THE FIRST 6 WEEKS OF MY POSTNATAL JOURNEY

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GOALS

1.) Flatten mummy tummy – BY EXERCISING CORRECTLY AND SAFELY

2.) Wear a Baby Bjorn baby carrier comfortably and functionally

3.) Run the 5k Chocolate Run- February 2016 & continue park runs on a weekly basis

4.) Complete the Badger half marathon- July 2016

5). To enjoy my maternity leave as much as I can!

INTRODUCTION

Pregnancy is a wonderful gift. Holding my babies for the first time was one of the best experiences of my life. However pregnancy and childbirth come at a price. As well as the not so awesome looking ‘mummy tummy’ there is a possibility that we can be subjected to pain in the pelvis, back, pelvic organ prolapse or a leaky bladder if we do not look after ourselves and rehabilitate.

Both of my children were delivered by cesarean (c-section), Oscar was an emergency c-section and Martha was planned. Having a planned c-section was not a decision I took lightly, it’s major abdominal surgery and not to be underestimated. The recovery is painful, limiting and second time around it seems much harder, especially with a heavy 2 year old to deal with on top. The recovery and healing process is also much slower than an uncomplicated vaginal delivery so I am going to have to learn to be patient (something I’m not!).

From day 1, I made a promise to myself that I would put aside a little time everyday in order to optimise my rehabilitation. So just what have I been doing?

PAIN RELIEF AND SWELLING MANAGEMENT  

After a few days I was placing crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a damp tea towel on my incision (always check with your midwife before doing this) twice a day for 10 min. It didn’t have a huge effect, but it did take the edge off the pain and swelling. Following Marianne Ryan’s advice I also invested in a rather pricey and passion killing pair of medical grade compression shorts.

http://www.solidea.com.au/maternity/high-waist-shorts-for-recovery-detail

These are not the same as abdominal binders which effectively squeeze the tummy too tight and prevent the abdominal muscles switching on. Marianne researched this area thoroughly and found that shorts that offer 15mmHG of compression which reduces to 12mmHG at the top are the best option. The shorts increase lymphatic drainage and speed up healing, decrease pain and the elastic introduces muscle memory to enable a faster recovery to the abdominals. I started wearing them 4 days post op when I felt a little more comfortable. Ideally you need to wear them daily for 3 months. I must confess I probably wear them about 5 days a week as the weather’s been so hot. What do I think of them? Well, so far so good – and i’ll keep you posted. 

AVOID THE SCALES

There is no point weighing yourself until after your 6 week postnatal GP check up. Hormone levels affect fluid retention, the uterus takes 6 weeks to return to its normal size so the scales will fluctuate significantly. Trust me, it does nothing for the morale so hold out if you can. I did however take a picture of myself at 2 weeks in order to monitor my progress over the next few months. Here I am at 38 weeks, a week before having Martha.

IMG_5109and here I am 2 weeks after having Martha

IMG_5249

EXERCISE

When to start…..

Most Mums want to recapture their pre-pregnancy bodies but we must be careful with the level of activity and type of exercise undertaken. As mentioned before, complications such as pain in the pelvis, back pain, pelvic organ prolapse or a leaky bladder may occur if this rehabilitation isn’t done correctly. As a general guideline, after a c-section you can start to do some gentle pelvic floor exercises once the catheter has been removed. If you’ve had a vaginal birth this can be anywhere from between a few hours after birth to a few days – but please check with your medical team first as this will vary depending on any complications you may have experienced.

Do it right…..

1 in 3 women do not activate their pelvic floor correctly so whilst it is still very important that you do this daily visit a women’s health physiotherapist to ensure you are doing so correctly (we will talk about this visit in more detail soon.) This post by Diane Lee may help in the activation of your pelvic floor:

http://www.dianelee.ca/article-training-deep-core-muscles.php#pfm.

What will you be exercising…..

Exercises during the first 6 weeks are designed to awaken and find the muscles that have switched off during pregnancy. The key is to retrain your ‘core muscles’ and lay the foundations before strengthening  anything else. If this doesn’t happen then the likelihood is that your tummy won’t flatten and you are at risk of secondary complications such as pain in the pelvis, back pain, pelvic organ prolapse or a leaky bladder – maybe not today but in the future. First however a bit of background on the muscle group we’re going to be working on:

Your “core” is a group of four muscles consisting of:

  1. Your pelvic floor
  2. The inner layer of abdominal muscles – transversus abdominus
  3. The deepest layer of back muscles – multifidus
  4. The diaphragm.

Essentially these four muscles hold our torsos together.  Let me refer you to the amazing Julie Wiebe’s video blogs where she describes the important partnership the core muscles have. Her other blogs are all well worth a look and will help you understand your body much better.

http://www.juliewiebept.com/category/video/page/2/

Concentrate on your breathing and posture…..

The key to recovering our core strength relies on breathing correctly. Again I’ll refer to Julie Wiebe’s video blog ‘the diaphragm and or internal pressure system’. It is so important to breathe when exercising, moving, lifting etc. So many of us hold our breath and this causes an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This is the amount of pressure inside your tummy. It is influenced by the way we breathe and good coordination of our abdominal muscles. These 2 things get knocked for six during pregnancy and need to be retrained. Breathing in, increases intra-abdominal pressure, making it harder for the core muscles to work and placing extra pressure on the lower back and pelvic floor muscles. Exhalation does the opposite.

Core muscles work best when you are in a good posture. When you are pregnant, as you can see from my photos your large tummy can cause all sorts of changes in your posture. This needs to be corrected and your body re-educated. Simple exercises can help with this and it is important to check your alignment as you continue to exercise.

Both the Mutusystem and The Baby Bod book address these issues and as a result are the program I am following.

The Mutusystem was designed by Wendy Powell, a mum and postnatal fitness instructor -https://mutusystem.com/about-us

‘ MuTu System training and programmes have a holistic philosophy, which deals with posture, functional exercise (IE metabolic resistance exercise techniques that make you truly strong, lean and ‘fit for purpose’), optimal nutrition for health, hormone balance and energy, specific yoga techniques to help re-settle the pelvic organs,  tone and heal the deep muscles as well as relieve stress and promote optimal respiration… AND at the foundation of it all, a complete 4-Phase program to train (find) and then strengthen the muscles of your core.’

Her’s is a 12 week  program and can be done in the comfort of your own home. I would definitely recommend it, however if you feel at any stage that it is exacerbating problems like incontinence consult your GP or women’s health physiotherapist. The Baby Bod book by Marianne Ryan is also well worth getting your hands on. It allows you to understand your body better and also has a workout program. http://www.babybodbook.com/. Both are very affordable.

How I have been exercising…..

Over the past 6 weeks I have been doing the preliminary baby bod program and core phase 1 from the Mutusystem. I have been activating my pelvic floor daily, attempting to recruit my tranversus abdominus and correct my posture (easier said than done) whilst stretching and working on my breathing techniques through these exercise programs. I have also been walking a lot- perhaps a little too much sometimes which I have paid for with a little back pain so you must get a balance. Ideally aim to start with a 10 minute walk twice a day and build up as you feel able. Movement encourages healing so I can not recommend it highly enough.

That is it for now. I have my GP 6 week postnatal check tomorrow and my first weigh in since being pregnant. Stay tuned!

 

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