Getting back on track post baby – are you doing what you should?

16th May 2016

This weeks blog post is written by our women's health physiotherapist Claire Rutherford:

Getting used to being a new mum is a huge deal in itself and something we’re so often not truely prepared for.  Adjusting to your new post baby body can be a real challenge and even more so when you’re desperate to get back into shape but don’t have a clue where to start, what’s safe and what’s not.  Maybe you thought you did know but then lost confidence when you tried and realised things weren’t what they used to be, or maybe you’re forging ahead regardless! 

The right kind of exercise postnataly is highly recommended, and, as well as the obvious benefits, it can help pick up energy levels and reduce the risks of postnatal depression.  A holistic approach to postnatal recovery is an essential for all women and seeing a women’s health physiotherapist is a great way of ensuring this and getting peace of mind.  In France, for example, all women are entitlted to ‘la rééducation périnéale’, or extensive women’s health physiotherapy for their vaginas after having a baby.  By comparison in the UK, aside from a quick mention, the pelvic floor is not something women really learn about after having a baby but yet as many as one in three women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunctions ranging from incontinence to prolapse.  Dr Sohier Elneil, consultant urogynaecologist at University College Hospital London explains how “by doing pelvic floor exercises 7 in 10 women avoid surgical interventions."

When rebuilding your fitness and strength after having a baby you need strong foundations – a strong core. Your core is composed of your pelvic floor muscles and deep tummy muscles.  Both sets of muscles are stretched and weakened during pregnancy. Furthermore, your pelvic floor muscles may also have been injured and further weakened at delivery if you had an episiotomy or a tear.  Your six pack muscle may have separated in pregnancy (rectus diastasis) in order to accommodate your growing baby. It’s important to ensure how wide this gap in your muscle is postnataly because it can lead to an unstable core, associated back pain, incontinence and increased risk of a prolapse. In fact research shows that 66% of women with a diastis recti experience pelvic floor problems.  So in summary, you need to look after your pelvic floor and tummy muscles – what you do now will affect you later!

So many mums go it alone in a quest to get fit, melt away that mummy tummy and feel like their old selves again.  They might feel pain, odd sensations down below or leak but for many these symptoms are ignored as they are thought of as either a natural consequence of giving birth or mums don’t know what can be done to help sort the problems. The fact is your body has undergone a mamouth change during pregnancy, and labour isn’t called labour for nothing whether you deliver by caesarean or vaginaly! It takes nine months to grow a baby and for most women it will take a similar timeframe if not longer to fully recover so you need to be kind to yourself.

Each woman’s recovery will be different - you’ll need to adapt the exercise you do and graduate your return to exercise according to your individual circumstance.  Going straight back into cross fit or high intensity workouts is a real no no!  Having an assessment of your pelvic floor muscles is a really good idea as it helps to establish the state of play down there - how well things have healed, areas of scar tissue, how strong or weak the muscles are, thereby enabling you to achieve a safer, more personalised and successful recovery programme.

The key is to listen to your body and work with it not against it.  Exercise needs to become mindful.  If you experience any of the below it’s a sign that you’re body just isn’t strong enough:

  • Feeling a bulge, strain or doming around your stomach or pelvic floor
  • Leaking urine when you exercise
  • Experiencing pelvic or low back pain while you exercise

 

Appointments with Claire can be made on:

  • Tuesday: 2:00 - 8:30pm                     
  • Friday 8:00am - 2:00pm

 

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