Love Your Postnatal Pelvic Floor
“How, when and what for exactly” does returning to exercise look like for most women after having a baby? The lovely Clare Maddalena from Lushtums shares her views and advice for postnatal exercise and caring for your pelvic floor
The usual recommendation for postnatal exercise is to wait for 6 weeks post birth if you had a vaginal birth and a whopping 8 weeks if you had a caesarian, but what if you reach these milestones and you’re still not ready?
Let’s face it. There’s a LOT of social pressure out there to be an idealistic super mum. How we look, our attributes, personality, career, how we birth our babies, feed them and then how quickly we get back in shape. It’s LOT to get right – and for most of us simply impossible.
Ok, stop!! Let’s go back to our original question around post birth exercise …that is “how, when and what for exactly” Let’s start with the easiest bit to answer.
Whilst the standard recommendation to safely return to postnatal exercise is around 6 to 8 weeks, the true answer is if you don’t feel ready, give yourself a break! Managing your baby, lifting, stretching …all use up energy and burns up your calories. For many new mums, what’s needed is REST. Pop in moments each day to recharge. Make it part of your routine. Feeding for example should be a chance to sit quietly. Breathe deeply. Ground into wherever you are sitting in the moment (literally become aware of your feet on the ground and your back resting again the chair) and enjoy a very yogic practice of becoming present, becoming mindful. Just BE there. No phones, no distraction. Feeding your baby is the perfect time to develop an inner mindfulness practice, reducing stress and anxiety and helping towards your overall sense of well-being. Slow down and enjoy these moments.
Some of us however will want to return to exercise soon after we’ve had our babies. If you enjoy it, do it! Exercise releases endorphins and that lovely after-glow high, so if this contributes to your overall mental and emotional health (as well as of course physical fitness), go for it! Just be mindful of what we mention next…
So the early days of having a baby is a massive adjustment. But when you are ready, start your postnatal exercise routine by building your foundations first – especially those muscles that have taken most of the load of pregnancy. Yes! We’re talking pelvic floor muscles!
These are part of a group of muscles that provide our deepest core support. And when these are engaged and functioning we feel supported inside and out, helping us physically and contributing to a greater sense of general grounding and wellbeing.
Even just a week after giving birth, you should start finding these muscles again with some super gentle pelvic floor exercises.
Give this a go in a seated position (perhaps while feeding) or when you are resting. Start by exhaling (imagine you are blowing out a candle) and, after a couple of seconds, gently lift your pelvic floor in and up. It feels as if you are trying not to wee or break wind, and ideally you can also feel the walls of the vagina drawing together. Once you get to the end of the exhalation, and you’ve drawn these muscles in and up gently (only using about 3 out of 10 strength wise), then release, relax completely and inhale into a nice soft belly. Repeat. Be cautious, don’t rush to 10 out 10 strength wise, as you’ll actually by-pass the all important pelvic floor and go straight to your 6 pack. In the early stages, until you get this right, less is actually more.
Include several rounds of repetitions into your day. Working well? Now practice doing this breath and holding your pelvic floor to gently brace your core BEFORE you lift anything – whether it’s your baby or a bag of shopping. Remember this helpful mantra, “Lift on the inside first, then lift on the outside”. You can even start to maintain your ‘exhale – and squeeze’ while pushing the buggy out on a walk. Just build it into your normal day and rhythm.
Regular practice before lifting anything or when out walking, will help restore your pelvic floor and your inner core (transverse abs too, so you may feel your tummy gently drawing in) and help prevent much more serious issues such as incontinence and even prolapse.
You should be 100% sure you have regained connection, control and then automatic function of your deep core (including your pelvic floor and transverse abs) and probably worked a bit on your glutes too), before returning to your regular pre-birth activities.
Some of us will get there sooner than others and if you did lots of activity before, your recovery is likely to be quicker. But I truly believe you need to spend the time doing this inner practice to lay the correct foundations.
Well simply put, I have worked with so many women who launched back into their old fitness routine and, while they are fit and strong on the ‘outside’ of their bodies, have totally missed the ‘inner’ work.
I often see fit, active women who, instead of building the foundations first, have gone straight for the walls and the roof: with no supportive foundations to take their load and hold their bodies up, they struggle with incontinence or still have separated tummy muscles long after they’ve given birth.
Running, jumping, sit ups, crunches, planks or squats – all create extra load and extra pressure downward. Only once your deep inner muscles are working appropriately to take that weight and support is it advisable to start a stronger form of exercise.
So the mantra is return to exercise as soon as you feel you comfortably can – the earlier you do, the better it is but get this ground work in first. Then progress with caution, back to a more regular exercise routine.
And lastly, we answer the WHAT FOR EXACTLY part of the question. You are doing this for YOU! No one else. Not for the comparison with celebrities, or even your former pre-baby self. But for YOU. The bit of you that knows deep down she needs to honour herself and her body.
Eat well, MOVE WELL and remember to REST well. It all goes into the mix of helping us feel more whole and complete.
And one final note:
If you’re struggling with prolapse or incontinence, persisting beyond working on your core with these exercises or from attending specialist classes such as postnatal yoga, exercise or Pilates then consult your local Women’s Health experts/physiotherapists/osteopaths. It’s not taboo – loads of women suffer with this – so speak out and go get help!
Discovering you’re pregnant with twins can be exciting – but daunting, especially if there’s no history of twins in your family.
Twin and other multiple births have become more common as fertility treatments have increased – currently around 1 in 65 births in the UK are twins or triplets, compared to 1 in every 100 births in the 1980s. The chances of conceiving twins are significantly affected by IVF – around 1 in 80 twin births occur in after natural conception, compared with a whopping 1 in 5 as a result of IVF.
Around two-thirds of all twin births are non-identical (dizygotic) which means that two separate eggs are fertilized, resulting in two babies who are no more alike than any other siblings and can be the same or different sexes.
Non-identical twins have separate placentas which adds to the extra weight you’ll be carrying throughout your pregnancy but avoids the risk of twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Most twins who share a placenta grow normally but around 10-15% of identical (monochorionic) twins can be affected by an imbalance in the placental blood vessels that connects them, resulting in one twin receiving more nutrients and fluid than the other, potentially to the detriment of both babies. Regular ultrasound scans will monitor for TTTS and appropriate treatment or intervention will be offered if you need it.
The chances of having a premature delivery are more likely if you’re carrying twins, with an average gestation of 37 weeks. Although more than 40% of twin births are vaginal, that still leaves you with around a 60% chance of having a caesarean section if you’re delivering twins. A c-section is likely to be recommended if one or both of your babies are breech, if you have a low-lying or shared placenta or if you have previously had a difficult delivery. Occasionally you might deliver one twin vaginally and need a caesarean section to deliver the second twin.
If you’re expecting twins you can expect more antenatal care to monitor your pregnancy and you’re likely to have more health professionals on hand for the birth. You might also be encouraged to have more monitoring for your babies during the birth with separate sensors attached to monitor each twin individually.
Keeping as fit and active as possible during your twin pregnancy will help prepare you for labour and give you the extra strength you’re going to need after they’re born.
Whilst staying active during a multiple pregnancy might be more challenging, especially as your babies grow and your centre of balance changes, it’s still important to move as much as you can. Regular exercise is good for alleviating anxiety and stress too – even gentle activities, can help to lift your mood, make you feel less anxious and improve your sleep. Wearing supportive maternity fitnesswear will help to lift and support the weight of your twin baby bump and hold your lower back as well, making any activity during your pregnancy, even day to day walking, more comfortable.
Your twin pregnancy will put more pressure on your pelvic floor so it’s even more important to maintain your pelvic floor exercises. Make sure you ‘lift and squeeze’ regularly, ideally several times every day. Click here for details about how to exercise your pelvic floor efficiently and follow it up with postnatal pelvic floor exercises after your babies are born.
Make sure you maintain a healthy, nutritionally sound pregnancy diet too – you’ll need even more protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 when you’re carrying twins. Avoid processed food and eat plenty of fresh vegetables, wholegrain pulses, calcium rich foods such as cheese and leafy greens and include essential protein every day. And drink plenty of fluid, ideally at least eight large glasses of water a day, even if you are feeling more pressure on your bladder it’s important to stay hydrated.
Good luck with your twin pregnancy!
‘There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins’ Josh Billings
Yoga To Prepare Your Mind & Body For Birth
Prenatal yoga instructor Candace demonstrates some key yoga poses to help prepare your mind and body for the intensity of labour.
However you choose to exercise during pregnancy, we would recommend including regular prenatal yoga – it’s a fantastic way to build strength, stretch and relax your body and mind. Familiarity with some key yoga poses can be hugely beneficial when you give birth too.
Prenatal yoga instructor Candace, who is pregnant herself says ‘Yoga will help prepare you for a powerful yet calm and positive birth experience through strengthening, lengthening and mindfulness techniques. The postures I recommend are great poses to get into during labour, as they provide spinal comfort, hip opening and pelvic release, as well as gravity pull. Choosing a birth position that does not involve lying on your back gives you the benefit of gravity when you birth your baby.’
Below are Candace’s top yoga poses to help with labour
Chair pose is wonderful for teaching body stamina during pregnancy, something we’ll definitely need when giving birth. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, toes facing forward and bend at the knees – imaging you’re about to sit back onto a sofa (making sure they never exceed the toes). Put most of your weight into the heel of the foot; tuck your tail bone as if you’re trying to get it to look at the floor; hands gently resting on your thighs or at your heart centre in prayer or raised above your head. Keep your gaze straight ahead. This pose can also be done against a wall for extra support if needed… smile and hold for 5 – 10 deep breaths.
Get on your hands and knees, stacking wrists with shoulders and knees with hips. On the exhale, round your back – tucking chin to chest. On the inhale, come into a neutral spine or a gentle back-bend and look up at the sky. This pose helps to release pregnancy back pain. Repeat 5 times or more.
Stand with your feet wider than your hips and toes pointing outwards. Sink low, tucking your tailbone under. Go as deep as possible, opening up through the knees. Hands can rest on thighs, be in cactus or at the heart centre in prayer. Goddess pose is truly one of the best birth training postures you can practice, as it increases strength, stamina, concentration and hip flexibility.
Hold for 5 – 10 long, deep breaths.
Bring the inner soles of your feet together, sit up tall through the spine, finding any movement that feels good. You can gently lean forward or roll from side to side. This pose stretches out the inner thighs and hips, preparing the hips for the deep opening of childbirth. It also releases lower back tension and provides an optimal pelvic tilt.
Candace adds, ‘I would recommend you regularly practise Easy Pose with belly breathing, throughout your pregnancy’. Take a comfortable cross-legged seat, close your eyes and let go of thought.
INHALE slowly and deeply through your nostrils (if possible), filling your belly like a balloon, relaxing the pelvic floor.
Then EXHALE slowly through the nose, contracting and hugging your baby back towards your spine. Lift up through the pelvic floor as you do so, imagining sucking upwards through your pelvis. Repeat 10 times.
Practising this technique every day will prepare a calm mind and a strong yet flexible pelvic floor. It will also strengthen the transverse abdominis, reducing the risk of diastasis recti and pelvic floor weakness.
Enjoy guided yoga with Candace…
Enjoy mommas-to-be, I wish you all a happy, healthy pregnancy and birth! Use #YogaCandi if you’d like to share your prenatal yoga journey with me on social media.
Just remember, we’re all unique. Yoga is a safe and beneficial exercise for pregnant women but pregnancy can come with all sorts of ailments, if you have any concerns, seek advice from your health care provider before taking on any exercise regime.
Can We Help Keep You Running During Pregnancy Too?
Recent studies have shown that over half of women who run regularly stop when they become pregnant ….. and a third of them don’t get back into running in the first year of becoming a mum.
We’d love to reverse this trend and encourage every pregnant woman that it’s perfectly safe to continue running just as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Why would you want to give up doing something that is good for your body, helps you sleep, improves your stamina and fitness as you prepare for labour and helps keep you sane and happy? Your fit and healthy pregnancy will benefit your baby too, it’s win win all round!
If you’re still not convinced and think you should be hanging up your trainers for the next year or so, check out these motivating stories from some of the many women that DO carrying on running during pregnancy.
Melanie’s son was born eight days late, just ten hours after she completed her final pregnant run.
Melanie said, ‘Whilst running in pregnancy I was initially disappointed that my pace was slowing down and wasn’t able to run as far. My friends had to remind me that I was running with 2 precious babies (One in a buggy and one in my tummy), after that I ran for the joy of it. Running was a stress reliever. Aside from baby being late we had a lot of other stresses including a house move and house renovations going on, so I was really struggling emotionally.
She added, ‘Thank you, for keeping me sane, active and able to have “me time” during my pregnancy. I couldn’t have ran as long as I did without FittaMamma!’
Pregnant Not Powerless ambassador, Tiffany Wysocki, shared a quote from Krysten Llerma that she really loved during pregnancy:
“Pregnancy is not an illness. It is not a weakness. My body is able to do something that takes a considerable amount of fortitude. My body was made to carry this child, and my body was made to run.” – Krysten Lerma
Marathon runner Jo Johnston was a keen ‘pregnant runner’, keeping us updated regularly after purchasing a pair of FittaMamma Capris, including sharing pictures from the 10km race she did at 8 months.
In the last few days of her pregnancy she wrote: ‘I’m still feeling good and even managed 4 miles Monday and today! However, I am booked to be induced tomorrow so no running then! My waters broke yesterday and whilst I feel fine, labour hasn’t started and so they need to get things going due to the infection risk. I’m pretty sure all my exercise will stand me in good stead for the hours ahead!’
Her midwife was astonished by her heart rate during labour, saying it was the lowest heart rate she’d seen in 20 years delivering babies.
Beatie Deutsch already had four children and took up marathon running to get back into shape. She enjoyed running and saw no reason to give up when she found she was pregnant. She entered the Tel Aviv marathon which she ran in 4.08 minutes when she was six and a half months pregnant. She said: ‘Committing to run a marathon whilst pregnant really motivated me to keep training. And I enjoy running so it wasn’t hard. I didn’t do any shorter races but with marathon training you really can’t miss any runs if you want to be properly prepared.’
Do’s and don’ts about running during pregnancy (most of them are common sense!)
- Don’t expect to beat or even achieve the same speeds or distances you were reaching before you became pregnant – just be glad you’re still running and enjoying it.
- Remember the talk test – or, more formally, follow the Borg scale of the perceived exertion. Basically, this scale measures your levels of exertion in relation to how hard you feel you are working, from’ very, very light’ (tying the laces on your trainers for example) to ‘very, very hard’ (an unsustainable burst of activity, such as finishing a race). So, if you aim for somewhere in the middle, ie ‘somewhat hard veering towards hard’, or the level at which you can still hold a conversation, you’re doing ok.
If you can’t talk it’s time to ease up or take a rest.
- All the usual recommendations, such as ‘stay hydrated’, ‘warm up and cool down’, ‘stay fuelled’ and ‘make sure your trainers fit properly’ are even more important when you run during pregnancy.
We would also recommend you support your baby bump when you run during pregnancy.
Let’s face it, would you run without a bra? We all know there’s a massive increase in comfort if you stop your girls from bouncing around ….and the same principal applies to your baby bump. Lift, hold and support your bump and you’ll find it eases the pressure on your pelvic floor too.
Love running? Pregnancy isn’t a reason to stop!
Postnatal Exercises to Tone Your Bottom Muscles
Pre and postnatal fitness expert Vicky Warr shares more exercises to help back ache and get a perter bottom after you’ve had your baby.
Vicky says, ‘While strengthening the muscles of your core is important, you also need to strengthen the powerhouse muscles that surround your pelvis. The glutes (bottom muscles) are the ‘forgotten core’. They hold our pelvis level and steady, extend the hip to move us forwards and keep our pelvis, legs and torso aligned. When your joints are more susceptible after birth due to the pregnancy hormones, strengthening these muscles with isolation exercises along with your core will help reduce the risk of injury or pain when you walk or go back to running.’
Practice these postnatal exercises regularly: combine them with Vicky’s recommended exercises for after your baby is born (you’ll find them in last month’s Active for Two).
Exercise 1: The Bridge
This exercise strengthens the deep muscles of the bottom which are also part of your core as a strong bottom helps with back ache and give you better posture.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and hip width apart, your feet flat on the floor and your arms flat on the floor by your sides. As in the pelvic tilt exercise you should have a very small gap between the floor and your lower back.
- Breathe out and squeeze your bottom muscles together then lift your hips up pushing into the heels of your feet and the backs of your upper arms (triceps).
- Hold this position for 2 seconds then lower your hips to the floor, stopping when you are half way down to the floor, then lift your hips back up again.
Repeat 10-12 times
- On the last repetition, keep your hips high and pulse up and down by just 2cms for 12 pulses.
Then repeat the single raises in steps 1-2 for another set of 10-12.
Exercise 2: The Clam
Helps to reduce aches and pains by strengthening your core and lower back muscles. It also helps improve balance in the leg and hip muscles and pelvis to reduce the risk of falls.
Lie right down on your right side, with your legs straight and your right arm straight out on the floor. Place your right hand just behind the back of your head so just your upper arm is on the floor. Bend your knees bringing them in front of your hips with your feet behind and top of each other. Your hips and knees should be stacked on top of each other. Place your left hand on your left hip.
- Breathe out and lift the top, left, knee up, toward the ceiling, keeping the heels and toes of your feet together and the hips still and facing forwards, with your top hip directly on top of the hip closer to the floor.
- Breathe in and lower the left knee back to meet the right knee.
Repeat 10-12 times.
Then switch sides to lie on your left side and repeat the same action lifting your right knee.
Repeat 10-12 times.
Then switch to your right side, repeating the exercise again for another set of 10-12 on your right side before switching to the left.
To Tighten and Tone Your Tummy
Abdominal separation or Diastasis Recti can occur in about 60% of pregnancies. It is where the connective tissue gets stretched and thins as the mothers’ belly grows during pregnancy. Often it heals after birth and in the first few weeks but with some women it remains for a year after birth. It’s often described as a ‘kangeroo pouch’ or ‘pooched tummy’.
The Exercise: Head Lift
Strengthens your core, helps heal abdominal separation (diastasis recti) and bring your tummy muscles back together.
Lie on your back with your legs straight out in a v-shape, placing your hands by your either sides of your ears.
- Breathe in, then breathe out deeply and draw your belly button inwards towards your spine and lift your head and shoulders gently, with your chin towards your chest.
- Hold for 2 seconds, breathing in and out, then lower your head and shoulders back to the floor.
Repeat 10-12 times.
The Exercise: The March
Strengthens and tones the core muscles, the lower tummy and pelvic floor muscles.
Start resting on your knees and hands with your shoulders over your wrists and hands flat on the floor and your knees about hip width apart on the floor, directly under your knees. Look down to the floor at the space in between your hands.
- Breathe out and draw your belly button inwards and upwards towards your spine and lift your right hand and your left knee up about 2 cms off the floor. It is a very small move.
- Lower both your right hand and left knee back to the floor as you breathe in.
Repeat this 15 times, then switch to doing the same action lifting your left hand and right knee, 15 times too.
Bonus 10 Minute Video!
Watch this short video to help you tone your bottom after having a baby.
Check out the postnatal exercise tips from Vicky Warr that featured in last month’s Active For Two.
About the Author
Vicky Warr has over 18 year’s experience in the fitness industry, a pregnancy and postnatal fitness specialist and health coach and founder of Bump and Beyond by Vicky Warr.
Check out her Online Health and Fitness Studio and get started with LIVE postnatal video classes at home, 30 Day Challenges with Videos and healthy, quick recipes the whole family will love at: www.bumpandbeyond.club
These tips and exercises are suitable for you whether you had a c-section or more straight forward birth. Just be sure to have had your postnatal medical check before doing these exercises.
How to Reset Your Body after Pregnancy
Vicky Warr shares some postnatal exercises and techniques to help you recover, build strength, tone your body, improve your energy levels and boost your body confidence after having a baby.
During pregnancy, birth and beyond you and your body are undergoing some significant fundamental changes; physical, hormonal and lifestyle. Growing a baby for nine months is no mean feat for your body, not to mention the change in lifestyle when you become a mother.
If a new mum isn’t allowed to fully recover from the demanding requirements of pregnancy and birth, the effects can last for years afterwards. Finding the strength to deal with your needs as well as the needs of your baby can be a real struggle.
Vicky’s postnatal exercises will help you bring your tummy muscles back together, tone up your body and bring you vitality after pregnancy.
For more energy, to help you feel calmer and help with ‘baby brain.’
This is a ‘must do’ exercise after pregnancy that you can do at any time of the day!
This form of deep, relaxed breathing restores your natural energy, promotes feelings of calm, clears mental fog, (aka the mummy brain) strengthens your core and pelvic floor as well as improving your digestive system.
Sit tall cross legged or with your legs in front of you. Make sure you’re positioned firmly on your sitting bones. Place each of your hands on either side of your upper ribs, just below your bra strap.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose expanding your lungs and rib cage sideways. As you do this imagine you are putting an umbrella up and it is opening out.
- Then open your mouth and through pursed lips release a full, calm breath out. Imagine you are steaming up a window. Feel your rib cage and deep inner most abdominal muscles relax and sink.
Repeat for 10 full breaths in and out.
When you breath you want to use your breathing muscle, the diaphragm, to bring air deep into the body; expanding the tummy, ribs and lower back. This will help strengthen your core and pelvic floor. Your shoulders should remain relaxed and down and your chest only moves slightly and should be the last part of you to move. To become aware of these natural breathing patterns watch your baby or child breath and observe the way their belly rises and falls.
To fully relax and have Vicky’s expert instruction, follow her umbrella breathing video here (it’s just 8 minutes long)
To Improve Postnatal Back Ache
To improve lower back ache, you need to improve the stability of your pelvis and strengthen your core muscles so they can support your back.
The Exercise: The Pelvic Tilt
Lie on your back with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees bent with each arm straight and flat on the floor by each side of your body. You should have a very small gap between the floor and your lower back; imagine sliding a letter between your lower back and the floor as that is the width of the gap to aim for.
Place the fingers of your right hand on to the top of your right hip bone and tuck your thumb around the side of your hip. Do the same with the left fingers and thumb.
- Breathe out, draw your belly button inwards towards your spine and roll your tailbone (base of the spine) away and slightly up, keeping your bottom and hips flat on the floor. Your lower back softly flattens into the floor.
- Then breathe in and roll your pelvis upwards, so there is a small gap between the lower back and the floor.
Repeat 8 to 10 times.
To Ease Tight Hips and Stretch Your Waist
After carrying the extra weight of your growing baby around in front of you for nine months, your hips can become tight leading to back ache. The sides of your waist may feel tight too and there is a risk of hurting your back as you turn to lift or carry your baby. This postnatal exercise helps improves your hip flexibility after pregnancy to reduce back ache and tone your waist.
The Dynamic Stretch: Hip Flexor and Waist Stretch
Kneel on the floor and step forward about 2 feet with your right foot so that your right knee is at a right angle and your right foot is flat on the floor. You’ll be resting on your left knee and then tuck the toes of your left under. Bring your upper body upright with your chest facing forwards and your shoulders in line with your hips. Place your hands on your hips.
- Taking your hands off your hips, raise both your arms slowly upwards in the air over your head and as you do this push your right knee forward, keeping your right foot flat until you feel a moderate stretch in the hip flexor area (front side of leg at the hip level).
- Squeeze your bottom cheeks and keep your pelvis facing forwards.
- Then lower your right arm and keeping your left arm up, reaching the fingertips towards the ceiling and bend over to the right, avoid leaning forwards or back, keeping your body upright. You’ll feel a stretch down the left side of your body. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds.
Repeat 5 times.
- Then change to kneel on your right knee with your left foot forwards. Do the same move reaching your right arm up and over and bend over to the left, feeling the stretch down the right side of your body. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and repeat this 5 times.
Bonus 10 Minute Video!
Follow this short video to help you tone and tighten your tummy muscles, strengthen your core and sculpt your bottom after having a baby.
Look forward to more postnatal exercise tips from Vicky Warr next month!
FittaMamma Tip for New Mums
Finding time to get to a class or the gym can be a struggle. Postnatal workouts at home are the answer! Pop your baby next to you on a playmat or sit them in a bouncy chair to watch you. Babies can be entertained watching you exercise …. and you’ll be a great role model.
About the Author
Vicky Warr has over 18 year’s experience in the fitness industry, a pregnancy and postnatal fitness specialist and health coach and founder of Bump and Beyond.
Check out her Online Health and Fitness Studio and get started with LIVE postnatal video classes at home, 30 Day Challenges with Videos and healthy, quick recipes the whole family will love at: www.bumpandbeyond.club
These tips and exercises are suitable after a c-section or more straight forward birth. Just be sure to have had your postnatal medical check before doing these exercises.
The Truth About Leaking – MUTU tells it how it is
How many times have you heard a mum friend talk about ‘little leaks’, or seen a TV ad showing women jumping for joy as they pee their pants wearing an incontinence pad? Postnatal leaking has been normalised to the point that too many mums now accept it as a simple fact of life, just because they’ve had children or because they’re now of a certain age.
We asked our friends at MUTU to share their insights into what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to your pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor Fact #1 – Wetting yourself (a little or a lot) is NEVER NORMAL
If you wee yourself (even a tiny bit) when you workout, laugh, sneeze or cough, you shouldn’t be putting up with it. Just because something happens a lot (and to other people too) does not make it okay. If you bury your head in the sand, ignore it and don’t address these symptoms, it could lead to more serious pelvic health issues, such as pelvic organ prolapse. Always seek a referral to a specialist women’s health physiotherapist.
Pelvic Floor Fact #2 – You do not have to accept pain or discomfort during sex
Let’s get one thing straight, pain free sex is the very least you should expect when you get down to it. If you experience any pain, this is NOT okay and you should seek the advice of a qualified Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
Pelvic Floor Fact #3 – An incontinence pad isn’t the answer for a healthy adult woman
We’ve all seen the ad with the young woman bouncing on a trampoline and giggling about her “oops moment”, or the gorgeous, silver haired woman in her 50s, smiling, laughing and running whilst peeing herself, but it’s okay because she’s got her stash of ‘discreet’ incontinence pads! The women portrayed in these ads are getting younger and younger. We’re conditioned by advertising to believe that we’ll inevitably leak as we age and after pregnancy. Not true and it really doesn’t have to be the case.
Pelvic Floor Fact #4 – Kegels aren’t always enough
Whilst Kegels or traditional pelvic floor squeezes are a foundational starting point, they are often not done correctly and they may simply not be enough. There is a vital relaxation phase often missing, along with proper postural and alignment changes to ensure your pelvic floor is functioning in the best way it can.
Pelvic Floor Fact #5 – Certain exercises can make things worse
High impact exercise or physical exertion like running, jumping, weightlifting, skipping or sit ups are not suitable for women with pelvic floor issues. The impact on an already weak pelvic floor can cause further damage. If any of these are exacerbating your problem, back up and focus on rebuilding strength first, so that you can return to the exercise you love, symptom free.
Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
Focus on your alignment. Postural alignment is very much connected to pelvic floor tone. Stand more, ditch the heels, untuck your bottom and walk every day.
- Your starting point is to focus on rebuilding strength in your pelvic floor with safe exercises to help you to find and work those muscles properly. Check out the 12 week MUTU System programme with workouts starting from just 12 minutes a day.
- Get referred to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. These specialists work specifically with pelvic floor and core issues and will be able to determine the right route for you and guide you through recovery.
- Don’t bury your head and hope it goes away. Now is the time to take control of your recovery. No amount of intensive exercise will fix things.
If you are concerned about pelvic floor weakness check out the MUTU System 12 week online programme and ask your GP to refer you to a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
Ensuring your pelvic floor stays strong during pregnancy can help prevent longer lasting damage. Easing the weight of your baby bump with FittaMamma supportive maternity fitnesswear avoids undue pressure on your pelvic floor as your baby grows: regular pelvic floor exercises should be a key aspect of your pregnancy exercise routine. The MUTU system includes exercises for pregnant women as well as postnatal mums, so make sure you start early!
The MUTU system – sign up now!
A recent survey of MUTU customers* flagged up
92% of women who had experienced bladder symptoms including urinary leakage saw improvement after using MUTU System.
89% of women who experienced pain or discomfort during or after sexual intercourse reported an improvement after doing MUTU System.
97% of women who couldn’t successfully locate or engage their pelvic floor muscles before, were able to after using MUTU System.
*Customer survey of 906 women
Make sure you do your kegels!
Chances are you have been told at some point in your pregnancy to ‘make sure you do your kegels’. While paying attention to the pelvic floor whilst pregnant is an absolute must, you’ll improve the benefits if you have a better understanding of what you’re doing, how to do it and why.
The Kegel Exercise was named after Dr Arnold Kegel. He saw women struggle with their pelvic floor connection after giving birth. He used a biofeedback device called a perineometer to help women learn to contract and relax their pelvic floor muscles. This act of contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles became known as ‘the kegel’.
Exercising more, harder or faster is not always better – and that’s especially true with pelvic floor exercises. The true intention of a kegel is a balance between contracting, lifting and then letting go of that lift and contraction. It’s a voluntary exercise that can help retrain the pelvic floor, build endurance and increase strength.
The pelvic floor works in coordination with the breath and is anticipatory, meaning it should work subconsciously. It anticipates our moves and ensures the inner core unit is ready to support us throughout the day. Things like posture, pregnancy and birth can lead to challenges like incontinence, back pain and organ prolapse. The good news is that the inner core and pelvic floor can be retrained. Using kegels in conjunction with breath work is very effective in pregnancy, in birth and for postpartum recovery.
The Core Breath as we like to call it, is a powerful approach to pelvic floor fitness in pregnancy and will optimize your pelvic health for life.
When you breathe in, the diaphragm descends, the ribs expand, the belly expands and the pelvic floor eccentrically lengthens. When you exhale, the pelvic floor recoils and contracts, the transversus abdominis co-contracts and compresses the belly, the ribs soften and the diaphragm rises back up. This happens all day long and when we harness this by adding in voluntary pelvic floor contract/relax cycles, it can really up the ante on your core training.
Try sitting on a fitness ball and pull the flesh of your butt cheeks outwards so you have a strong sense of your perineum on the surface of the ball. Ensure there is a gentle curve in your low back and that your ribs are not flared outwards but are instead soft, down and in line with your pelvis. Inhale and imagine breathing sideways into your bra strap. Feel the lateral expansion in your ribs, the overflow into the belly and the sense of fullness in your perineum on the surface of the ball. Now as you exhale, imagine sipping a milkshake through a straw with your vagina (I know…a bit odd but stick with me…) Visualize the edges of your vulva coming together and drawing upwards as you breathe out through your mouth and sip your milkshake with your vagina. As the next inhale starts, feel that lift and engagement subside. Congratulations, you have just completed your first functional kegel!
In your pregnancy, take about a minute a couple times a day to sit and connect with your breath and pelvic floor.
As you approach your due date (sometime around 37 weeks or so) make this slight adjustment: inhale to expand then as you exhale keep that expansion. As you work to birth your babe you don’t want to be sipping up milkshakes. You want your pelvic floor to let go of tension, expand and yield to the sensations of stretch and pressure to allow your babe to enter the world. Practicing with this awareness before you are in labour will help you learn what to do ahead of time.
The Core Breath is the first postnatal recovery exercise you should do once your baby is born and the sooner you start, the better your recovery will be. Even if you don’t sip milkshakes right away, doing intentional breath work with the visualization will help increase circulation, stimulate nerve growth factor and enable muscle memory.
The advice of doing kegels is good but enhance your application of it with intention, consistency and adjustments. Use the Core Breath to prepare, recover and restore.
Bellies Inc is a company on a mission to bring the philosophy of mother roasting to modern mamas to be. With their innovative Ab System, they are helping pregnant women prepare for birth, optimize recovery and restore their core postpartum. The company was founded by 3 women, a pelvic floor physical therapist, and 2 pre/postnatal fitness specialists.
What Should You Wear When Running During Pregnancy?
If you were a regular runner pre-pregnancy you’ll know how good it makes you feel: running is inexpensive, accessible and can be fitted into your life at times that works best for you. Now you’re expecting a baby, of course you want to carry on doing what you love. The good news is that you CAN run pregnant – running is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise for pregnant women and safe to continue just as long as it feels comfortable to do so.
But comfort is of course a key issue! Wearing the right running gear for pregnancy will help keep you going for longer. That’s longer runs and further into your pregnancy.
As you get bigger the last thing you need is leggings that fall down when you run or a top that rides up over your beautiful baby bump just as you’re getting into your stride. But most importantly you need fitnesswear that provides support where you need it, lifting and holding you securely so your bump doesn’t jiggle when you jog and your boobs are held comfortably with minimal bounce. And ideally it needs to look good, fit well and still be ok to wear after you’ve had your baby.
The FittaMamma Maternity fitnesswear range was designed with pregnant runners in mind:
The FittaMamma Ultimate Top is a high performance maternity activewear choice for running and workouts.
The secret is in the unique cross back design of the back panel which lifts the weight of your baby onto your back and shoulders where you have more natural strength. We love the feel of the firm waistband which sits under your bump, adding support around your hips and pelvis (great when those pregnancy hormones start loosening your joints).
And there’s a soft built-in bra to supplement your sports bra to hold your boobs securely. Top marks for style, support and comfort.
The FittaMamma High Support Top is a value option with all the support you need for running and high impact pregnancy exercise.
Made from moisture-wicking cotton it has cleverly designed panels to hold and lift where you need it, combined with a super stretchy waistband to hold firmly under the bump.
FittaMamma maternity exercise leggings have a deep supportive waist panel that offers all round support for your bump and lower back. Wear it over or under your belly for personal comfort. Both the standard cotton range and the high performance Ultimate range come in a choice of full or Capri length – ideal for pregnant runners.
Good news is that lifting and supporting the weight of the baby can ease the pressure on your pelvic floor and help alleviate the bladder issues so often experienced when you’re pregnant – especially when you’re running. Feedback from pregnant runners suggests FittaMamma maternity exercise clothes help ease the ‘need to pee’ issue.
Wear a well-fitting sports bra – your breasts will be bigger during pregnancy and need the extra support. The Hotmilk nursing sports bra offers excellent support during pregnancy and is ideal for speedy access for feeding after your baby is born.
A good pair of running shoes is even more important when you’re pregnant to ease the impact on your joints and ensure you don’t slip. Your feet can increase in size during pregnancy so it’s well worth checking to make sure your running shoes fit properly.
A heart rate monitor is useful to make sure you’re not over doing your training – you should be able to carry on talking when you exercise but a monitor will give an accurate record. And don’t forget your water bottle!
When to shop?
Just as soon as your bump starts to show! Why wait? Enjoy the improved comfort and support throughout your pregnancy and after your baby is born for postnatal exercise and running too.
Jenny Lee Allenwho writes for Run South Florida magazine adds‘A few quick tips for prenatal running: First, make sure you wear extremely supportive clothing. A high-impact sports bra paired with the FittaMamma High Support Top will keep the girls in place! I’ve also found that compression socks help reduce swelling in my feet and ankles.’
Jeni Harvey of ‘Marathoning for Real Women’ recommended the FittaMamma High Support Top for running during pregnancy, saying: This top is extremely supportive of the bump – it describes itself as a “bra for your tummy” and that’s just what it feels like – but also of the back and chest as well. An inbuilt crop top is firm yet comfortable, acting like an additional sports bra, while the “unique back panel” distributes weight from the front across the whole back and shoulders, meaning that the weight being carried on the front is borne by the whole body, improving posture. It’s almost like particularly soft scaffolding for your back, bump and boobs.
A thick waistband sits below the bump, on the hips, and serves the useful double purpose of not just being supportive, but also keeping the top in place, thus preventing the riding up that is an issue with so many running clothes, particularly during pregnancy. In short, this is one supportive and comfortable running top.’
FittaMamma Tips for safe running during pregnancy:
- Remember the talk test – if you’re running so hard you can’t continue a conversation ease up and slow down
- Don’t strive for a PB, the mantra should be ‘not so far and not so fast’
- Make sure you fuel up before you start and stay hydrated, carry a water bottle with you
- Warming up and cooling down is even more important when you’re pregnant
- If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your baby consult a midwife or health professional
5 Reasons Why Buggy Running Is Awesome
Fitting in exercise can be challenging at the best of times, let alone when children come along. Postnatal exercise that involves your baby will help keep you active and can be good for your baby too!
We’ve invited Wendy Rumble from RunningBuggies.Com® and co-founder of Buggy Squad® to give us the lowdown on why it’s a great idea to include buggy running in your postnatal exercise routine ….and why using a buggy designed for running has so many added benefits.
- Multitasking: Whether it’s because you have no time, you’re keen on making life super-efficient or maybe it’s hard to force yourself to exercise, doing a buggy run as a nursery drop off, trip to the post office or your means of vehicle to a playgroup is a brilliant way to help you fit it all in. Pack light, accept it’s okay to wear your activewear in non-active situations and feel good about adding an extra level to the term ‘multi-tasking’.
- Mental wellbeing: When you have a baby it can be all too easy to stay indoors but this can be lonely and for many mothers can exacerbate postnatal depression. When you exercise, your brain chemistry changes through the release of endorphins (sometimes called ‘feel good’ hormones), which can calm anxiety and lift your mood. Having the right buggy can mean you can step out your door and get exercising straight away, on your family’s’ schedule. Suddenly you have freedom to exercise on your terms again.
- Body confidence: Buggy running could help you lose weight but it will also help you tone up. It uses your core and arms as well as your legs which make it even better than normal running! Running around after children is exhausting and it certainly helps if you rebuild your fitness and strength through recommended exercises like the MUMHOOD programmes and then at around 6 months gently build up to running continuously with a run walk program.
- Good for Babies: In the days of Vitamin D drops, it is advised we get our babies out into natural daylight as much as possible. A study from Liverpool’s John Moore’s University has found that babies sleep longer when exposed to plenty of light in the afternoon, a time when many mothers used to put babies in the garden in their prams or take them to a park. In many Scandinavian countries babies still sleep outside in the day to benefit from the fresh air too. Just wrap your baby up in the winter or apply sun cream with suitable shade for adequate protection in the summer month and take them out for a run.
- Role model! There are some worrying statistics in the media about childhood obesity epidemics in the UK. Our children learn from us, parents are their primary role models. Active mothers are more likely to raise active kids – and children who see their parents exercising regularly are more likely to factor exercise into their normal lives as they grow up. Make it fun and get them involved, with running trips to the park, taking part in events like parkrun and nature trails!
Sounds great, when can I start?
Most buggy manufacturers recommend 6 months is the earliest age a baby can be run with in a buggy, some say 9 months. It’s also a sensible timeline for mums, ensuring that core and pelvic floor is restored ahead of starting a high impact activity like running.
Knowing which buggies are suitable for running with can be pretty challenging, with many models called SPORT and JOGGER but are suitable for neither! Running Buggies will help you to choose and purchase the buggy that suits you best, explaining what features to look out for on a buggy to make it suitable for running with, what are the best brands, the ideal posture and the top stretches to use.
FittaMamma Tip: Look good and feel good when you run. Our supportive fitnesswear isn’t just for pregnancy, it’s designed to hold and support your postnatal curves too. If you’re exercising whilst breast feeding, the Hot Milk sports bras will hold you firmly whilst offering easy access for nursing your baby