When mums first come to Go Mum and tell me about their postnatal return to exercise journey, it usually follows one of the following themes:
Firstly, I don’t want you to feel bad if you see yourself in any of these options. I did all three myself! We do the best with the information we have available at the time. What I want is to give women access to better information so they can make informed decisions and manage their own postnatal recovery with confidence.
Unfortunately, when it comes to postnatal recovery:
Occasionally, I get a mum that has been seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist since birth, has been diligent with their rehab exercises and is ready to explore more movement. This makes me so excited. Somewhere along the line, she has been given some great advice, or been wise enough to realise her body is not the same since pregnancy and she is giving it the time, strategies and nourishment to heal. While her progress may seem slow in the beginning, her long-term outcomes are likely to be more significant and long lasting. #bighighfive #gomum
So how can you become the master of your own recovery journey?
While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to developing a return to exercise plan, there are a few guidelines every mum can follow to have a successful return to exercise:
1. Know your body
2. Take your time, lay the foundations
3. Do your research
4. Check your trainer’s credentials
Postnatal exercise is a bit like the Three Bears. It can’t be too hard, or too soft. It needs to be just right, FOR YOU!
It can be hard to get that balance on your own. If you would like some help putting together your very own postnatal recovery plan, book in with Christine for a one on one consultation. You can also book in for our Postnatal Return to Exercise Course here, or post a question about postnatal recovery on our Go Mum Closed Group – The Go Mum Community.
Christine Percy is the owner of Go Mum! and an advocate for improved postnatal care for mothers. Her personal experience with diastasis and prolapse have fueled her interest in recovery strategies and the modifying of exercise to ensure women with these issues can still enjoy the benefits of movement.
Christine is a verified provider with Health at Every Size and is a member of the Continence Foundation and Fitness Australia.
A friend sent me a meme today that said "athletes eat and train, they don't diet and exercise" and it struck me how words that are so similar can have a very different emphasis and the power to change our perspective.
I also want you to know you ARE an athlete. Don't laugh this off. I am dead set serious. Your sport is mummying. It involves repeated heavy lifting, constant bending and lunging, holding awkward positions for long periods and you rarely get a day off, all while experiencing unpredictable sleep patterns. If that isn't the definition of an athlete, I don't know what is!
With social and mainstream media pressures to 'bounce back' and 'lose the baby weight' (I hate those terms soooo much) it is no wonder mums lose sight of making sure their nutrition and exercise choices are fit for purpose. What food and exercise choices are going to have mums back functioning at the capacity they need in order to heal their postnatal bodies and 'mummy' day-in-day-out? This is where you need to build your support team.
If an athlete was injured they would have a specific plan for rehabilitation to get them back to their peak performance. Mums deserve that too! Depending on your situation, you might need to seek professional advice from a variety of experts such as dieticians, physiotherapists, massage therapists, exercise physiologists and postnatal trainers to truly create a recovery plan that is specific to you. But don't let that long list scare you. Every mum is different and we are here to help you navigate your postnatal recovery journey with referrals to local practitioners and resources.
If you would like help with your postnatal recovery plan (no matter how old your kids are) give Go Mum! a call.
A long term client (2.5 years and two children later) rang me today to tell me that she would no longer be coming to classes. Not because she didn't love the venues, the friendships she had made or me as a trainer, but because she felt she was ready to venture into other forms of exercise. As she was singing my praises and apologising for moving on, my heart was filled with joy and satisfaction. This is exactly why Go Mum exists! We don't want to hold onto our clients forever. Instead, we strive to provide a safe place for mums to learn about their postnatal bodies, move within their physical boundaries and strengthen and rebuild in order to cater for the physical nature of motherhood and get them back doing the sports and activities they love.
It got me thinking about the reasons why mums come to join us at Go Mum Group Fitness. Sometimes it is because they have a postnatal condition such as prolapse or diastasis and need a trainer who can cater for these issues, sometimes it is because they have always enjoyed group fitness but just need to be able to do it with their kids in tow. Either way, every Go Mum client becomes part of the Go Mum tribe, welcome to come and go with each pregnancy and birth, or from time to time join in the social activities or physical challenges that appeal to them. We want each mum to chase what makes them feel good, inspires their mind and nourishes their soul. We want all mums to enjoy exercise for a lifetime, and we are proud to be a part of that journey.
If you would like to experience a Go Mum class first hand, join us for a free trial class. We look forward to welcoming you soon.
Our Go Mum trainers love connecting with women's health physiotherapists both in Brisbane and around the world. One of our favourite local physios has written this article on one of our biggest pet peeves. Thanks Bronwyn!
I have a small confession to make.
I tear pages out of magazines in waiting rooms. And it’s not because they are articles about how to look 30 when you’re 55 or the latest on Angelina or even 101 recipes with quinoa.
I rip out advertisements about continence pads for ‘Light Bladder Leakage’ or ‘LBL’!
You know the ones: ‘It’s okay women – leaking is fine – just wear a pad’. And the models in these ads have been getting younger and sexier - no longer is it only the ‘senior’ looking lady! Now it’s younger women in tight dresses. Disclaimer: I have nothing against continence aids. It’s the normalisation of incontinence that makes my blood pressure rise.
Have you noticed how subtly in the feminine hygiene aisles at the supermarkets, products progress from tampons and menstrual pads to continence pads? LBL is being used to normalise a very real problem.
Here is my advertisement: leaking urine is never fine, never okay, never normal. It is a sign that something is not quite working to its full potential in the pelvic area of the body. That wonderful hidden part that contributes so much to our quality of life. It is often a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction.
As a physiotherapist with a special interest in pelvic health, I care a great deal about those bits ‘down there’ and their impact on women’s health.
How should a normal bladder behave?
Well we should have the ability to control the functions of our bladder and bowel throughout all stages of life. This is continence. Incontinence is any loss of bladder and bowel control, irrespective of amount or frequency.
Here is a breakdown of the facts: normal bladders should hold approximately 500 mls. Each emptying of the bladder is 350-700 mls of urine. We wee four to seven times a day and may wake to go once at night.
Going to the toilet should not be urgent – rushing off, feeling you can’t hold on – nor frequent (going to the toilet more often than outlined above). The bladder should fully empty with a strong, continuous stream and no strain. And there should no urinary leakage. Yes, that’s right, you should be able to jump on the trampoline with the kids!
Your bladder should be functioning efficiently in the background. So if you have read the above paragraph and can’t recognise your bladder, you may have a problem.
What should you do?
Well consulting with a physiotherapist experienced in pelvic health is a great starting point. This involves detailed history taking and assessment of what exactly is happening for you. Treatment is based on your individual needs and may take three to four appointments over several months. And there is good research to prove it works!
Now, while I’m not advocating carte blanche magazine destruction I am suggesting that next time you are in a waiting room, spend some time thinking about your bits ‘down there’.
About the Author
Bronwyn Jest is a physiotherapist with a special interest in Women's, Men's and Pelvic Health.
Bronwyn has a positive approach to pelvic health concerns and is passionate about getting the message out that these issues can be treated effectively and people should not have to suffer in silence.
She provides management for bladder issues: stress and urgency incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, bowel issues: constipation, urgency and incontinence ,sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain, guidance for pelvic floor safe exercising, problems during pregnancy and after childbirth, advice before and rehabilitation after gynaecological and other pelvic surgery including for the bowel.Bronwyn works in her own private practice at Chermside - www.bronwynjestphysiotherapy.com.au
When not working, she enjoys exercising, reading, music, admiring (and collecting!) pottery, swimming at the beach and spending time with her husband Martin and three adult offspring.
We all know that feeling of getting out of bed the day after a workout and discovering our legs are stiff and sore as we hobble off to the bathroom. The term for it is DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
A little bit of soreness reminds us that we have used muscles we haven't used in a while or we are using them in a new way and indicates our muscles are strengthening and repairing. However we don't want this soreness to be so severe that we are in pain and can barely move.
When returning to exercise after a break (one week or one year) it can be a real shock to the system. Follow these tips to help ensure you avoid crippling muscle pain or injury.
The above guidelines are also relevant when returning to exercise post pregnancy.
Good luck! x
Join our Closed Facebook Group for more weekly tips on exercising well.
At Go Mum! we are famous for having a friendly and supportive exercise environment. But don't take our word for it. We asked Rachel, a Go Mum mum about her experiences of motherhood and exercise.
1. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have two children. Caitlin is three and a half and Thomas is about to turn one.
2. What do you most like about being a Mum?
Watching them grow and develop their personalities. Caitlin is now at an age where she can come out with pretty funny comments and ideas. Yesterday when I was trying to get her to talk she told me that she had lost her voice and that her mouth was in her leg! I love sharing with them things that I enjoyed as a child with my parents, be that blowing bubbles from soapy water in the bath with Thomas, or craft adventures with Caitlin.
3. Were you nervous about getting back into exercise after having a baby? If so, why?
I don't remember being nervous about getting back into exercise but I was a bit apprehensive about how I would manage to exercise whilst looking after a baby. Thomas was two months old when I did my first class at Go Mum and I remember that when he got a bit unsettled I popped him in the carrier for a while until that no longer worked and then Christine gave him some cuddles and he was fine! I've not had to worry about juggling exercise and childcare since as Christine is wonderful at helping out.
4. How long have you been training with Go Mum! Group Fitness?
Since January 2016.
5.1. Before starting with Go Mum! what level of understanding did you have about the importance of core & pelvic floor strength for pre and post-natal women? (out of 1-10, 1 being no understanding, 10 being a guru!).
I'd say a 2. I had some idea it was important but didn't know why. I remember going for a walk on my first day home after getting out of hospital with Caitlin (she was born by c- section) and I felt like I'd run a marathon before I got to the end of the road! After having Thomas I eased back into it much more gradually and through Christine have learnt lots.
6. What do you enjoy most about training with Go Mum! Group Fitness?
The friendly nature of the classes - everyone is supportive of one another - and the fact that I know my children are happy whilst I am exercising.
7. What are your main fitness goals for 2016?
To fit exercise into my life each day be that a Go Mum class, a walk or a swim. I like to mix it up!
8. Tips or tricks for new mums getting back into exercise
Know your limits - don't push your body if it doesn't feel right. And most of all enjoy! Exercise can be the last thing you feel like doing when you're sleep deprived but rarely do you feel worse for doing some.
9. What are you most grateful for as a mum?
Having two happy and healthy children and being able to watch them grow. I am so very lucky.
Thanks Rachel! We love having you and the kids in class and we will see you soon.
It can be daunting walking into a new class or gym but we have your back. Our trainers love helping out with your kids, and our classes are filled with everyday mums that are there for safe, fun, kid friendly exercise. We hope to see you in class soon.
This article was kindly written by a Go Mum! client, Kate. She shares her story in the hope of helping other mums realise that they are not alone and that there is a light at the end of the postnatal depression tunnel.
Post Natal Depression and Anxiety (PND) is far more common than most would think. I suffered PND after the birth of my second daughter but didn't after the birth of my first.
I initially spent approximately three weeks in the Post Natal Disorder ward at Belmont Hospital when my youngest daughter was about 6 months old. I was admitted as an involuntary patient. I simply wasn't coping. My youngest wasn't sleeping very well, I struggled with parenting my almost 3 year old and couldn't cope with any kinds of additional stresses that I normally would be able to. I kept telling myself I should be able to cope, after all I didn't have any problems after the birth of my first daughter. I thought I just had to keep going. But I hit a wall. I got angry. Angry at myself and my family.
I finally agreed for my family to have a home doctor visit me. She told us about Belmont's facilities for PND patients. It is an 8 bed ward mother and baby unit. I was breastfeeding and believed it was the only thing I was good at so I did not want to be separated from my daughter. I spent one night at the Royal Brisbane Hospital psych ward (which was a scary experience) and the next day I was transferred to Belmont Hospital (which was like the Hilton in comparison).
I was put on anti depressant and anti-psychotic drugs and received some amazing therapy. There was generally a midwife and psychiatric nurse on each shift so support was always available. I was assigned a psychiatrist who helped me identify how my PND developed and helped me work through these issues.
PND is an underlying hormonal imbalance that can be made worse by stressful events. This was my case. I spent 3 weeks at Belmont and commenced a course of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Once home, I started to put into action some of the coping techniques I was taught and continued to go back for my course.
All went well for a few weeks until some stressful events triggered me again. I couldn't let them go, I wasn't sleeping very well, I got angry. I ended up back at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and then Belmont. My medication was increased and I spent a further couple of weeks as an inpatient. I was determined to get better. I still am.
I am enjoying being back at work, engage in regular exercise and am doing well. I have also become much better at accepting help when it is offered and not trying to manage everything on my own. I have no plans to stop my medication and believe we need to start talking about these experiences, to educate and help others.
About the Author
Kate is a mother of two and long term client of Go Mum! We thank her for her willingness to share her story and encourage all mums to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or don't feel like themselves.
Below are links to excellent resources on postnatal depression.
Also, our Go Mum! Advisory Board Member Amanda Bryen is a clinical psychologist that specialises in the treatment of postnatal depression and anxiety and does home visits.
In our lives before children, we often don’t anticipate the chaos and overwhelm that one tiny human can bring! Without a doubt, the most challenging time I have ever experienced in my motherhood journey was the post-birth period.
As an organized, timely professional this rattled my usual calm and collected self. I suffered bouts of postnatal and antenatal depression with my first two non-sleeping reflux babies. When I was pregnant with my third child, I made a decision to be more deliberate and intentional with my parenting, based on my experience with my first two boys. This has let me be the mother I always desired, non-sleeping reflux baby, and all!
Here are some of the things that you can do to survive the post-birth period:
Own your parenting ability
We need to OWN our parenting abilities, and that we are the perfect mother for our baby. We know how they prefer to be held, where their ticklish spots are, the songs that make them smile and the exact furrows of their faces when they frown. This is the parenting skill that we need to trust – we are the person that knows our baby intimately, and therefore we are the best one to know their needs.
Release yourself from unrealistic expectations
We are often high performers, with equally high expectations of ourselves before we have children and place the same expectations on ourselves pre- and post-birth. The baby will sleep, we will finish ‘xyz’ project, have endless coffee dates and a spotless house. Our babies never read the memo!
It takes time, and more often than not, trial and error, to work out what works for your baby, and every baby is different – even in the same family. We cannot expect to immediately ‘get it all’. As new parents, like any profession or job, it takes time to learn the ropes.
I was always a classic over-committer, until my third baby came along. Like many new mums I was a tired, dairy machine struggling to keep up with my older children’s school and kindy activities. I learned to start saying ‘no’ or at the very least re-negotiate the level of my involvement.
My first step in setting boundaries as a new mum was to establish some breathing space so that I could rest, clear my head and determine what I had the time, energy and space to do. Once I became clear on what I could realistically manage, it became easier to set my boundaries without feeling guilty for saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’.
The other side of the coin is to know when to say ‘yes’. Offers of meals, running errands, dropping older children home – say yes! I used to think I would be imposing or asking too much of someone if I said yes, but from a practical perspective it’s rarely as much of an impost as we imagine it to be.
People offer because they want to lighten our load and give us a chance to rest occasionally, not because they think we cannot manage. It’s a sign of friendship and a genuine practical offer of support.
Ask for support
This is hard, and I have been guilty of going it alone, particularly with my first two babies. Ban “I’m fine” and “I’m just tired” from your vocabulary – particularly with yourself. Take out a piece of paper and ask yourself “How am I feeling? What do I need?” – write down your answer honestly.
It is normal to feel tired, upset and overwhelmed in the early days – the key is to know what you need to do to resolve these feelings. It may be a nap, a hug, a good cry or some strong emotional support. Reach out to your “no-judgment go-to person” and ask to be supported.
Importantly, if you find these feelings of overwhelm aren’t subsiding talk to your MCHN or GP for some additional professional support.
Lastly, Be kind to yourself
We are our own harshest critics, and it is easy to get caught up in what’s not working, rather than what is. Motherhood is exciting, joyful, challenging and fulfilling, all in the same day! Take time to savour each day and just enjoy the precious moments with your little one.
About the author
Michelle Keeffe is a mother of three boys and understands the highs, lows and chaos of balancing motherhood, business, study and life. She is a passionate life coach who supports expectant and new mothers in their transition to motherhood and beyond.
When she isn’t building Lego or chasing her youngest out the dog door, you can find her at www.speedoflifecoaching.com.au or www.facebook.com/SpeedofLifeCoaching
Photo credit: Emotive Images (http://www.professionalphotographybrisbane.com/)
Mums often ask me "When can I return to running?, How long does it take for abdominal separation to heal?". These are tough questions to answer. Every woman's body, birth and lifestyle is different and will all have an impact on postnatal recovery. For some it will take 6 months, for others, it can take years.
The important thing is to be patient, know your body and how it has changed and to take a progressive planned approach to postnatal recovery. Getting quality, personalised advice from experts such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and qualified postnatal trainers will ensure you don't do damage that will delay your recovery and you will be able to lay strong foundations for future health.
There are lots of mummy exercise options out there but unfortunately some of them are downright dangerous. If you are a mum looking to return to exercise (regardless of when you had your baby) here are 5 indicators your exercise class might be doing you more harm than good:
1. No Pre-Activity Questionnaire
If there was no pre-activity questionnaire (PAQ), or the PAQ didn't include questions relating to pelvic floor and abdominal separation then run (or walk) for the hills. Trainers use PAQs to get information on their client's health status and to modify exercises accordingly. If they are only asking you about heart disease and joint pain, then they aren't getting the full picture and it may be an indicator that they aren't equipped to provide postnatal safe exercise.
2. They Get Embarrassed Talking about Vaginas
If your trainer can't discuss pelvic floor issues without whispering and looking at their feet, then they probably haven't been participating in pelvic floor education or hanging out with women's health physios. And if they look at you blankly when you ask them about modifications for prolapse or diastasis recti you are definitely in the wrong place.
3. They Worship Burpees
If your exercise class includes high impact exercises like box jumps, burpees, heavy lifting and running without providing low impact options then it isn't a pelvic floor and abdominal safe environment. A good trainer will be able to advise on techniques to reduce intra-abdominal pressure and get you results without placing you at risk of injury.
4. They think Core Work is all about Sit Ups
If you haven't got the memo yet, crunches (aka sit ups) won't give you a flat tummy. In fact, if you have abdominal separation sit ups could make it worse. Postnatal core training should avoid full planks, crunches or twisting while holding heavy weights and should focus on functional exercises and posture that encourage the transverse abdominals (deep abdominals) to to activate correctly.
5. They Love Competition
They use competition between participants as a motivation strategy. This might seem like harmless fun, but the only way participants can listen to their body and adjust their exercise accordingly is if they feel supported in doing so and wont feel pressured to "keep up". Motherhood is a tough gig and having an environment that supports your mental as well as your physical health will have you feeling good and enjoying your time exercising.
When looking for a postnatal provider, check their qualifications, trial a class and don't be afraid to refrain from doing any exercise that you think is dangerous or counterproductive. As always, we recommend mums get a thorough assessment from a women's health physio before returning to exercise so they have a good understanding of where their body is at and can pass that information onto their trainer.
At Go Mum! Group Fitness we aim to provide you with the knowledge and physical foundations to return to your pre-pregnancy fitness activities sooner and safer. Check out our range of postnatal exercise programs and group fitness classes and if you have any questions about postnatal fitness, join our closed group on Facebook - Go Mum! Community.
About the Author
Christine is a mother of two and the head trainer at Go Mum! Group Fitness. She is passionate about restoring health and balance to the lives of mothers. She is a member of the Continence Foundation of Australia and is registered with Fitness Australia.
You can find her on Facebook or Instagram @GoMumGroupFitness.
WE recently had this question raised within our Closed Facebook Group (Go Mum Community) and thought it might be useful for mums everywhere.
RESPONSE FROM ADVISORY BOARD PSYCHOLOGIST AMANDA BRYEN:
Thank you for your question – it is a good one.
The first thing to ask your friend is: “How long have you been feeling like this?”
Let her know that the Baby blues occurs a few days after the baby’s birth, and then will go away after 3 or 4 days (maximum one week). The Baby blues are very common, it is said to be caused by the big hormonal adjustment happening in the woman’s body.
However, if the new mum continues to feel very emotional and ‘out of sorts’, ‘not myself’, extreme fatigue, irritable, irrational thinking, sad, down, angry, anxious, and/or has mood swings, and it has been going on for more than two weeks and is affecting her life, then it is definitely not the ‘babyblues’, it is more likely to be PND.
See the BeyondBlue website for information and facts about perinatal disorders – weblink:
What to do and say to encourage her to seek help:
“I think it would be a good idea to get some extra support. Have you thought about talking to your GP about things? The doctor may refer you to a counsellor. There’s also a quick 10-question mood assessment online at BeyondBlue”.
Weblink to online assessment:
All the best in your endeavours to help a new mum – you are doing the whole family and community a wonderful service!
Clinical Psychologist, Brisbane.
Hi! I'm Amanda - Clinical Psychologist and owner of Caring 4 Mums. I offer a dedicated perinatal service for expectant mums and new mums & dads (antenatal and postnatal care). My services range from caring for the carer (new mums), infant care, parenting information, education & strategies, through to therapy for anxiety, sleep deprivation, birth trauma, anger, and ante/postnatal depression (PND).
My focus is to provide mums and their families with an approachable, sensitive, and professional service and my home-visit service provides a truly convenient option for new parents.
At Go Mum! we are constantly learning and seeking out the best women's health advice and local practitioners. In this blog you will find articles from women's health practitioners that are passionate and experienced in their fields. We hope you enjoy the blog and encourage you to support these local businesses.