It wasn’t long ago at a Postnatal Exercise class that we got onto the subject of Prolapse! It was this conversation that led me to write this Blog. I won’t go into too much detail here are about the conversation, but the outcome was that two mums (who were attending their first postnatal exercise class with me) came to me at the end of the class and said they thought something was wrong down there! They could relate to some of the symptoms I had mentioned so I advised them to see their GP. The outcome was that they both had a Prolapse!
These two ladies had both been attending another higher impact class before coming to my postnatal exercise class. We will never know if they already had a prolapse before attending this class or if it was attending the class that caused the prolapse – yes this can happen! Let me explain… the pelvic floor takes some time to heal and strengthen following pregnancy and childbirth, so jumping up and down on something that is weak is obviously not a good idea especially when the role is to hold your pelvic organs in place!
Just in case you don’t know what a prolapse is, it occurs when the pelvic floor is too weak to do its job of holding the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel or uterus) in place. The end result being that they fall out of place.
Why am I telling you all this? Well there are a few reasons really:
- We are too embarrassed to talk about things ‘down there’ and we really should be talking more about these issues and educating women on the signs and symptoms to look out for.
- You could be walking around with a prolapse and not even know it. When things don’t feel right we are very good at saying ‘oh it’s just because I’ve had a baby I feel like that!’
- Women are returning to high impact exercise far too soon after childbirth when the body is just not ready.
If you go to a class calling itself POSTNATAL, you really should expect the following:
- Thorough in-depth health screening that includes questions about your birth. How you gave birth, if there were any complications, do you have any pelvic floor issues.
- A check of your tummy muscles to see if you have separation at the midline (this is called Diastasis Recti). For an experienced postnatal instructor this SHOULD mean that the workout is adapted to suit you.
- Consideration that you may be VERY sleep deprived, low in mood and therefore need to gain energy from your workout and not feel totally exhausted!
- Functional movements that are useful for your job as a mum, such as reaching, lunging, pushing, pulling.
- Exercises that raise your heart rate without allowing you to pee your pants! This is not normal despite what the adverts tell us about wearing a pad! You must let your instructor know and seek help via your GP or Women’s Health Physio.
- Working your core during functional movements, there shouldn’t be a plank or sit up in sight!
Please proceed with caution if:
- NO screening takes place before you start the class
- You get a blank looks on questions around tummy gaps, pelvic floor issues
- There is a high impact warm up
- There is any high impact work – jumps, sprints, full burpees, running
- You are expected to do abdominal work such as crunches , oblique twists, full planks
- Any exercise makes your tummy bulge or pelvic floor leak or feel heavy
An experienced postnatal instructor will not do any of the above!
- Don’t just assume that because you ticked a box on a questionnaire that you had a baby recently that the instructor is post-natal qualified. Always check their credentials
- Just because a class says you can take your baby doesn’t mean it is postnatal! Again, always check the instructor credentials.
- Your instructor should know their stuff and be approachable. They should also be able to tailor and progress exercises to your very specific needs
I am by no means trying to put you off exercise, quite the opposite in fact! I just want to give you the information you need to enable you to make safe choices when returning to exercise following childbirth. I would highly recommend that you do exercise after having a baby, when it is safe to do so of course. Exercise helps our bodies to heal and recover from pregnancy and childbirth we just need to make sure we are doing the RIGHT TYPE type of exercise at the RIGHT TIME.