There are a few things new moms want to be mindful of when returning to a fitness routine after having a baby, particularly after consecutive pregnancies. 30-40% of mothers still experience symptoms of pelvic dysfunction one or more years after giving birth (i.e. diastasis recti AKA abdominal separation, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, etc). This a significant chunk of the maternal population to be experiencing a sub-optimal recovery experience, the symptoms of which are not inconsequential.
I am one of these mothers. For me, my postnatal pelvic dysfunction was characterized by severe difficulty regenerating core strength, which as a woman who prides herself and relies upon my physical strength to live life effectively, has been devastating. I’ve also experienced stubborn knock-on effects from inadequate postnatal care that are very hard to undo. Don’t make the same mistakes I have!
Statistically I am not alone, but the sad thing is that many women suffer in silence because there is not much support or information that is readily available. Our capability, wellbeing, self-esteem and long-term health as mothers becomes compromised because we haven’t had the opportunity to recover as fully as we might have.
It is up to those of us who are informed to help mothers in need advocate for their maternal, postpartum and pelvic health until it becomes part of the wider, or medical mandate.
So, with that in mind, here are my top tips to ensure a safe return back to fitness and speedier recovery from pregnancy!
1. Demand an assessment from your doctor as soon as possible after delivery. If they will not offer one, seek the advice of a pelvic health physiotherapist as soon as possible (within 6 weeks of giving birth).
2. Symptoms to not ignore: lower back pain, hip pain, pooched belly (common symptoms of Diastasis Recti); pain, pressure or heaviness of the abdomen (may indicate Pelvic Organ Prolapse); urinary incontinence of any kind is common, not normal and 100% treatable (seek treatment from a pelvic health physiotherapist)
3. Allow adequate time to recover Rushing our return to fitness will exacerbate our recovery in the long-term, especially if we ignore signals of dysfunction (listed above).
4. Approach with caution Understand the risks of performing unsuitable exercise routines and arm yourself with knowledge of how to exercise safely.
5. Be your own advocate Until education is made more widely available, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and our fellow mothers about the risks of leaving pelvic dysfunction unattended. What symptoms we don’t manage today, we will reencounter in the future, only they will be more stubborn and difficult to treat.
Listen to your body and be responsive where you can. Our bodies don’t lie.
Please stay tuned for my follow up blog that will explain strategies to navigate How to Approach Exercise After Babies Safely and With Confidence.