‘How on earth can I still look 7 months pregnant?’ I asked myself as I glanced at the body looking back at me after I had my first baby 2.5 years ago. There was no Yummy Mummy to be seen, just a big pendular tummy. How could this be? I had just given birth to a healthy 3KG boy as well as at least 2KG worth of placenta and amniotic fluid surely I should look slimmer?
As a health care professional I should have known better. It actually is normal to still look pregnant for 6 weeks if not more after having a baby. When you are pregnant you gain 40-50 % more blood volume. Your hormones are going crazy and fluid retention varies from hour to hour, your uterus stretches and all the internal organs ie your stomach take time to move back to their original places. All these changes take time to normalize, hence the ‘post pregnant tum’.
Eventually I got back to my pre baby weight after about 7 months. I worked hard for this but I also learnt the hard way. Straightt after giving birth the body is weak and many exercises like running can put too much strain on a weak body- the ground work is needed first. Exercises like stomach crunches are an obvious choice to get that tum back but we now know that they do more harm than good and are an absolute no-no post baby. That’s not to say that it’s not possible to return to running and that, that flat tum can’t return but there are better exercises than the crunch out there. I had many problems with my low back and pelvic floor because I didn’t exercise correctly and because I returned to running too soon. Of course I looked into how I should exercise post baby but the information out there was often conflicting and confusing. My battle to return to running and exercise was unnecessarily tricky and frustrating. That’s when I decided to take control and enrol on some courses about postnatal exercise and from here my interest in women’s health grew! Along the way I stumbled upon an inspiring article by Clare lundberg wonderfully named ‘The French government wants to tone my vagina.’
In France there is a drive to rehabilitate postnatal women. It is recognised that pregnancy is a huge ‘insult’ to a woman’s body. Muscles and ligaments are stretched and weakened, hormonal changes have huge effects, postural changes occur that need correcting and the delivery itself be it normal or cesarean can cause damage to the pelvic floor or abdomen that if not rehabilitated will cause problems like incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, low back pain, I could go on. The state fund between 10-20 sessions of physiotherapy to rehabilitate every womans pelvic floor and tummy muscles in order to prevent such complications and rightly so. A poll of 1,900 women, conducted by Netmums for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), revealed one out of three women (34 per cent) developed urinary incontinence during pregnancy and the same number said the problem continued one year on from having their baby. So isnt it about time that we invested a little more time and resources into the rehabilitation of postnatal women?
We all have much higher expectations nowadays. Not a week goes by when we arent faced with another copy of Hello or OK and the latest celebrity showing how quickly they got their post baby body back! Reality check!!!! You rarely see these women before 6 weeks. Many have nannies, therefore time, personal trainers and nutritionists, photoshop, all the things us mere mortals don’t have. They are surrounded by professionals who can advice them. I passionately believe that every woman in the UK should have the time invested in her to rehabilitate if she chooses. I want to do as much as I can to educate as many women as possible about their bodies and the benefits of postnatal rehabilitation and share how it can be done successfully and safely. Getting fit was listed as the number one goal by a whopping 63% of Netmums members, in a survey carried out in March 2015. That’s a lot of women who could be exercising incorrectly to achieve their goals! Sadly I think we are still a long way from providing the French program here in the UK. However there are private clinics like London bridge Hospital where womens health physiotherapists are providing ‘Mummy MOTS’ with a view to rehabilitating postnatal women. However not every woman can afford such a ‘luxury’ and even privately this service isn’t always covered by insurance.
On August 21st 2015 we were blessed to welcome our second baby, Martha into the world. That was 5 weeks ago. Again I looked into that mirror and saw that not so ‘yummy mummy tummy’ but with my new found knowledge, using well researched information and exercise I have every hope that I’ll regain my pre baby body back (who knows it might even be better than the original!) I see this as an opportunity to invite anyone interested to share my journey in the hope that someone else may benefit from what I do.
The information I will provide is by no means exhaustive. However they are research based and recommended by women’s health physio out there. I will often refer to Marianne Ryan’s book the Baby Bod, use the Mutusystem founded by Wendy Powell for rehabilitative exercise and often refer to the wise words of all the awesome women’s health physios from the women’s health Facebook page. The information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to point in the right direction and prove that with a little more advice and guidance any woman can rehabilitate successfully after baby.