Portable infant car seats. They’re a super-convenient way to carry a baby. When our little one finally falls asleep, the very last thing we want to do is take them out of their car seat and wake them. These seats have become so normal to us, we might wonder how any parent lived before they existed.
Yet if you are a postpartum mama – and especially one who has been diagnosed with pelvic prolapse – physiotherapists and pelvic floor experts warn that you probably should think twice before lugging one around. Or you should at least learn how do so more mindfully and ergonomically.
Now, before you roll your eyes way back and ask why the heck there has to be yet another safety rule for new parents to stress about, hear me out. There is actually a good reason for this.
In an interview with the BBC, Amanda Savage, of The Professional Network of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, explained that portable infant car seats are “not well designed to be a way of moving a baby around.”
“You’re carrying a heavy weight off to one side far away from your body often with your hand turned backwards or forwards and that’s not a comfortable or ergonomic way to carry something,” she continued. Savage said that in the first few weeks postpartum women are “very, very vulnerable” and should do as little heavy lifting as possible.
And she’s not the only one saying this, either. Tim Allardyce, a physiotherapist and osteopath from Surrey Physio tells Yahoo that “lifting car seats as a new mother is a serious health risk,” and that the practice can result in back pain or exacerbation of pelvic organ prolapse for postpartum moms.
“New mums often do not have the core strength to support such weight, especially after a C-section,” says Allardyce. “In addition, depending on the stresses during pregnancy, there may be damage to the pelvic floor muscles and sphincters that require time to heal, and in these cases mums should take extra precaution when lifting.”
And why are new moms more susceptible to injury from this practice?
First, it’s important to understand the state that a postpartum mom’s body is in. It’s a huge myth that women just “bounce back” after having a baby. Your muscles and ligaments are stretched out, your uterus still needs time to shrink back to its normal size, and your body is simply more susceptible to injuries then. In fact, some experts say it can take up to a year to return to normal after childbirth!
What’s more, pelvic prolapse – when your pelvic organs sink downward and are no longer properly supported by your pelvic muscles – is actually more common than most of us realize. In fact, according to The Professional Network of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, it affects as many as 1 in 3 postpartum moms.
There are three types of prolapse: uterine, bladder, and rectal. And according to the Cleveland Clinic, giving birth is one of the top risk factors for acquiring one. Symptoms depend on which kind of prolapse you have (and you can have one than one), and include heaviness, pressure, sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and trouble pooping.
I was diagnosed with a rectal prolapse after my second baby was born, and my guess is that I probably had it the first time but wasn’t checked. From talking to other moms, I’m pretty sure almost every one of us has some kind of prolapse. Think about it: Do you know any mom who doesn’t pee a little when she laughs or sneezes?
I was personally helped tremendously by a core strengthening program designed for women with prolapse, and my only regret was that I didn’t do it sooner. I waited years to address my prolapse and it only got worse. Fixing it really made a difference in terms of my quality of life.
When my kids were young, there definitely wasn’t as much awareness about issues like these, but I wish there had been. Although I didn’t carry around the car seat that much, I definitely did it sometimes, and I’m pretty sure that if I had known that schlepping around my baby’s car seat would make my prolapse worse, I wouldn’t have done it as much as I did.
The good news is that as convenient as they are, carrying your baby’s car seat around isn’t the only option. First of all, in those first few weeks postpartum, you can ask someone else to help you do it, if possible. You can also plop your baby into a baby carrier, which was my go-to way of doing things back then. You can even wear the carrier into the car under your clothes so you don’t have to take the time to put it on once you park.
However, if you are truly desperate and really need to carry the seat, Allardyce tells Yahoo that there may be a safer way to do it. He suggests that rather than twisting around to detach the seat, you can squat down, grab the seat with both hands, and keep it close to your body as you remove it.
“Use your legs to push up and ‘hug’ the car seat,” says Allardyce. “By keeping it close to your body, you reduce the effect of gravity pulling it down – another issue when holding the car seat by the handle.”
Look, no one is saying we need to go to an extreme here and never ever carry your baby around in an infant car seat. But we also have to understand that there is a real risk for injury here, especially if you’ve just had a baby. Mamas, our bodies need time to heal, and we just need to remember to take it easy in those first few weeks. We deserve as much care and love as we give our babies.