My views on this are probably not popular… I’m seeing a lot of women put themselves out needlessly and let’s face it, in 2019 there are lots of societal factors as well as intrinsic motivators to want to get back to looking and feeling like ‘ourselves’ but let me just take a minute and break this down.
Going back to high impact exercise to soon after childbirth is not good for you.
When a woman is pregnant her ligaments get lax and therefore joints become less stable-thanks to the hormone elastin. You also produce more oestrogen during one pregnancy than in the entire rest of your life when you’re not pregnant and your progesterone level increases dramatically too.
- A pregnant woman carries extra fluid,
- her organs compress,
- her pelvic floor works overtime to keep her bladder, anus and uterus-now carrying the equivalent of a hefty bowling ball supported
- Her pelvic floor also stops those organs from dropping down or bulging out (called a Prolapse)
- A pregnant woman may suffer from Piles or hemorrhoids,
- She may experience pubic symphysis, where the front of the pubis shifts apart causing severe pain due in part to pregnancy ligament laxity and extra weight bearing
- She may also develop diastasis recti, where the linea alba line of fascia which connects rectus abdominus together pulls apart
- Due to the ongoing hormonal changes plus the physiological changes in weight placement and weight bearing, a pregnant woman’s proprioception and vestibular senses, (her sense of where she is in space) also alter which can mean a decreased ability to balance.
- Add in nausea, stress, lack of sleep and more.
This is the just some of the stress a female body is under even before she delivers a baby.
Let’s think about this for a second, if your body has been under that much physical strain before you deliver a baby, vaginally or via C-section, do you think that it will have resolved enough to lift her body weight, do burpees and jump over boxes by 4 weeks postpartum?
Clients that come to me and other professionals working in the same sphere of maternal health and well being are telling us stories of going back to high impact exercise, where the focus is on harder, faster, more aesthetic driven results. This coupled with instructors who are not trained in pre and postnatal exercise who are telling clients who report leaking to ‘just stick an incontinence pad in and just carry on’ this is not normal!
Young women who have not had children are pushing themselves so hard in the wrong ways that they are developing prolapses and diastasis.
This entire attitude and approach needs addressing.
You do not need to live with this level of incontinence, there are things you can do to help improve the quality of your life. If you are leaking, you feel pain or discomfort when you lift a weight, or jump, or do any exercise STOP.
It takes an average of 6 weeks for your uterus to return to ‘normal’ size.
It can take 3 months for the ligament laxity to return to ‘normal’ after finishing breastfeeding.
Even if you are incredibly body aware, and strong, maintaining great posture, engaging the correct muscles in the correct way is very difficult.
Guidelines are 6 weeks for a Vaginal Birth and 12 weeks for a C-section. These are guidelines and once that milestone has passed it does not mean jump in exactly where you left off.
If you’ve had a C-Section you’re not immune to any pelvic floor dysfunction. Going back to exercise too soon can damage your incision, and it is entirely possible to have a prolapse weeks after birth with too much exertion.
It takes time.
In our fast paced, instant gratification, social media obsessed world, seeing pictures of ‘influencer mums’ in white bikinis a week after birth, sets unrealistic and unreal standards for new mums. Many potentially don’t see or are not aware of the lighting rig, make up artists, suspension of real life, someone else holding baby, structured and strategic posing, setting the scene and all the photoshop involved to get the end product. The money behind it which enables chefs, meal planning and personal trainers. It’s no wonder we don’t feel good enough. It’s no wonder that we want to be back to our pre-pregnant selves ASAP, when we are already starting off at such a deficit.
I have heard tales. 4th degree tears. Emergency C-sections. Episiotomy (Where there will be a cut made to enable a baby to be born vaginally with forceps or ventouse) Blood transfusions. Stitches. Further surgeries. Corrective surgeries. Also, beautiful births, water births, c-section births, beautiful arrival of a new life. How have we arrived at a point where we feel that we need to smash ourselves into ‘bouncing back’ after this?
Weight loss shakes pedaled by people with zero nutritional training.
Waist trainers advertised by people who have never given birth.
Exercise classes offered by those with no knowledge of a postpartum body.
Calorie restricted diets by people with no nutritional training.
There are safe options, you absolutely can exercise. Find a practitioner who knows about postpartum bodies. A women’s health physio, pilates specialist, any functional movement instructor who knows their stuff. Walk. Breathe. Stretch.
We need to do the deep repair work from the INSIDE out. If you don’t know what’s going on in your own body, ask. Find someone who can help you.
Do you know how to activate your Pelvic Floor? Do you know that you need to be able to fully release it as well as fully engage it? Do you know that you shouldn’t be aiming for 100% engagement 100% of the time? DO you know 50-70% while moving is optimal? Are you aware of the ‘latchkey’ which is a different kind of incontinence? Why sit-ups are a bad idea if you have a diastasis? Why you should avoid planks if you have a diastasis? How to modify in a group class?
The Vagina Physio has a great blog (well worth checking out) and asks; ‘Can you do 10 star jumps, on a full bladder, while coughing without bulging or leaking?’ If you can, great, head on back to your chosen exercise form (but take it slow) if you can’t? Take a little more time to repair yourself. Better a little extra time now than an extended time of discomfort or pain.
Education is key
Information is key.
Opening up our conversations.
Knowing what questions to ask.
Realising that if you’re thinking everyone else has it nailed then I promise you they don’t. Everyone has something going on, it just might not be the same as the person next to you.