Birth, pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

If you’ve read anything else on this blog you’ll know I am a massive advocate for pelvic floor/pelvic health/women’s health physiotherapy (or physical therapy as it’s called in the US). I believe ANY woman who has given birth, or is going to give birth can benefit from it, even if it is just a one-time assessment.

So obviously, I am not the exception to this recommendation. I’ve talked about my previous experience with PFPT as a postpartum woman and when dealing with my prolapse, but this is the first time I have seen one as a pregnant woman. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, or even sure if I needed to go! I had seen some posts on Instagram from women I follow about seeing PFPT in their pregnancies (Brianna Battles & Michelle Coels of One Tough Mama) and wondered what their trigger was to actually book an appointment to see them. Then I finally got my head out of my own ass, and realized I am legitimately having symptoms that I would be telling my clients to go to physio for. I was having some minor leaks and heaviness, which in and of itself is enough to warrant physio, so I just got down of high horse, and booked an appointment.

I was a bit nervous. Was she going to think I was wasting her time? Was she going to just tell me everything I am feeling is normal and look at me like I’m an idiot? I know, irrational, but those were my fears. Luckily, the physio I saw was one of the nicest women I have ever met, and let’s be honest, I’ve never met a physio I didn’t like! She heard and validated my concerns, assured me that what I was feeling was common, but definitely not normal, and then we jumped right into an assessment.

She was so thorough, it made my nerd heart happy! She had me stand and felt my abs and glutes, she had me squat, then single leg squat on each leg, and me do side bends each way, then had me lay down and contract my TA and then coordinate that with movement. She assessed my diastasis and we discussed how to monitor that moving forward. She examined my PF muscles, and had me do some contractions and assessed where I was feeling pain, how my prolapse was doing and gave me some exercises to work on.

We discussed strategies to deal with my symptoms. One of which was some leaking, or stress urinary incontinence, which I had never experienced before I got pregnant the this time around. Even when I was full term with Bruce, I never leaked, nor did I postpartum. She mentioned bladder irritants, which I had heard of and discussed with the physician at the Pelvic Floor Clinic when I was diagnosed with prolapse. I knew they could contribute to frequency, but what I didn’t know is that they can also contribute to incontinence! The way she put it is, if your bladder is already irritated by certain foods, then when you add a cough or sneeze on top of it, you’re more prone to leaking! This totally made sense to me, because otherwise I could not find any sort of pattern or correlation to my leaking. It was so infrequent, and didn’t seem to relate to my activity level or even the fullness of my bladder when I put any pressure on it, but I hadn’t taken my diet into consideration! And after chatting with a few friends, they all corroborated these thoughts anecdotally.

We also discussed the strength of my muscles. She rated my PF muscle strength a 3+ out of 5, whereas previously I’d been a 4 out of 5. So I mean, considering I am 23 weeks pregnant, those tissues are so swollen and loosened because of relaxin, I’m pretty happy with a 3+! I mean, obviously, I’d love to be 5/5, but I gotta take what I can get! She gave me a few things to work on, and we found while the front half of my muscles were weaker, the back half was actually quite tight.

The we discussed preparation for labor & birth. She had some suggestions on positioning, like don’t lay flat on your back, which I mean, is kind of common knowledge these days, I think? Isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just for birth & pelvic health junkies like me! She suggested I try to squat or be on all 4s as much as possible and also encouraged me to avoid pushing using a crunching motion, which a lot of women get sucked into. She suggested I focus on keeping my arms up, at least shoulder height if not overhead with something to hold on to. She said this stops the crunching motion and allows the TA to aide pushing better. We discussed things like perineal massage and EPI-NO, but not in depth. Overall we both agreed that I am in a much better place going into this labour because I actually know how to relax my PF muscles, and that was probably what made my pushing experience so drawn out the first time. I remember feeling SO vulnerable when I actually did relax those muscles, and not feeling encouraged or well coached by my midwife when I did.

This is the #1 reason I suggest all first time moms (or any pregnant woman who hasn’t delivered vaginally, but wants to) see a PFPT in pregnancy! They will help you learn how to connect with those muscles and how to know what it feels like when you both contract AND relax those muscles, because relaxing them is key when it comes time to allow baby to pass through them.

Pregnancy After Prolapse (4)

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pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse, Self Care

Pregnancy After Prolapse – The First Trimester

~Read where you left off here~

So the line was pink. I was officially pregnant. Again.

It happened so much faster than we had anticipated. It was no longer a debate of being ready, because ready or not, it was happening. One week after learning we were expecting our second little one, my husbands parents were scheduled to come for a visit. We debated whether or not to share the news, it was SO early after all, but we decided if this pregnancy ended prematurely, their support would be so needed, so we told them.

That just reinforced how great it was. They were ecstatic! Of course they were, what grandparents aren’t excited to learn they will be welcoming more grandchildren? I looked to my mother in law for support, my husband and his older brother are only 13 months apart after all. She reiterated what we already knew, it would be hard in the beginning, but so worth it. And we had planned it after all, it will all work out in the end!

Overall the first few weeks I felt pretty good. I still had energy, continued my workouts, and kept up with life. Things were great!

Then I was struck with vertigo.

I had cared for patients with vertigo, and knew it was awful, but I always thought they were over dramatic. But let me tell you, from first hand experience, it is all consuming. When you feel like the world around you is spinning, and closing your eyes just makes it worse, and you haven’t figured out what triggers it so it hits you randomly, it is hard. So hard. Even harder when you have a toddler to care for, and pregnancy nausea has hit. The vertigo was the worst in the morning, which, lucky for me, coincided with when I was feeling the most nauseated. The two just fed off each other and I felt awful. Caring for Nugget was even harder, because bending down or doing anything that required me moving my head out of vertical, set it off. Add that to nausea and it was a sure fire recipe for a trip to visit the porcelain throne. But I was lucky, after couple of weeks, it self-resolved. I didn’t really do much besides give into my salt cravings and drink as much water as I wanted.

But all the vomiting did a number on my core. The force required for that really puts some pressure on the pelvic floor, I now understand why some women leak when they throw up! I started having a lot of heaviness and discomfort. I freaked out. I was so worried that I was causing my prolapse to return and went to a pretty dark place. The combination of vertigo, with pelvic floor symptoms and exhaustion all added up to my headspace being all out of whack. I had a lot of very negative thoughts. There were many moments where I freaked out that I was damaging my body beyond repair. I even had really low moments where I hoped I would just miscarry so I could not worry about it anymore. I laid in bed crying, feeling like a terrible person and mother for wishing this very much planned, very much wanted, pregnancy away. The emotional turmoil you go through after being diagnosed with prolapse can really mess with you, and I didn’t realize how deeply, until then. It was like I was back to the day I was diagnosed, spiraling down a dark hole of ‘what ifs’, fearing I would never get out again.

I talked to some other moms they offered so much great support. They validated my feelings and helped me see what was really important – that I wanted this baby and I knew exactly what to do to get him or her here as safely as possible.

My symptoms waxed and waned over the next few weeks, and came to a peak around 11 weeks. I finally asked my prolapse support group, and they all suggested I talk to my pelvic floor physio. I mean, I knew I should, but I was in a bit of denial. I let my ego get the best of me, and thought I knew everything I possibly could, and there was nothing she could tell me that would help. But I emailed her anyway, and I am so glad I did. She replied quickly, and said it was totally normal to feel like that at the end of the first trimester. The uterus gets heavy, but has not come up above the pubic bone yet, so the entire weight of it is supported by the PF muscles. She reminded me to take it easy and it should pass, but to call her if I had any questions.

And she was right! Within a week, all my symptoms were gone! I even went on an 8 km hike up a mountain, and felt totally fine at the end and still the next day!

Then I was just tired.

So. So. Tired.

I never really noticed the exhaustion with Nugget, because I didn’t already have a kid and could sleep or nap whenever I wanted. Not the case when you have a 15 month old who gets up at 6 or 7 every morning. No sleeping in when you’re a parent, and even less so when your husband is working 6 or 7 days a week. This did not work out well with working nights. I work nights the majority of the time, and it was catching up with me. I started getting reflux to the point where I avoided eating because it felt like nothing ever left my stomach, I basically felt like my digestion came to a screeching halt. I started losing weight, which is the opposite of what you want to happen in pregnancy. Not to mention I was basically a zombie whenever I was not working. My poor toddler had the worst mom.

I talked to my midwife, and we agreed it would be best if I stopped working nights. I felt so guilty coming to that decision. I actually quite enjoy night shift! Plus, as a nurse, working nights is a bit of a badge of honor. I felt like I was being a baby by giving them up so early in my pregnancy, but I knew I had to do what was best for me and this baby.

It was like the clouds parted. I was finally sleeping at the same time every night, and sleeping through the night again. Before, with such a wonky sleep schedule, I was waking every couple hours because my body couldn’t figure out it’s rhythm. My reflux resolved, I had energy to exercise and play with Nugget again, and surprisingly my skin almost completely cleared up!

Moving into the second trimester, I finally started feeling like myself again.

Pregnancy After Prolapse (2)

Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse Series – Am I Ready?

This series of blog posts will follow my journey after healing my prolapse from my first birth, into my second pregnancy and beyond!

After I was diagnosed with my prolapse at 8 months postpartum with Nugget, I was devastated (you can read about that here). I thought my life was over and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be prepared, physically, for another pregnancy and birth. I was terrified of picking up my baby out of the crib, never mind growing a second one!

Then I went to pelvic floor physiotherapy, and subsequently healed my prolapse. Then came rewiring my brain to actually accepting the thought that, maybe, I can have another baby. I mean, ever since I decided that kids were in the cards, I knew I wanted a lot of them! Like, 3 or even 4!

Before I was discharged from physio, I made sure to ask her thoughts on pregnancy, birth and postpartum. She had zero concerns with me getting pregnant again, gave me some great advice for labour and suggested I come back in for a check up at 6 weeks postpartum.

So, I had the go ahead from the professionals I trusted, but was I ready? Emotionally, I was SO ready. When I was pregnant with Nugget, my plan was to have him, then start trying for number 2 at 8 months postpartum, so they could be super close in age. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. My husband wasn’t quite as antsy as I was to have babies right on top of each other, and I was still nervous about my body. I had felt betrayed and needed to learn to trust it again before taking on the challenge of pregnancy.

So I focused on getting strong. I started a new workout program, committed to working out every 2-3 days and for probably 2-3 months I stuck to it. I loved it. I was so happy with how my body felt, how my clothes fit, and how I felt in general. My body finally felt strong again. All of my muscles had blossomed, my core felt so supportive, and I was finally feeling like myself again.

I was ready. My body felt ready. My husband was ready.

It was time.

It took 9 months to conceive Nugget, so even though I was ready to start trying, I had absolutely no expectations for it to happen anytime soon. I was okay with that, prepared for a long road ahead.

Still, I did all the things. I peed on sticks. I took prenatal vitamins. I tracked my basal body temperature. I even tracked my mucous.

But even then, with perfect timing, most couples only have a chance of conception of 20% for any given cycle. Like I said, prepared for a long road.

We didn’t want to put our life on hold to have another baby, so we kept living it. We used the hot tub, we drank our fair share of wine, beer and coffee, we didn’t change our diet or exercise regimes. We just lived our lives.

I was so prepared for it take months to happen. After all, it had the first time, and nothing had changed in that department, as far as we knew, besides being a couple years older.

And then, two months in, it happened.

The line turned pink. The stick flashed ‘pregnant’.

Next thing we knew, we were preparing to be the parents of two under two.

{continued here}

Pregnancy After Prolapse

 

Uncategorized

When Can I Get my Pre-Baby Body Back?

I hear this question a lot.

Like, A LOT.

It’s the one thing so many women are so desperate to achieve once they’ve popped out their most recent bundle of joy.

I get it. I’ve been there. If you look back at my instagram posts after Nugget was born, it’s nothing but ‘look at me, I lost 20lbs the day I delivered!” and side-by-sides of my ‘transformation’ postpartum. I was that woman, too. I totally understand how that feels.

Pregnancy and postpartum change your body in so many ways. You have this big belly that completely alters your centre of gravity, your joints and ligaments get lax and loose, more often than not, you lose a significant amount of muscle mass. You kind of start to feel like you’ve lost yourself.

Not to mention the fact that you’ve just entered motherhood. Holy crap is motherhood a mind-fuck. Your entire world is flipped completely upside down, you’re sleep deprived, anxious beyond belief, and your head is a raging soup of postpartum hormones. You just want some semblance of normalcy back in your life. You want to feel even just a glimmer of the ‘old you’ is still in there, somewhere, hidden under the spit-up & breastmilk stained tshirt with obligatory nursing bra with pads from who knows when still stuck in it. You want to find YOU again.

I get it. We all get it. Every woman who has ever become a mother, understands how you feel. It is 100%, completely and totally normal.

So you think ‘I know, before baby if I was stressed or miserable, I would workout to feel better’. So you give it a shot. And your body feels alien to you. It might ache, or be wobbly, or feel weak, or you might leak a little pee, or a little breastmilk, or both!

And commence hating this foreign body. ‘What the heck is wrong with me?’ you think, ‘I used to be able to run 5 miles without even breaking a sweat, now walking to the end of the block has me huffing, and peeing myself’.

So you consult good old google and are bombarded with an overwhelming flood of conflicting information: “do nothing for 6 weeks”, “only run slowly, just wear a liner”, “don’t lift anything over 5lbs or your give yourself a prolapse”,  “just do what you did before you got pregnant”… There’s so much information, so where do you start?

Well first, take a deep breath. It’s all going to be okay. I promise.

Second, find a pelvic floor physiotherapist (check here for one near you). They will be able to assess your body, and give you specific, measurable ways to improve your strength and function that are specific to your body and your needs. The work PFPT’s do is invaluable, and I believe every woman who has had a baby should see one.

Third, take some time to accept yourself as you are, right now. I know, easier said than done, but it will make everything so much easier in the long run. If you take the time to rehab and return to exercise the right way, you will make faster progress and be back to your favorite activities faster than if you jump back into them too quickly and end up injured and then you have to go back even farther and rehab your injury and then rehab you postpartum issues before you can move forward again.

So yes, before baby you were running 10k’s and lifting 200lbs. That’s amazing! You set a great foundation for your body to sustain a pregnancy. But you have to approach birth like an injury or major surgery (which it is for some of us!) and take the time to rehab right. If you broke your leg and it was in a cast for 6 weeks, you wouldn’t go back to running marathons the second you got it off, would you? No. You’d go to physio, and rehab it back appropriately. You have to approach birth the same way.

So if we go back to the question of ‘when will I get my pre-baby body back’ that answer will be different for everyone. Some will never get back to that place, and that’s okay! Our bodies are not meant to stay at 25 years old forever! Imagine if your grandma had the same figure as you… It would be weird right? But, we can do everything we can to regain all of the function you had pre-baby, it just might look a little different than you expect. It might take a little longer or take a different path than you were thinking, but you can get there!

The fact is, your body is fundamentally changed from the act of growing and birthing a human. Some of us will be left with scars & marks that will never go away, and they are badges of honor to be proud of.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

If you’re struggling, and living in the Calgary, Alberta area, and looking to work with someone who gets it – go to my Facebook page and contact me, I might be able to help! My flagship class, Mama Strong, is starting up next month, and I’d be so excited if you would join me!

When Can I Get My Pre-Baby Body Back-

fitness, motherhood, nutrition, Self Care

How I Revolutionized my Diet to Lose Weight and Love my Body

I’m a woman. I’ve always been tall (I was 5’6″ in 6th grade, at 12 years old), I have broad shoulders and wide hips. I take up space. I always have, I always will.

I haven’t always been okay with it.

I spent a lot of my adolescence wanting to be smaller. I was never the girl who could be at the top of the cheerleading pyramid, or the one the boys would pick up and spin around, because I was big. My bigness came with strength, I was always the one doing the lifting or carrying, at the bottom of the pyramid, the backbone of the red rover team. As a young girl, I felt self-conscious about this. Girls are ‘supposed’ to be weak, and tiny and need big strong boys to take care of them.

I was also lucky to have parent’s who didn’t care about what girls are ‘supposed’ to be. My dad taught me to chop wood, and fish and hunt. My brothers and I almost always had the same expectations when it came to chores and helping out. At home, my bigness was never an issue, my strength was something to be proud of. I never once felt like my parents or extended family judged me in that way, and for that I am thankful.

But I didn’t live in a vacuum, I saw society’s expectations, I felt the burden of being bullied. I was reminded regularly that being big and being a woman is a problem. I tried a few diets here and there, but honestly I love food too much to ‘stick’ to anything. I went through a phase of following a hit-diet that emphasized no carbs, and cheat days, and very fucked up views on food. (the diet actually suggested increasing the number of bowel movements on ‘cheat days’ to minimize the number of calories absorbed – um, pretty sure that’s a version of bulimia). I lost a reasonable amount of weight, for me. I remember my mom asking me if I was eating. She was worried. I felt proud. Hey, everyone was noticing how ‘small’ I was, that had never happened to me before!

Looking back on that time, I cringe. I thought I was doing things ‘right’. After all, people are praised and put on pedestals when they ‘stick to’ their diets and lose a significant amount of weight. We don’t talk about how obsessed with food they are, or if they can function outside of planning their meals, or if they can enjoy day-to-day things because it may or may not be ‘on plan’.

So what changed?

I had a baby. I had a newborn to take care of, I had to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, and all on broken sleep. I was exhausted (who isn’t in that stage) and I could feel my emotions so much worse some days than others. There were days when I could feel myself getting frustrated with Nugget so much easier, and I started to analyze why. Yes, sleep was a factor, but that was mostly out of my control. I started realizing when I ate poorly, I felt awful. My patience was thinner, and I was quick to snap on my husband. And it wasn’t like I was eating fast food everyday or ordering pizza, it was just whenever I was out of balance, I felt it.

So I started paying even closer attention to how each food I ate made me feel. Too much bread? Made me so bloated and uncomfortable. Lots of green veggies? So much energy and my digestion felt like it was humming along. Not enough protein? I would get hungry and cranky within hours of eating. I started getting more in tune with my body’s needs. I started craving ‘healthy’ foods. My daily choices started balancing out.

I used to forbid my husband from purchasing any ‘bad’ foods because if it was in the house, I would eat it, and I would eat it all. I would think ‘oh man, I can’t have that, I should eat it all so it’s gone so I don’t have to worry about it anymore’. But now? I know I can have chocolate, or cookies, or ice cream whenever I want, and I do! But I don’t feel the need to polish off 10 servings, because I know that it’s always there whenever I feel like it. I don’t feel deprived, therefore I don’t need to binge. I try to live in an abundance mindset. All the foods are there all of the time whenever I want. There are no ‘bad foods’, nothing is ‘off limits’. There are some foods that make me feel crappy, so I don’t eat them as often, because I don’t like to feel like crap. There are some foods that make me feel great, so I choose those more often.

It’s as complicated and as simple as that.

So I bet you’re reading this and thinking, well shit if I ‘ate whatever I want’ I’d eat the entire pantry and gain 500lbs. Listen, I thought that too. And to be honest, when you start shifting your mindset, it’s totally normal to swing the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum and go overboard for a while. Your body will be so used to being deprived perpetually, that it will take some time to re-calibrate your thinking to eat without eating all the things, all the time.

The key is to eat mindfully. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Before – are you eating because you’re hungry? Bored? Sad? All perfectly okay, just acknowledge it and sit with it. During – are you enjoying what you are eating? Is it making you feel good? Are you full? Do you actually want that next bite, or are you just eating because there is some left? That last one is hard for me, I feel guilty leaving a bite or two behind, but one of my role models (Jennifer Campbell) said in a group we’re members of (I’m paraphrasing) ‘If you eat something, because you feel bad throwing it away, you’re just making yourself the garbage can.” That resonated with me. If I am eating something that I don’t want or need, then how is that any different than throwing it in the garbage? It’s not. And After – an hour or two later, are you feeling stuffed? Bloated and gross? Tired and lazy? or energized and happy? These are all things to help you guide your choices.

Now, this isn’t to say you must always, only eat foods that make you feel perfect, all of the time. No. That’s not the point. The point is balance. So you go to a birthday party, and there’s cake, and you want a piece. You like cake, you want to participate in the event, and it looks tasty. So have a piece! Acknowledge that maybe the cake might make you feel not so great later, so maybe only have one piece. But, consider while you’re eating the cake – is it good? Are you enjoying the cake? Does the serving size feel okay? Are you satisfied after 3 bites? Then stop. If the cake is bloody delicious, and you’re still feeling okay after you finish – then have another piece!

Like I said, complicated, but simple.

Your body is this funny thing. It has these cues that are there for a reason. Hunger, fullness, bloating, energy levels, constipation etc. They all work together to help you decide what to eat.

And you know what? The funny thing is, 14 months after having my first baby, I weigh the same as I did when I was doing that ‘crazy diet’ a few years ago. Except I am so much healthier. I have more muscle, more energy, and most important of all, I don’t obsess about food, like, at all and I love the way my body looks, but I also love the way it feels.

And the best part? I get to eat hot dogs with my son, who absolutely loves hot dogs, every week. And I don’t feel one single ounce of guilt over it, because I am balanced.

How

fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Pregnancy

Pregnancy is Temporary, but Your Choices Last Forever

Being avidly interested in perinatal fitness & a new mom myself, I come across a lot of advertising and social media posts about exercise in pregnancy and postpartum. I often find myself scrolling through the comments to see what the general consensus is on the latest (usually controversial) video or message is.

One comment that almost always crops up is:

“I did crossfit/ran marathons/did crunches/did what I always did when I was pregnant and my baby turned out perfectly fine”

And all I can think is you just don’t get it!

While there are definitely recommendations for exercise in pregnancy circled around maintaining baby’s health, Mom’s health is just as important!

(I know, groundbreaking stuff, right?)

When I (and many other well-educated fitness professionals) say maybe it isn’t the best idea to do crunches, or run long distances, or lift super heavy, I’m not saying this because I think you are putting your baby’s health at risk. I am saying these things because you are putting yourself, your body and your future function at risk!

Yes, you can powerlift (or sprint, or do jumping jacks, or whatever) when pregnant, and baby will probably be fine, and it might feel okay for you at the time, but should you? Probably not.

Something one of my idols in the fitness industry, Brianna Battles says regularly about exercise in pregnancy is:

Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

It all circles back around to training with intention. When pregnant, a lot of women fear losing themselves when the baby comes (I know I did. I so did!) so they try to keep doing what they’ve always done and enjoyed through their pregnancy, as if to prove to themselves that they are the same! But, as much as you are the same, you are so not the same during (and after) pregnancy. You are growing a human! That is a big-freakin-deal! You need to respect that. You need to surrender yourself to the fact that as important your personal goals are, the priority should be keeping your body healthy and strong in this (so very short) chapter of your life.

There are so many more factors at play in the perinatal period when it comes to exercise and fitness. Hormones influence your connective tissues. A growing uterus influences center of gravity, balance and movement patterns. Diastasis recti influences core function and strength. The weight of baby on the pelvic floor influences it’s ability to respond appropriately (hello, pee sneeze – not normal!). So we need to take all of these things (and more) into account when training in pregnancy.

Yes, we can program exercise along the same lines you are used to and enjoy, they just might look a little different. The how of exercise is often more important than the exercise itself. It’s about strategy rather than just do’s and don’ts. If you follow Brianna (mentioned above) Jennifer Cambpell of Mama Lion Strong & Healthy Habits Happy Moms, or Jessie Mundell, or Julie Wiebe or Katy Bowman, they all preach ‘ribs over hips’ and keeping your ribs, spine and pelvis neutral.

[Side note: I would be literally nowhere if it wasn’t for all I have learned from following these amazing women and for their trail blazing in this field]

So, can you complete a heavy overhead press while 30 weeks pregnant? Yes. Okay, but can you do it while maintaining your ribs over hips, without your diastasis bulging, and without holding your breath? No. Then that exercise isn’t the best choice for you in this chapter of your life. If you say you are just going to do it because it feels fine to you, my next question is why? What is the value of continuing to do an exercise that maybe isn’t the best for your body at this point? Is it because you think you should be able to do it? Is it because you’ve seen other pregnant women do it and you want to look ‘badass’ like they did? Is it because you’re afraid of looking like a weakling or a failure who didn’t have the guts to go for it? Take a look inside yourself, and analyze why you feel you need to do a specific exercise or program. Is it worth the risk? Spoiler alert: putting your glory ahead of your future function is not badass and doesn’t take guts. You know what takes guts? Putting yourself first. Saying no when someone challenges you. Looking within yourself and standing up for your own values. That’s badass. That takes guts. Going with the flow because everyone is doing it, that’s cowardly. Having the courage to stand out on your own is the pinnacle of strength.

Now I’m not saying you can never do your favourite not-so-ideal-in-pregnancy exercise again. That is definitely something you can return to. However, it’s something you need to work up to, and be mindful of how your body is functioning, and be ready to maybe take two steps forward and one (or two or three) steps back along the way. It’s about checking the ego, and respecting where your body is at during this very important period and allowing yourself to surrender to it. This chapter in your life is temporary. Eventually it will end, but the choices you make within it can have lasting consequences if you aren’t smart about it. In closing, I’d like to bring it back around to another quote from Brianna;

Pregnancy is temporary, Postpartum is forever.
~Brianna Battles, Everyday Battles

Try not to forget that, because your body won’t.

having-the-courage-to-stand-out-on-your-own-is-the-pinnacle-of-strength

Birth, Pregnancy, Prolapse

No, I Don’t Want to Hear Your Birth Horror Story

*Update*
*This post is in no way suggesting that women who suffered from traumatic births have no right to share their story, that is not my intention at all. Telling your story of a birth that didn’t turn out as planned can be incredibly healing. I’m merely suggesting that sharing stories with the motivation of inciting fear is not appropriate, and sharing traumatic birth stories may not be the best way to prepare a pregnant woman for birth*

What is it with women today?

We seem to glory in sharing horror stories about birth. As if you one-up each other in who had the worst experience.

Why do we describe birth as this horrifying experience you just have to ‘get through’ because the baby is ‘worth it’?

What if I told you, you could enjoy birth?

That you could look forward to it, and actually want to do it again?

I know I do! I cannot wait to get the opportunity to do it all again!

I was recently talking to a friend who is very pregnant with her first baby. She told me she is ‘terrified of labour’. It made me so sad. I just wanted to reach through my phone and hug her, and say ‘No, no, noooo! Please don’t be terrified!’.

I think a lot of the root of the fear with labour & birth stems from us being so disconnected from our bodies. Our health system has trained us to fear discomfort. Any time something feels off in pregnancy, we back off. We limit movement, we stop everything. Life comes to a screeching halt as we know it.

I just read an article titled The Scary Truth About Childbirth.  The title alone makes me stabby. To summarize, the article suggests that vaginal (and ‘natural’) birth is over-glorified and it’s injuring women in the form of pelvic floor (PF) injury, prolapse, tears and pelvis fractures. It uses words like ‘horrifying’ and suggests that the natural childbirth movement is to blame. It offers up un-helpful solutions such as get induced early, and have an epidural.

No.

No. No. NO.

NO!

While I believe the intention of the article was to educate women about the risks of vaginal childbirth, which are rarely discussed at length (true). It’s shock & awe, fear-mongering approach is everything that is wrong with medicalized birth today.

Inciting fear into pregnant women is not the way to help the situation. Suggesting MORE interventions is not the way to help the situation. Describing injuries that thousands (millions?) of women suffer from as ‘horrifying;, ‘humiliating’ and ’embarrassing’ is not the way to help the situation.

So what can we do?

Well, first, maybe let’s stop approaching birth as terrifying. Fear increases pelvic floor muscle tension, which in itself is a barrier to vaginal childbirth. The PF muscles have to relax and release, and stretch up to 2.5x their length in order for the baby to pass through. This is not possible if the woman is too scared to let them go. This can result in prolonged labour, prolonged pushing, and ‘failure to progress’. A label as failure to progress usually leads to more intervention, such as instrument assisted birth (forceps or vacuum), which greatly increases a woman’s risk for prolapse and/or tearing (or cutting, depending on the care provider).

Let’s think about this from a different perspective. The hormones needed for childbirth are the same hormones needed to acheive orgasm. Oxytocin is released naturally in the brain when having pleasurable intercourse, and is the same hormone that triggers the uterus to contract. Now, if you were having sex, and you were terrified of an orgasm, do you think you’d ever get there? Uh, nope. Highly unlikely. If you were terrified of having sex, would it feel good? Nope, it might even hurt. Same goes for childbirth.

All this fear mongering, is contributing to traumatic births, which contributes to more fear mongering, which just continues in a cycle.

Just STOP.

There is no benefit to making a pregnant woman fear labour and birth. Yes, there are risks. Yes, she should be aware of them and educated on her options. Yes, she should be made aware of potential outcomes of vaginal childbirth.

But we can do it without scaring the shit out of her! We can do better.

If you tell someone you’re planning on running a marathon, people don’t bombard you with stories of how their sisters mother in laws grandmother ran a marathon once and she had a heart attack in the middle and died. No, they congratulate you, and encourage you, and ask you how you’re training, and get excited! Why can’t we approach birth this way?

How about when you get on the topic of birth with a pregnant mama, you tell her she’s going to do great. You tell her that birth is amazing and it’s going to be one of the biggest accomplishments of her life. You tell her that it’s going to be like climbing a really tall, steep mountain, but the views along the way and at the top are the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen.

Finally, let’s educate women how how best to prepare their body for birth. Like I mentioned, it’s like climbing a mountain, or running a marathon, except we don’t know how long it will be or how steep the climb, or what barriers we may face along the way. So let’s train for that. Let’s encourage women to move their bodies, nourish themselves (as best the can) and get their mind right for the journey ahead. Let’s teach them activities and movements they can do now that will help them later. Let’s get their bodies strong and capable, so when the time comes they are as well-prepared as they can be. Let’s teach them to have an open mind, and be educated about as many of the potential outcomes as possible so they’re prepared to go with the flow of whatever their body and baby presents. Let’s help them be okay with the unknown, not fear it. Let’s share positive birth stories, and help them trust that their bodies are capable of giving birth, and trust that their care providers will have mom & babies best interests at heart. Let’s encourage them to get in tune with their bodies, so they know how to listen to those primal urges that go along with the process.

Birth is amazing, let’s remember that.

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If you’re pregnant and wondering where to start with getting over your fear of birth, here are a few suggestions, things that helped put me at ease:

Watch Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives

Read Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth

Watch How to Have a Harmonized Childbirth

Read I Came Along, I Wrote A Song For You {The Birth Story Of Sparrow}

Watch Welcoming Theodore

Watch Waterbirth of Scarlett

Watch Birth of Sloane

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fitness, pelvic health, Self Care

Painless Periods are Possible

I got my first period at age 11. I was devastated. My mom and all of my aunts and older cousins didn’t get theirs until they were 14 or older, so it wasn’t even on my radar, or my mothers for that matter. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t talk to my mom about it until she approached me about my stained underwear. The conversation pretty much went, here’s some pads, don’t go swimming, there’s tampons too, but you’re too young for those. Welcome to womanhood.

I don’t remember my first period to be painful, but I do remember pretty much every single one after that to be. Menstruation was so awful, I was pretty much incapacitated for at least one day a month, from age 11 until the time I was 17. And up until that point, the only thing that would help the pain was drugs, or sleep, or a heat pack. Well, who can sleep or use a heat pack during classes in highschool? As much as I wanted to stay home and sleep all day, my parents weren’t a fan of having me stay home just because of my period, I mean, women get it every month and go to work and function, I should too. That’s just how it is. It’s like a badge of honor to brag about how horrible your cramps are.

Then I went on the pill for 10 years (side note: !!!!) and forgot about it. I went to university, moved in with my boyfriend, got engaged, got married, bought a house, moved across the country, got a great career, and then it was time to make another human. So I went off the pill. And OH. MY. GOD. My ‘regular’ periods came back with a vengeance! It was like my body was getting revenge on me for pumping it full of artificial hormones for all of those years. And there it was, I was back to having debilitating periods again.

But… Why? If you think about it logically, why did human females evolve to be completely incapacitated by this perfectly normal human function? If we were ‘wild’ it would leave us extremely vulnerable very frequently. I’ve spoken to many, many women who have similar experience to me when it comes to their periods. I am not an anomaly.

I listen to Katy Bowman’s Podcast regularly and she has an episode where she discusses menstruation, and it was mind blowing. To summarize what she says, when your uterus sheds it’s lining (the endometrium), it leaves a wound, of sorts, and the lining combined with the bleeding of the wound, is the bloody discharge we know as a period. Well in modern society, our limited movement means that the organs and muscles within our pelvis do not get the ‘movement nutrition’ that they require, which results in limiting blood flow to those parts over time. This results in the impaired ability of our body to heal the wound associated with menstruation, resulting in severe pain and excessive bleeding, also known as menorrhagia.

So what can you do about it? Well if you ask the mainstream, take painkillers or go on the pill. Or just deal with it. If you ask Katy, or a lot of ‘healthy pelvis’ movers and shakers out there, movement is the answer. I know, it seems crazy. How on earth can movement affect my periods? Well it’s almost a ‘use it or lose it’ sort of thing. You have to move those muscles and organs around in the way your body was designed to move, in order to signal your vascular system that they require blood flow in order for them to function optimally. Your body is very efficient, and only sends the minimum blood flow required to keep your cells alive, but keeping them alive doesn’t necessarily help them function at their best. Your cells have to be active and demand blood and nutrients!

In modern society, we basically stand or sit all day. Some of us walk a bit. But very, very few of us squat or sit on the floor or use our legs to their full potential in their full range of motion. Our bodies have adapted to this limited range, and stopped sending adequate nutrition to the parts we don’t use, like our hips and our pelvis. I wonder if this has some influence on the skyrocketting rates of infertility and hip fractures or replacements? Now, this is totally just my own personal theory, with absolutely no scientific evidence, but something to think about!

So what did I do that helped me? First, went to pelvic floor physio. They helped me connect with my pelvic structures and learn how to move and activate them in ways that I hadn’t been. Second, in the midst of my prolapse diagnosis meltdown, I bought the Nutritious Movement for a Healthy Pelvis program from Nutritious Movement and started doing it immediately. I cannot describe how much I love this program. After just one day of doing the movements, I was sore in ways I didn’t even realize one could get sore, and felt so much more connected with my body, at a time when I felt like I was falling apart.

But I digress. I was surprised to find, two months after starting to incorporate my (new) PFPT exercises and the Nutritious Movement for a Healthy Pelvis program, I got my first postpartum period. I had heard horror stories from women about how the first postpartum period is the worst period ever. Like your body has saved up those 10 months (in my case) of periods to give you all at once. This was not the case for me! It was like the only reason I knew I was having a period, was I was bleeding. That was it. I mean, I was a little cranky, but other than that I felt great! I wasn’t buckled over in pain. I did not have to take one single pain pill. Not one! That is completely unheard of in my lifetime. Even when I was on the pill, I still had at least one day per period that I had to take at least 1 pain pill.

I really wish I had known this when I was a teen. If I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now, I could have saved myself so much pain and discomfort. I hope this information helps some of you better deal with your periods, and hopefully get to a pain free period like me!soup-salad

Birth, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 3)

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

After seeing Kristen, I felt so much better. I wasn’t worried about picking up and carrying Nugget around, I wasn’t worried about carrying laundry up from the basement or hauling in groceries. I was able to actually live my life.

I started doing the ab work Kristen suggested, and I was absolutely astounded at how effective they were! Who knew such tiny movements like lifting your foot off the ground could have such a dramatic effect. The first day I did the exercise for a total of 6 reps. I know, barely anything, but I wasn’t able to maintain proper technique after 6 so I stopped. The next day I was blown away by how sore I was. We went grocery shopping and I was waddling around like I was 9 months pregnant because my TA was so sore! It was a total lightbulb moment for me. It made me realize just how much your TA functions in supporting your pelvis and trunk through every day movements, like walking! It made me understand further how diastasis recti can influence your movement and why it is so important to keep it in check if you have one.

I did the PF progressions she suggested. I was surprised to hear she suggested going PF contractions with a full bladder, but if you think about it, that’s like an internal load on your PF, and it’s like adding plates to the barbell! I was able to get even more in tune with my body, and really feel how and when my PF was contracting and monitor the forces at work.

I went back to see Kristen a month after our initial appointment feeling great. I informed her that a lot of my symptoms had subsided and other were explainable by reasons besides prolapse. She laughed “well you can go home now!” she said, jokingly, but I probably could have. She reassesed my abs, alignment and PF. After she was all done she said “Well you’re boring! There isn’t much going on here! Your PF is strong and contracting reactively and is well coordinated with your TA. Your anterior wall is ‘stretchy’ but I wouldn’t say you have a prolapse!”

I wanted to cry, again. But this time tears of joy.

But I hesitated. I was worried. Nugget was my first baby and I definitely had plans of having more, and hopefully sooner rather than later. So I asked Kristen what to do. I was nervous another labour and birth would do even more damage. Should I come see her in pregnancy? How does she recommend labouring and pushing from the perspective of a PT? Can I prevent prolapse with future babies?

So many questions.

We had a lengthy discussion about labour, pushing and delivery. It was so nice to talk to someone openly about birth who was about the function and physiology of the female body, and she gave me tools to go into my next pregnancy & birth feeling strong and confident.

And that’s how I want you to feel. Strong & Confident

Not broken, or fragile, or sad or depressed.

Strong.

We are all strong, we just need to see it within ourselves.

Now if you have read this series of blogs, hoping for a how-to list of things to do to heal your prolapse, I am sorry that I didn’t deliver.

However, I will give you this one To Do.

Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A good one. One that supports your goals and lifestyle. Not all physios are as open and supportive as Kristen, and you don’t have to accept that. If your physio refuses to give you progressions, or only tells you your options are to swim and walk, never lift anything over 5lbs (that’s realistic) and never spread your feet wider than hip width, find a new physio. There are good ones out there. If you don’t leave your appointment feeling confident you know how to live your life without fear and anxiety, you need a new physio. They should support your goals, not crush them.

 

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Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 2)

Continued from this post.

Luckily, I was able to score a cancellation with Kristen, otherwise I would have to wait months agonizing over my broken body. I was able to get in to see her two days later.

Now, I have never met a physio I didn’t like (true story), but there was something about Kristen. We just clicked. Our personalities were totally in sync and we had the same values and beliefs. She started the session by reassuring me, she could tell I was nervous. She said she knew many, many women who had a similar diagnosis to mine, and who live complete and normal lives, that I shouldn’t let this hold me back.

She assessed my alignment, my musculature, had me squat and stand while feeling my back and sides to assess how my muscles engaged. She had me lay down and assessed my abs and glutes, and informed me that my transverse abs aren’t as strong or coordinated as I thought, but gave me exact steps how to correct them.

She then did an internal exam (which I describe for you here), which I was most worried about. You see, the physician who had diagnosed me with prolapse had informed me that my pelvic floor (PF) muscles were extremely weak. She had rated them 1.5 on a scale of 5. She described it as barely perceptible with no endurance. The problem I had with that assessment is she didn’t allow me to coordinate my contraction with my breath, it was more “aaaand GO! NOW!” and I was a bit caught off guard. When Kristen assessed my strength, she allowed me to exhale with the contraction and take my time. She almost laughed when I told her the doctor told me my PF was weak, she rated me at a 4 out of 5!

I left the appointment feeling so much better, relieved that my PF wasn’t weak, and looking forward to moving on with my life. I booked another appointment for a month out, just to follow up with the ab work she gave me and the PF progressions she had suggested. Kristen encouraged me to call her with any questions, and unlike some professionals you speak to, with her I knew she really meant it.

The next day I had a thought. She never gave me any limitations for movement or exercise? Everything I have ever read online about prolapse is a list of don’ts. So I sent her an email, and fully expected it to take a week or two to hear from her, if at all. A few days later, she phoned me at home. The first thing she said was, stop Googling. She doesn’t consider postpartum prolapse in the same category as post-menopausal prolapse because there is so much at play postpartum. Your body has so much healing to do, and especially if you are breastfeeding, that can take a really long time, and to be patient. She told me to not limit myself at all because I have a strong PF and to trust myself, use good form and breathing and listen to my body. She suggested I do what I would normally, ease back into things, and if something exacerbates my symptoms, to maybe back off a bit next time. She didn’t see the value in restricting a young mother like myself.

This was the best thing I could hear. Instantly vanished any fear I had about carrying Nugget around, about doing daily activities, going for long hikes, or getting back into weight lifting.

I was happy again.

~Stay tuned for my progress with the exercises Kristen gave me, and how our next visit went and what she told me~

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