Birth, motherhood, pelvic health, postpartum

Don’t Put up With Leaking During Exercise

I’ve written a lot about my experience postpartum, and care I believe women should receive in the immediate postpartum period, but what about down the line?

What if you are 1, 2, 10 years out from your most recent birth?

What if I told you, once postpartum, always postpartum?

Growing a birthing a human fundamentally changes our bodies for the rest of our lives.

sneeze-and-pee

Do you relate? You would not believe how many women I’ve heard from who describe symptoms of pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction years after their last baby.

What do I mean by PF dysfunction?
Well there are varying degrees, but symptoms can include but are not limited to:

Peeing or leaking urine when you sneeze, jump, run, laugh or cough.
Feeling like you always have to pee, no matter how long it has been since you last went
Dribbling urine after you get up from the toilet.
Feeling like there is still urine in your bladder after you finished peeing.
Feeling like you have to bear down or push on your abdomen to fully empty your bladder.
Feeling like you have to push on your perineum in order to fully empty your bowel.
Pain in your perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) with activity or prolonged standing.
Unexplained lower back pain.
Painful sex or decreased sexual pleasure.
Feeling as though the vagina is too tight or small for sexual penetration.
Feeling of laxity in the pelvic area.
Inability to consciously contract (or Kegel) or relax the pelvic floor .
Inability to distinguish between a bowel movement and passing wind.
Inability to control passing of wind or bowel contents.
Protrusion of internal organs out of the vaginal opening.

If you can relate to any (one, or more than one) of the symptoms listed above, it is possible you may be experiencing some degree of PFD.

mom-wet-pants

I know what you’re thinking; ‘But I’ve had babies, don’t all women just pee themselves after they have babies? Isn’t this normal?

The answer is a resounding NO!

If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would.

But what about all of those Poise, Always, and Depends commercials? They make it seem like it’s just something we have to accept.

mjaxmi1kmte3ytdmndfmotm2mtuy

Better buy some diapers, because you’re never going to keep your pee in again.

No.

No. No. No. No. No!

While urinary incontinence (one of the most frequent symptoms of PFD) is common it is not normal!

Some of you might now be saying “Well, that’s what I thought, and I told my doctor and he/she said ‘Just do your Kegels, you’ll be fine.

There seems to be a huge disconnect in the medical/obstetrical world when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction. A lot of physicians and midwives seem to think that as long as your organs aren’t falling out, you’re doing okay.

This is not the case! There is help!

Can I get a Hallelujah?

So what can you do?

Do I really have to say it again?

I will. Because I can’t say it enough.

Pelvic Health, or Women’s Health Physiotherapy!

You’re thinking “But how? If my doctor doesn’t think anything is wrong, how can I get a referral?

Most Pelvic Health Physios don’t require a referral*!

Now you’re asking “How Do I find a physiotherapist?

Here is a list of websites that offer search within Canada to find local physiotherapists who specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor:
Pelvic Health Solutions
Pelvienne Wellness
Physio Can Help**

Once you’ve worked with a physio to determine where you are at, in addition you can work with a personal trainer who specializes in postnatal training to get your strength back! That’s what I am here for! I am now taking on a few clients to start building my personal training career and experience! Feel free to contact me for more information, either through this website, or on my Facebook page or Instagram page.

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And please, please, do not think you have to live with wet panties for the rest of your life!

*some benefits/insurance plans do require a physician’s referral to pay for the service
**General physiotherapist lookup – not specific to PF
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!

motherhood, Self Care

5 Tips to Feel Awesome and be a Better Mom

You’re a new mom. Maybe this is your first baby, maybe it’s your second, third or twelfth.

You drag yourself out of bed every morning, way too early. You’re cranky and irritable. The fatigue is getting to you. You snap at your husband and feel like everyone and everything is out to annoy you.

You feel like you’re in the trenches and you’re just trying to make it through the day, everyday, bedtime can’t come soon enough. Once it does, it’s all you have to muster up something to eat before crashing on the couch, or going straight to bed yourself.

Does this sound like you?

It was me too. We’ve all been there. In a rut, don’t know why we feel so awful, even when we have a decent night’s sleep (well, relatively compared to those newborn days).

Well I’m here to tell you there are things you can do to help. And they’re not hard, you just have to do them and be consistent.

  1. Walk
    You’re home with the baby, you’re tired, he’s cranky. It’s the middle of the afternoon and bedtime seems lightyears away. Get dressed (because who are we kidding, I don’t get dressed unless I’m leaving the house), pack the baby in the stroller, grab the dog if you’re feeling extra ambitious, and get out and walk. Around the block, to the store, grab a coffee, maybe run a few easy errands to make it feel like your accomplishing something. Just walk, it doesn’t matter how long, but the more you do it, the longer you’ll find yourself going, and the better you will feel after each outing.
  2. Drink Water
    This one is especially important if you’re breastfeeding. If you feel hungry, even though you just ate, you’re probably thirsty. Try your best to keep water bottles around the house and full. Drink while you feed the baby or during his naps. Studies show that even 1-2% decrease in hydration can lower your mood, make you feel frustrated more easily, decrease your attention span and increase headaches. Sound familiar? You’re probably dehydrated.
  1. Sleep
    I know, I know. You’re laughing at me right now. But seriously. Try your best to get as much sleep as you can. If that means laying down with the little ones at nap time, do it. The laundry can wait. Studies show that people who are sleep deprived feel more angry, sad, stressed and mentally exhausted. Again, Sound Familiar?
    One problem moms typically say impacts their sleep is they can’t fall back to sleep after being up with babe. One strategy that has worked for me is laying in bed, eyes closed then thinking of 5 things I can see, 5 things I can hear, 5 things I can smell, 5 things I can feel, then 4 things, then 3 things. If you aren’t asleep by 1, then start again, although I’ve never made it past 3.
  1. Take Time for Yourself
    Even if it’s a 10 minute shower, allot time to yourself with no responsibilities. Hand the baby off to Dad, turn on some music, relax and pretend you’re not in charge of anyone for yourself, for a set period of time, every day. If you have the chance, maybe make this the opportunity for your walk. If your partner works, when they get home, give them and the kids a chance to spend some one-on-one time together and take off, even if it’s just for a quick jaunt around the block. The key to this is to shut off your mind the best you can. Don’t worry about what needs to get done, what errands need to be run, and most of all don’t worry how hubs is surviving with the kids without you. He can do it, I promise!
  2. Eat Well
    I think this is the most important one. You have to fuel your body in order for it to run at peak performance. Choose nutrient-dense foods that give you the most bang-for-your-buck. We all know how difficult it is to find time to eat something when worrying about little ones, so make sure when you do have the chance to eat, it’s something of value. Try to eat something green every day. I love salads but I find them too time consuming to make and eat, so instead I usually whip up a smoothie with a handful or two of spinach or kale in it once a day. I’d like to say ‘eat clean’ because it’s what most people understand the best, however I don’t believe that there is one ‘clean eating’ definition. I think it varies from person to person and depends on how you feel. For example, I feel like garbage if I eat too much bread or wheat based carbs, so I limit those for myself. I would never recommend that for another, though, because they might do fine with bread but feel like crap when they eat cheese. So they key is to pay attention to your body, your mental state and your energy levels and see if certain foods affect them. The best way I can think of doing this is to keep a food diary, I find it easiest to use an app like MyFitnessPal or something similar, but if writing it down on paper works for you, do that!

Notice I didn’t put exercise on this list? I don’t think it’s 100% necessary. If you can’t manage to nail down these 5 things, you’re not going to benefit much from exercise, in fact it might make you feel worse. Exercise is a form of stress, and if your body isn’t equipped to handle that stress, you’re not doing yourself any good. If you can manage to these 5 things, I promise you’ll have more energy, feel happier and have more patience and compassion for your little ones.

Birth, fitness, pelvic health, Pregnancy, Self Care

Pregnancy Fitness – How I did it

In previous posts I mentioned that I maintained working out throughout my pregnancy. Now let me preface this by saying I am not a doctor, midwife, physiotherapist or personal trainer (working on this one!) and I am simply explaining what I did, what worked for me and how I felt doing it. Before I got pregnancy  I was working out regularly, lifting (relatively) heavy weights and doing some high intensity workouts.

Most women experience a dip in stamina in the first trimester, and I was no exception. Even though I only had minor morning sickness I definitely had the fatigue, all I wanted to do was sleep. And I did. Because why not? I was smart enough to realize that come 8 or so months from then I wouldn’t be able to sleep all day, so I did! In addition to magnificent, glorious, magical sleep (can you tell I am writing this post-baby, with a 2 month old who still enjoys multiple night wakings?) I continued on my merry way working out the way I normally do. I lifted weights 1-3x per week, depending on my work schedule, and walked 25-60 minutes with the Big Brown Dog 4-6 days a week. I did not do traditional “cardio”, mostly because I fucking hate running. Hate. Despise. Loathe. I tried it once last year in preparation for the Tough Mudder. I managed to scrounge out a few 8km runs and deluded myself into believing I found the ‘runners high’ but nothing stuck.

I digress.

The moral of the story is until about 14 weeks, nothing changed. I worked out normally, lifting ‘heavy’, walking. Living life. Somewhere around the beginning of the 2nd trimester I decided to purchase the Fit2Birth Mum program from pregnancyexcercise.co.nz. I cannot say enough good things about this program. It felt exactly as hard as it should, I ended my work outs sweaty, but I never felt overworked or out of breath. The best part of her program is the owner, Lorraine Scapens, also hosts a Facebook group for each program and answers questions from users about their specific needs in a timely and friendly fashion.

In addition to the Fit2Birth program I continued my weight lifting, progressively lowering my weights as the weeks went by. For some perspective I started deadlifting and squatting approximately 150lbs, and my final weight lifting session was somewhere around 34 weeks and I was lifting about 65lbs, read: less than half my normal, but probably way too heavy for some other women. I also focussed on maximizing the strength and flexibility of my pelvic floor. I did many stationary squats (think peeing in the forest) as this has many benefits for pregnant ladies, which I will get into in it’s very own post later on down the road.

Now for the benefits, at least from my perspective.

As mentioned previously, around 9 weeks or so, I made a lengthy journey across the country to share the good news with my family in person. This included many hours sitting awkwardly in an airplane. I think it’s no coincidence that this is also when I started experiencing sacral-iliac joint pain. I thought this was the end of the world as I knew it. Working out keeps me sane. I knew a lot of women start having SI joint pain, and they are hooped. No more workout. No more walking. No more functioning. Done. So I snuck down to my nice little basement gym and did the easiest workout I could muster, and prayed and went to bed. The next morning before I got up, I was so paranoid that the soreness from my workout would be the death of my in addition to my newfound SI pain. I got up. I was sore. But no SI pain? Magic!

Well if you think about it, SI joint pain is usually born from a poor interaction of the sacrum and the ilium, two bones on the back half of your pelvis. Relaxin allows the ligaments holding the two bones together to loosen, allowing the bones rub painfully. One would think, strengthening the muscles around these bones would help hold them in place properly, decreasing the amount of pain. This was certainly true for me. This carried on throughout my pregnancy, every time I got lazy and didn’t work out for a while, my hips would get sore, I would work out, the pain would go away.

I also believe working out helped Nugget be in the perfect position for birth from early on. At my 20 week ultrasound his head was so low in my pelvis the tech had to all by smash my bladder in order to see it well enough to take measurements. This was true again for my follow up ultrasounds at 24 and 34 weeks. As soon as I knew that he was head down, I squatted until I could squat no more! Squatting is a functional movement. Back in the day (re:100+ years ago) humans used to squat regularly. Think hunting/gathering/child rearing/harvesting fields etc. Our bodies were designed to squat! It makes so much more sense physiologically than bending at the hips. We are so much stronger in a squat! Also, squatting helps open up the pelvic bones and lengthen the pelvic floor to allow the baby’s head to descent into the pelvis and make it less likely to flip. I’ll explore and share my love for the squat in it own post later on, as I could go on forever!

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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!