coach Kate Bridle. Everything offered is intended to support women for the most intense health transition of their lives – the first six weeks post-birth.
Support From Experts And Other Mums
If you haven’t already, make sure to join a due date club (may we suggest that you start with the amazing Sassy Mamas in Hong Kong?). There are also Facebook groups based on your particular needs. Many of these groups are private and mums willing to offer advice and have honest discussions on a range of topics.
One of the toughest tasks post-birth is figuring out breastfeeding (something which is often not as easy as portrayed in pictures!). It’s important to find a support group that will help you find your feet. Hong Kong Breastfeeding (a women’s only group) is very popular and you’ll find tried and tested recommendations from some 2,000-strong mothers. For Cantonese speakers, there is also BreastFeeding.HK.
For advice from the comfort of your home, look at booking postnatal visits from the reputed and friendly midwives at Annerley/OT&P. If you are struggling with anxiety or postnatal depression, please reach out to those who can offer professional mental health advice, such as Mind HK. Via the Family Health Services provided by the Hong Kong Government, all postnatal mothers can get physical checkups and advice on family planning. Women are given help and support to adapt to changes in life through individual counselling.
Family Health Service, www.fhs.gov.hk