Any health and wellbeing tips or advice for new mums?
Start by getting out of the house. Manage your expectations organically from there – one tiny micro-progression at a time. One short walk, then perhaps a short walk plus some gentle resistance band exercises in the park, then maybe some mat-based core-restorative exercises.
Try to find a community of active mums to help you prioritise wellness within your new duties as mum, too. I offer mum and baby fitness classes in SW London called Stronger Together, which has created some of the most beautiful friendships. I get really emotional when mums graduate to baby-free exercise again… and when the babies graduate to toddlers!
You trained me after a c-section and I was wondering if you have any tips for mother’s in the ‘4th trimester’ who have had a c-section?
Feeling grief over your birth experience, however you deliver, is really common. I only recently learned that most hospitals offer maternity counselling, where you can go in and midwives will talk you through your birth and why things went the way they did. The experience of labour is such an internal one, so it’s hard to understand the big picture when you look back on it. You can also use this service if you’re expecting and nervous about birth; for example, if you have to have a scheduled C-section and you feel emotionally unprepared for it.
Beyond this service, my best advice is to connect with what connects you to others around you, not the minute differences of your labours. For a start, you also have a beautiful healthy baby in your arms, and you produced that beautiful baby. And yes, a C-section recovery comes with its own challenges. Sometimes it does reduce trauma to the pelvic floor, but on the flipside it reduces sensitivity in the layers of your abdominal muscle. Rebuilding this connection starts with similar exercises no matter how you gave birth. Walking, pelvic floor contractions and releases, diaphragmatic or belly breathing, pelvic stability exercises like heel slides and heel drops, and contralateral and core-aware compounds should be part of any postnatal fitness regime.
As an aside, I think we have a long way to go in evolving our language around C-sections. I’m really conscious not to ask people if they’ve had a ‘natural’ birth or not, as it suggests that a C-section is in some way unnatural. That seems really unfair given you provide all the ‘natural’ equipment to create, grow and feed a baby from scratch, regardless of how they physically enter the world. I’ve heard C-sections described as an ‘escape hatch’ or ‘sun roof’ delivery… I love these analogies. Go on and liken yourself to nature’s finest Porsche, mama!
Weight training is something I am trying to keep up as much as possible, moving in to my third trimester I have had people comment ‘Should you be doing that’ – but luckily for me I have had guidance from you and other expert trainers. Even when not pregnant women tend to shy away from weight training, which is an important and good workout – how did you overcome people’s views on weight training in pregnancy?
I address this subject in the book. I am lucky to be surrounded by a lot of well-informed industry peers and had, for the most part, nothing but support. However, I know this isn’t always the case. I think the best way to approach any naysayers is to be armed with knowledge.
We know weight training reduces back pain. We know it provides a safe and functional way to keep the core strong and connect with the pelvic floor through movement – both of which can improve labour and post-labour recovery. We know relaxin weakens the joints, so strengthening the supportive muscles and ligaments is essential to reduce risk of injury. We know that keeping up your own CV fitness improves blood flow to the baby and bolsters their own cardiopulmonary health both in and out of the womb. If someone unqualified challenges your decision to exercise, having this repertoire of information in mind will allow you to set them straight, and hopefully encourage them to wind in their necks!
Most importantly, I always listened to my own body. The book provides plenty of exercise adaptations because I recognise that from one pregnancy to the next, and one day to the next within that pregnancy, your fitness expectations need to remain flexible in order to accommodate vast changes in your physical and emotional landscape.