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)

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, 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

pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse, Self Care

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 1)

So I mentioned in previous posts that I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. This is a really common disorder in women, who have or have not had babies, though it is more common after vaginal childbirth.

I am sure mine was caused by 2+ hours of active, hard, hold your breath and bear down pushing, like I talked about in my post Hold Your Breath, Count to Ten, Push Your Baby Out and Your Uterus Too. Now, I’ll admit, I still struggle with my birth. It was not the birth I had planned for. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the smooth, clean, athletic event in the way I had envisioned. That was all compounded 100x when I was diagnosed with prolapse.

After I left the doctors office who informed me my bladder and uterus had fallen, I cried.

You guys, I cried so hard. I couldn’t even make it to my vehicle in the parking lot. I was actively sobbing walking across pavement.

I couldn’t help it. I was thinking, how could I let this happen to myself? I knew better! (or at least I thought I did) I trusted my midwife and she let me down.

Listen, I know thoughts are illogical. But I was devastated. I felt broken. The doctor gave me absolutely no guidance as to whether or not I needed to alter my lifestyle. She told me my pelvic floor was super weak and basically told me I needed to do kegels, 10 x 10 seconds, twice a day. That’s it. I was terrified. I was scared to pick up my 21lb baby. Do you have any idea how awful it feels to be scared of picking up your infant when he needs you? I’m sure a lot of you do, and can agree, it’s fucking terrible.

I went home, drank some wine, and told my husband. We tried to move on with our lives, but it kept creeping up on me. My husband wanted me to go get tires put on some rims for my car. I had that gross, helpless, sinking feeling, as I told him he would have to put them into the car for me, since women with prolapse aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy (or so the internet told me).

Luckily, the doctor had suggested I return to physio. She gave me a list with some suggestions, she said I could try and return to Michelle, but since I (apparently) didn’t have success with her, here are some other recommendations.

I liked Michelle, but there was something missing in our relationship. She didn’t seem all that comfortable guiding me back to the types of exercise I wanted to do. I wanted to lift heavy things, sprint, jump, and do the things I loved. She didn’t have much experience in that area, and to her credit she tried her best to guide me, but she didn’t give me much confidence.

I went over the list that the doctor gave me, and found one of the physio’s was based out of a sports medicine clinic. A light bulb went off, that’s exactly what I needed! I called the clinic, found out that Kristen had a cancellation in two days, and booked myself in!

~Stay tuned for my experience with Kristen, what I learned and how I healed myself, both physically and emotionally from my prolapse~

how-i-healed-my

pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Your Vagina Needs Therapy

It’s true.

I’ve said it time and time again. Maybe in nicer words, but I’ve said it. If you’ve had a baby (vaginal or otherwise), you need to see a physiotherapist (PT). And not for your back or your shoulder or your knee. For your vagina. More specifically, your pelvic floor (PF), or the muscles that surround your vagina and hold up your bladder, uterus and rectum. Those muscles that are *supposed* to stop you from leaking urine when you run, and are *supposed* to help you hold in a fart, and are *supposed* to relax and contract when you have sex and reach orgasm.

That’s what they are *supposed* to do.

I am putting *supposed* in between asterisks because they don’t always do these things, in all women. And that, my friend, is why your vagina needs therapy.

If you saw my previous post about PF dysfunction, and you are maybe having some issues, you’re maybe considering going to see a PF PT (first off, yay!). But maybe you’re nervous, ‘what exactly do they do at PF PT?’ you ask? Well that’s what I am here to tell you.

First off, most physio’s will have you fill out a questionnaire, so they can get a quick grip on your symptoms, your obstetrical history, and what your goals are. Most often the start off with an initial consultation, that is longer than your regular visits, so they can get to know you and do a thorough interview to assess where you are at. They want to know how many babies you’ve had, how you had them (vaginal or c-section), whether or not you’re currently having issues with leaking, discomfort with sex, and any pain or heaviness.

Then they will most likely assess your posture or alignment, movement patterns and sometimes feel the muscles on your back or sides while you move, like squatting up and down. They may also pay attention to your breathing while you move, or have you pick something up to see how you do it. They may even just assess your movement patterns without you even realizing, they are professionals and have a keen eye, and a lot of people move differently than they usually do when they know someone is watching! Then they will assess your abs, have you lay and lift your head and feel your belly to see if you have a diastasis recti (separated abs) and have you contract your transverse abs to see how well you are able to connect with them and how strong they are.

Then comes the fun part.

Okay maybe not fun, per-say, but the meat and potatoes of the visit, so to speak.

The Internal Exam.

This is probably what most women are nervous about, but I promise you, it is nothing compared to a pelvic exam by a doctor, a PAP or, hello, giving birth. I’ve been to two different PTs and both of them made me feel so comfortable, it didn’t feel awkward at all. They assess your tissues from the outside, get you to cough and bear down before they even touch you, then they touch the outside to see if there is any tension or tenderness anywhere. Then they insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the vagina and have you cough and bear down again to see if there is any prolapsing organs. Then they feel all of the muscles in your pelvic floor from the inside if your vagina, and assess them for tension or tenderness again. Then they have you do a pelvic floor contraction (or kegel) and assess how strong your muscles are and how coordinated they are with each other. They may also use their other hand to feel your abs to see if they are coordinating properly with your pelvic floor.

At this point it varies between PTs, but some may do some myofascial release, or scar tissue release or massage. Then most will work on teaching you how to do a PF contraction properly (if you don’t already, which most women don’t if they have been to PT before). Then they will work on improving your contraction, maybe positioning their hand in different orientations to assess how all of the different muscles are contracting. Depending on where you are at in your rehab, they may have you do some minor exercises (think lifting one leg up, or lifting your hips, no jumping jacks!) while laying on the table and assess how well your PF responds to the movement.

After that, they will conclude the internal,  and leave the room to give you a chance to get dressed. Then they will come back and discuss what they thought of everything, give you some exercises as homework and discuss whether or not you need to schedule another visit (or two, or more).

That’s it! It’s really not as bad as you may have thought (I hope!) but I promise you will leave with a whole new appreciation and understanding of your pelvic floor, and your body as a whole! The pelvic floor is an integral part of how your entire body functions, and supports some very important organs, I hope you plan to take care of it the same way you’d take care of any other muscle in your body if it were to go through a trauma like the PF does in bearing a child.

Don’t neglect the pelvic floor!

nutrition, Self Care

What to do About that Dreaded Winter Cold or Flu

Here in YYC, the weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, there’s a nip in the air. As much as we’d like to deny it for a few more weeks months, winter is coming.

[cue Game of Thrones reference]

I live in Canada. There is absolutely no question we get full blown, many feet of snow, frigid cold, arctic quality, winter.

I actually love winter.

I know, I know. I’m crazy. But the truth is I just love the changing of the seasons, I love all of them. The short period of each allows me to appreciate the next. If I were to live somewhere where it was always hot, I would probably get depressed because I would not be able to snuggle up in a cozy blanket by the fire and sip on hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies. That would make me sad.

What do I not love about winter?

Flu season. Cold season. General increase in communicable illness in the whole of the population.

Not fun.

You know what’s even less fun? Being sick when pregnant – you can’t take anything! You know what’s even LESS fun than that? Being sick while caring for a newborn! Downright awful! Add onto that the stress and worry that your tiny human will also get sick. It’s the literal worst.

But there are things you can do that can help you stay on the healthier side of things and give your body the best shot at avoiding, or in the very least minimizing the sniffles, sore throat, cough, body aches and general crappy feelings that go along with viral infections.

Now if you ask your friends and family, ‘how do I prevent/get rid of a cold’ you’ll probably be greeted with a myriad of ridiculous sounding suggestions, for example:

‘take a shot of whisky and wear a toque to bed’
‘rub your feet with vicks and wear socks to bed’
‘gargle salt water’
‘take garlic pills’
‘drink a hot toddy – with extra toddy’
My personal favourite – ‘put wet socks in the fridge, then before bed, put them on then cover with wool socks’ – supposedly called ‘warming socks’… Oh Lord… *eyeroll*

I mean, I’m not complaining about the fact that the majority of the suggestions involve alcohol and sleep. But they probably aren’t doing much to support your immune system (well except maybe the sleep, but we’ll get to that).

Most of these claims are based on anecdotal evidence. “Well my mom used to always do XYZ and I always felt better within a few days” or “I always take ABC supplements and I never get sick”.

Let’s look at the first one – most colds last 5-10 days. Usually most people are in denial of their illness within the first day or two, then they acknowledge it, but don’t feel too bad, then they feel worse and finally start looking for a ‘cure’, they try XYZ and miraculously they feel better! Well did XYZ cure them, or did they just happen to try XYZ right before their virus was due to run its course?

Ya, think about that one.

So what can you do to help with the cold or flu?

What does science say?

  1. Take Probiotics
    There’s a lot of information out there about probiotics and the human microbiome right now.There’s been a recent shift in thinking to ‘germs are bad’ to ‘too many of the wrong kind of germs are bad’. You see our entire body is covered and filled with germs, and the majority of those germs live within your digestive tract, and help our bodies break down the food we eat. Recent research has found that a good balance of bacteria within the body can even help support our immune system. A 2014 study showed that taking probiotics allowed participants to decrease the frequency and duration of viral illnesses. The participants reported that although they still felt sick, when they got sick, it lasted a shorter period of time, and they reported illnesses less frequently than the group that did not receive probiotic therapy.
    Now I personally take a probiotic supplement daily, and give a baby version to Nugget, there are also many dietary sources to get beneficial bacteria through the food you eat. Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut (make sure it’s fermented) kimchi and, little known, honey (make sure it’s unpasteurized)!
  2. Don’t fight the fever*
    Ever wonder why we get a fever when we get sick? Well it’s not what you think. The most commonly held belief is that it helps basically ‘cook’ the virus or bacteria that is causing the infection, and this is not true. If that were the case, you wouldn’t have to cook your food to kill bacteria! Fever and increased body temperature actually improve your body’s immune response buy allowing certain types of your white blood cells to become more efficient at attacking the infection. Hyperthermia, while it doesn’t kill the viruses, does inhibit their replication, or ‘viral shedding’, which can help limit the duration of the cold or flu symptoms.So while it’s perfectly reasonable to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve symptoms like aches or pains, it’s not necessary to bring down a fever just for the sake of it. Mayo Clinic suggests that a fever less than 39.5C (103F) is not worrisome in an adult, so if you’re temperature is less than that, leave it alone!

    *The exception to this is if you are pregnant – fever in pregnancy can potentially harm the developing fetus – please treat the fever with acetaminophen and speak with your care provider!
  3. Eat chicken soup
    You probably thought this one was filed up there with the ‘old wives tales’, but there is actually science behind it! One study showed that the combination of ingredients in chicken soup limited the inflammatory response of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), which is responsible for most of the unpleasant symptoms of a cold or flu. Also, inhaling the warm vapours and drinking the warm fluids associated with chicken soup help loosen mucous in the nose and chest, making them easier to clear (which is why your nose runs when you eat soup).
  4. Eat nutrient dense foods
    It’s no surprise that our bodies require nutrients to function. Our nutrition needs to consist of more than just fats, carbohydrates and proteins. There is a plethora of micronutrients that our bodies require in order to function properly, like vitamins and minerals. The best source for these is through the food we eat, fruits and vegetables, no or low processed foods. The more a food is processed, the less nutrition it contains.
  5. Sleep
    Sleep is how our body recouperates. It kind of seems obvious that it would be even more important when our body is fighting off an infection that sleep would be even more important. Animal studies have shown that all animals engage in more sleep when they are ill, it is the natural thing to do. Sleep also helps reduce stress, which contributes to improved immune system function. So rest up!

So now you know. When you are feeling ill, and someone suggests you put on cold wet socks (still laughing about that one), you can retort with science. The actual facts about what to do when you are feeling ill, and how to minimize the likelihood that you will become sick in the first place!

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fitness, postpartum, Self Care

My Favourite Fitness Gear – Postpartum Edition

We all know the postpartum period has it’s own set of special challenges. I am not just talking about the first few weeks, I’m talking months, because we all know postpartum is forever. After I gave birth to Nugget, there were a few things I could not live without when it came to my fitness and regaining my strength. Here is a list of my faves

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#1 Lululemon Hi-Rise Wunder Under Pants
I cannot say enough good things about these pants. I bought them pregnant, wore them until I gave birth, and continued to wear them immediately postpartum and still wear them today. The high rise waist stays up nice over a pregnant belly, and feels slightly supportive on a soft postpartum belly.

 

 

VS bra
#2 The Ultimate by Victoria’s Secret Run Sport Bra
I was so happy when I found this bra! It’s so supportive, and it has clasps on the front of the straps so it can easily be undone to breastfeed. I probably wear this bra 5/7 days a week! Plus they have super cute colours and it’s relatively inexpensive.

 

 

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#3 Old Navy Fitted Rib-Knit Tank
This tank is the perfect layering tank for underneath any shirt when breastfeeding. It is extremely stretchy so you can use the two-shirt technique to breastfeed with minimal exposure. This was key for me as Nugget was a January baby and it was cold!

 
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#4 Nalgene 32 ounce Water Bottle
Those early weeks, I had a bottle of water within arms reach at all times. Between breastfeeding, night sweats, constant peeing. I was continuously parched. Having this easy to use, large bottle was a lifesaver.

 

 
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#5 Fitbit Charge HR Activity Tracker
I am a data junkie, so I loved having the Fitbit to keep track of my sleep, activity, walks and weight with. It also inadvertently helped me keep track of Nugget’s feeds because I could see how often I was awake at night with the sleep tracking technology.

 

 

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#6 Kushies Washable Cotton Breastpads
Cotton breastpads were a godsend. I found that the disposable ones made me really sweaty underneath and that did not help my already tender and chapped nipples. These cotton ones wicked sweat and milk away and allowed my breasts to stay dry between feedings and during any activity that made me sweat.

 

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#7 Mini Bands
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my mini bands! They are such an easy way to add resistance to any glute exercise! There are so many variations of their use, I could write an entire post about them!

 

 

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#8 WOSS Suspension Trainer
Another great tool for home workouts, an awesome way to increase the variability to body weight workouts, which are the best type of workouts to be doing in the early postpartum period. This trainer comes with an anchor to put through a door frame rather than having to screw it into the wall or ceiling.

 

 

I’ve used all of these products almost every single day, or at least with every workout since having Nugget. I found they made my life easier or more comfortable as it related to being a new mom. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

 

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fitness, motherhood, pelvic health, Self Care

No Time for Exercise? Start Here to Restore your Core

The number one reason mom’s don’t exercise is they don’t (think they) have time. They are busy with baby (or babies/kids) and next thing they know the day is over. Well there are things you can do in your everyday activity that can help restore function without adding ‘exercise’ to your to do list.

  1. Get off the couch
    Duh, right? Well I don’t mean get up and exercise, I mean sit on the floor! Couches and chairs are designed to keep us comfortable, even in positions that our body is not supposed to be in for extended periods of time. So, get off the couch and get onto the floor. When the kiddos are playing and you are checking emails or drinking your coffee, sit on the floor. Just the act of getting up and down off the floor forces your body to move in ways that begin to strengthen your core stability system. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to sit on the floor. The fact is if you are on the floor, you won’t be able to stay in the same position for long, due to discomfort, and this is a good thing! Keep moving, even when you are resting!
  2. Stop using your back to lift
    Now, you might think you already do this. But you probably only take this into consideration when lifting heavy objects. Take a day, and be conscious of your body position and mechanics every time you lift ANYTHING. I’m talking, the baby, the laundry, that dirty spoon off the floor. Anything. Are you rounding your low back with straight legs? Most likely at least some of the time you are, without even realizing it. Make a conscious effort to avoid this. Whether it is hinging at the hips or squatting down, do whatever it takes to avoid rounding your low back in order to get down to lift anything up. This includes lifting the baby out of the crib! If you are too short to get baby out of the crib without rounding, then get a step stool so you can hinge at the hips to get over the rail.
  3. Exhale when you lift
    Lifting things is strenuous, which is why you shouldn’t use your back to do it, like I mentioned already. But learning to exhale as you lift anything, is the first step to engaging your core properly. Next time you have to pick up baby, think about blowing air out and lifting your pelvic floor and engaging your transverse abs (like your bracing for a punch to the gut) before you lift.
  4. Stop sucking it in
    As your reading this, are you holding in your belly? Maybe. You might do this all the time without even realizing it. I do. A lot. I am trying my best to stop, but it’s habit that has been engrained in me for years, and it’s going to take longer than a few months to stop. When you hold your tummy in, it increases your intrabdominal pressure and forces your core muscles to work overtime. In my case, this led to my pelvic floor becoming tight and spastic in order to compensate for my sucked in tummy! As I wrote this paragraph I had to think to release my tummy 3x! It’s so hard to break habits that have become subconscious!
  5. Carry your baby
    And I don’t mean in a wrap or in their carseat. I mean actually carry them, in your arms. What do you think is working in order to keep you upright while you’re holding 10-20lbs of wiggly baby? Your core! This is a natural, healthy way of building core strength. How do you think people got around with their babies before cars? They carried them! I can tell you, after a good hour or so of carrying Nugget around my whole upper body is burning and my core can definitely feel the work! And it’s not like you need to go out and find opportunities to carry your babe, I carry Nugget around the house while I tidy up. One hand for picking up mess, the other for carrying babe. Then I switch. Just like floor sitting, you can’t hold a baby in the same position for long before both your arms, and the baby get tired of it. The bonus of this is it is also extremely good for baby’s development to be held. The constant movement helps them build core strength and helps them meet milestones faster. Haven’t you ever noticed your baby immediately calms down the second you start carrying them around? This is because they need the movement too! Win-win!
  6. Let baby be your guide
    This one only really applies if baby is old enough to be somewhat mobile, but even once they are doing tummy time consistently you can model them. Babies instictively move functionally. Try to mimic their motions exactly, not skipping steps to make it easier. A lot of ‘prescribed’ core exercises are movements your baby does naturally!
  7. Walk instead of driving
    Next time you have an errand to run within 5km of your house, get out the stroller and walk there to do it! It will definitely take a little longer, but it will be like killing two birds with one stone – exercise and an errand. I routinely walk to the post office, or the bank, or the pharmacy and I feel so much better after I’m done! Plus, Nugget usually falls asleep in the stroller, so add a nap to the stack of things getting accomplished – because we all know a nap is a solid accomplishment!


Becoming healthier doesn’t always have to mean spending an hour a day at the gym, sometimes we can find ways to squeeze activity into everyday life. If you are able to start incorporating some of these changes into your daily life, your core and floor will thank you!

7 ways to Restore your Core without Exercise

fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Let go of the Ego

Let me tell you a story.

Doing my personal training classroom training, included a ‘fitness class’ for one hour at the end of the weekend. Our ProTrainer had the intention of teaching us some lessons beyond ‘how to exercise’ and she certainly did.

Now to clarify, at this point I was 3 months postpartum, had only had one session with my physio and wasn’t really supposed to be doing any sort of intense exercise. However, I love intense exercise, I am supremely competitive and cannot stand the thought of others thinking I was lazy or not ‘fit’ enough.

Before the class began, we were told ‘bring something with sugar in it, like fruit or juice. Do not bend over so your head goes below your heart at any point during the class, do not let your feet stop moving, and above all do not leave the room alone’.

I knew things were about to get serious.

I was excited. I hadn’t had what I would define as a ‘real’ workout in months. We get through the majority of the class, lot’s of squats and lunges and such, nothing I couldn’t handle. Then our instructor says “If you’ve had a baby, you’re going to hate me”.

Oh shit.

I literally JUST had a baby. This isn’t going to be good.

She coaches us to skip (without the rope). Continuously. For what seemed like forever.

Now for most of the class, this was an intense physical workout, that challenged their body and fitness.

For me it was mental.

I nearly broke down in tears during the class. She had taught us earlier in the course to ‘check our ego’. To not focus our training on ‘being the best’ or comparing our clients to anyone but themselves, and train them at the level they are at, not the level we think they need to be. It took every ounce of me to listen to that message for myself during that class.

You see, physically I definitely could have kept up with the class, no problem.

At the expense of my pelvic floor.

That could have easily been one of those moments you hear about where the woman leaves with soggy underwear, or worse, my uterus getting ready to fall out. But no one in the room knew that, all they could see was that I appeared as though I wasn’t trying. From the outside it looked like I didn’t care enough to push through the class, because I definitely wasn’t tired, and it was obvious.

This killed me.

I always prided myself on at least giving it my all. Busting my ass, so at least if I didn’t ‘win’ or keep up, at least I gave it my all when it came to anything physical. But this time I was faced with limitations. I had to have a frank discussion with myself:

Is this worth it?
Is ‘pushing it’ in this class with a bunch of people you may or may never see again worth potential life long damage? 
Is it worth sacrificing your body to prove something to these people who probably don’t actually give a shit?

And the answer was, obviously, no.

But it killed me. I hated that I couldn’t push through the discomfort. That I couldn’t just ignore what my physio said and jump until my calves gave out.

Eventually one of the assistants to the instructor came over and asked me if I was okay. “Are you leaking?” she asked. She knew. I explained I wasn’t but I was in physio and not willing to risk it, she understood and showed me some modifications to help me continue to participate without risking injury. It was at this point that I realized in my own embarrassment I had slowly moved to the back of the room. I was almost against the back wall, unconsciously hoping that no one would notice that I wasn’t fully participating. Trying to shrink back into the shadows and not allow myself to be seen as ‘unfit’ or not trying.

That was the moment I vowed to never allow any of my clients to feel like this. To never let them feel like they weren’t good enough to participate, or that their level of participation was inadequate. It was a terrible feeling that I hope I never invoke in anyone I am hoping to help. It was in that moment that I learned that training isn’t about the ego. It’s about where are you are here and now. Not where you were 6 months ago, where you were before you got pregnant, not where you were when you were 18. Right now. It’s about maximizing the abilities of your current body, today, in this moment. Some days, you might be able to bang out a circuit and feel like a rock star, other days the baby may have kept you up half the night and all you’ve managed to eat is a toaster strudel and a litre of coffee, and that same circuit feels impossible.

And that’s okay.

We have to learn to accept the here and now and forget about comparisons or being good enough. We can find balance between challenging ourselves and feeling inadequate because someone else can do it better.

We are strong even in our weakest moments.
We are enough today, tomorrow and every day.

 

Let Go of the Ego

fitness, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum, Self Care

Why I’ll Never Tell You to do Crunches

When I started my PT training, I learned that one of the exercises I needed to  perfect for my practical exam was the crunch (or abdominal curl up).

I was annoyed.

I hate crunches, doesn’t everyone?

But I hate them for reasons other than they suck to do. I hate them because they aren’t very functional, and they usually do more harm than good. And guess what? They probably aren’t doing anything to help you flatten your stomach, especially if you’re postpartum and have a diastasis recti (DR). They also can wreak havoc on your spine and your pelvic floor. Bet you didn’t know that either?

A lot of women with DR experience a ‘belly pooch’ or feel as though they still look pregnant weeks (or months) after birth. So they think, I just need to train my abs to suck that tummy in, so they get on the floor and crunch, crunch, crunch until they cannot crunch anymore. And they still  have a pooch, or sometimes it even gets worse! This is because DR is the thinning of the linea alba down the middle of the abs. The linea alba is the line of connective tissue that all of your abdominal muscles attach to, and it runs vertically from your ribs to your pubic bone, between the rectus abdominus, or 6-pack muscles. When you crunch, you increase your intra-abdominal pressure, pull on all of those abdominal muscles, and increase the tension on the linea alba. If it is already weakened, such as in DR, then you are just adding to the damage. If you’ve ever done a crunch and noticed a bulge in the middle of your belly, that’s your linea alba failing to support the pressure inside your belly.

So if this pressure can affect the linea alba, it only makes sense that it also affects the pelvic floor. In my previous post I talked about the pelvic floor being a trampoline that is stretched out postpartum. Which means, if your pelvic floor is already stretched and weak, then it will have a difficult time supporting the increased abdominal pressure created with crunches and it will delay the healing of the pelvic floor. This puts you at an even higher risk of incontinence or prolapse.

Now, my goal is to encourage women to focus on rehabilitation and training their body postpartum to be as highly functioning as possible. But, I know realistically, a lot of women will also have goals relating to their appearance, and that’s okay. The good news is repairing a DR will help in both because not only will it help your core function better, it will help reduce waist size, or that ‘mummy pooch’, which I know a lot of women struggle with.

I know I felt like my whole life changed so drastically after nugget was born, all I wanted was to feel normal in my body, to have that be one thing that was the same. So I get it, I understand wanting your clothes to fit and wanting to feel attractive to your partner. It doesn’t make you vain to feel this way. What I don’t agree with is sacrificing function in order to look a certain way, I believe we can have both! It might take a little more time and we have to let go of that ‘training ego’ that says we have to do crunches or whatever, because there are better ways of doing things.

The key to tummy is the transverse abdominus (TA), or the deepest ab muscles and learning how to engage them properly. Most people have difficulty connecting with these muscles without engaging their more superficial core muscles like the obliques and the rectus. But if you’ve ever ‘sucked your stomach in’ the TA is what you are using. It is also important to engage your pelvic floor when you engage your TA as they work together, which I learned from The Pelvic Floor Piston: Foundation for Fitness when I did the program. The core muscles are a team and you have to train them together in order for them to function well.

Now you don’t have to be training to practice working with your core. The core is always on, always part of your daily movements. If you didn’t have your core, you wouldn’t be able to stand up or lift anything, or breath or cough. In fact, once you’re a mom, it’s even more important that you learn to engage your core through your daily activities. Think about how much you lift in a day, your baby, laundry, groceries. That’s all lifting! These are perfect opportunities to practice engaging your core and sneak little workouts in throughout the day. Think about lifting your PF and bringing in your TA every time you pick the little one up & every time you carry a load of laundry. Pretty soon you’ll get better and better at being able to feel those muscles and engage them appropriately. If you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and can’t connect with those muscles no matter how hard you try, I encourage you to seek out a pelvic health physio in your area who can help you learn to use them properly.

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While I am in the process of obtaining my PT certification with prenatal/postpartum specialization, I’m not quite there yet. Even then, I won’t be able to help everyone, but I don’t want that to hold you back from reaching your goals. My lovely friend Lorraine Scapens over at Pregnancy Exercise has most generously offered to give my readers a 10% discount on her programs that I used when pregnant and still use postpartum; Fit2BirthMum & Birth2FitMum as well as her other programs Super Fit Mum & No More Mummy Tummy Challenge. Simply enter the discount code ‘HMHB‘ at checkout to get your 10% off!