Why the 6 Week Check is Not Enough

Part 3 – Why the 6 Week Check is NOT Enough

CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN APRIL 2020

I am writing this blog in the middle of the Corona Virus lockdown in April 2020. So, I’m not even sure the 6 week checks are being carried out.  However, it is important that we still discuss ‘Why the 6 Week Check is NOT Enough’. This may be reassuring information to those who are missing the check and for those reading this at a later date, then this will still be useful information.

The 6 week check is not enough in that it isn’t designed to assess a new mum in terms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction or Diastasis Recti. Two key issues when it comes to returning to exercise post birth.

My personal experience

It may seem quite a bold statement to say this. However, from my own experience and the feedback received from many of the post-natal women I have worked with over the years I can confidentaly say that the check is not enough. The reason being, that the focus at these checks is very much on baby and not the mum.

Many women countdown to this check. For some it represents being able to get back to some normality (although what is the norm now that you have a baby to look after!). Others are keen to return to exercise so it is the moment they have been waiting for, to be told they can resume normal activities.

Being told that you can resume normal activities may not be a problem for many, as their normal may be doing very little. However,  this poses a problem for many too.  Those that want to return to pre pregnancy exercise and activities or those who want to start an exercise programme for the first time. I can tell you now that at 6 weeks post natal, your body is not ready to run, crossfit, lift heavy weights or take part in any other high impact activities.

Why is it not enough?

This is not a criticism by the way,  it is just the way things are. GP’s are under pressure to see all their patients in a short space of time. The 6 week check is no different with a minimal amount of time allocated.  There is barely time for an in depth chat let alone a hands on assessment.

In summary, the 6 week check is not enough because:

  1. Your GP does not ask what your normal is
  2. They won’t discuss what type of exercise you want to do
  3. A hands on assessment for Diastasis Recti is not usually carried out
  4. Your GP will not screen you for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Without the above, they aren’t truly able to tell you that can you resume ‘normal’ activities / exercise safely.

THE IDEAL SITUATION

In an ideal world, every new mum would have a full post-natal assessment with a specialist women’s health physio post birth. Some  countries do offer this as standard, but not here. However, you do have access to specially trained Post-Natal Fitness Professionals. They can assess you for Diastasis Recti and screen you for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. They can then offer you a solution themselves or if necessary refer you on to a health professional if further specialist help is needed.

Please listen to your body

Whether you have had your 6 week check, or not, please think about what you are doing. If you are thinking of returning to your pre pregnancy exercise or already have then please listen to your body. IF SOMETHING DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT IT PROBABLY ISN’T! Don’t just carry on and push through, stop, slow down and seek further advice.

 

MY TOP TIPS

If you decide to ask for help and guidance from a specially trained Post Natal Fitness Professional then please always check the trainers credentials.  You SHOULD expect the following:

  • A thorough in-depth health screen that includes questions about your birth – how you gave birth, were there 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.
  • Low impact exercises that raise your heart rate without putting unnecessary pressure on your pelvic floor
  • Working your core during functional movements, there shouldn’t be a plank or sit up in sight!

A specially trained and experienced Post Natal Fitness Professional WILL NOT:

  • Allow you to start an exercise programme without in depth screening
  • Look blankly at you on questions around tummy gaps, pelvic floor issues
  • Prescribe any high impact work either in the warm up or main part of your programme – jumps, sprints, full burpees, running to name just a few
  • Prescribe abdominal work such as crunches, oblique twists, full planks
  • Allow you to do any exercises that make your tummy bulge or pelvic floor leak or feel heavy.