Last week we talked about the emotional myths surrounding pregnancy and new motherhood. This week let’s talk about a couple of physical myths. One is that you can’t do anything about how you feel and the other is that your body can totally return like an elastic band to its pre-baby state.
Physical Myth #1
The physical aches and pains of being pregnant are unavoidable.
It’s true that you are changing weekly (or even daily!) as you move through your pregnancy. Increasing weight, changes in circulation, surges of hormones and varied loads on your structure all have an effect on how you feel.
How you move throughout the day can help, especially if you significantly increase your walking time. Walking is great because it moves your whole body, particularly your glutes and hamstrings (assuming you walk fairly well and don’t strain your back when you walk. In which case a slightly different conversation is necessary). The tug of glute activation helps keep the pelvis stable and well aligned and triggers a response from the pelvic floor.
Pregnancy is a time to look at your movement and exercise habits differently to help you through the pregnancy and to prepare your body for labour and delivery. It’s called labour for a reason! It’s a time to move away from intense, hard core workouts and start a deeper, more reflective practice that addresses your pelvic floor and deep core.
Petra Fisher has a great blog post sharing her top 5 tips for a better pregnancy
Physical Myth #2
Sneeze pee and diastasis recti (mummy tummy) are unavoidable results of being pregnant and giving birth.
While these issues often show up in new mums, they also show up in men, post menopausal women and women who have never given birth. And alarmingly, pelvic floor dysfunction is becoming normalized to the point that we regularly see ads for pee pads and underwear intended to absorb urine leakage aimed at an increasingly younger demographic. Don’t get me wrong, I am in support of whatever tools you need to manage going out and about in your life, but pelvic floor issues (and diastasis recti) are related to internal pressures that are affected by how we do and do not move. Totally changeable and under your control!
Interestingly, given our more-is-better, work it as hard as you can mentality, the belly and pelvic floor usually need to spend some time releasing and relaxing. We tend, as a western culture, towards hypertonic or overly clenched deep core muscles, even when they don’t seem strong enough. Doing endless rounds of kegels if your pf musculature is already overworking isn’t going to be as helpful as you might think!
Want one quick thing to do every day? Use this video to practice hip hinging and untucking your pelvis. Chronic butt tucking is rampant and it wreaks havoc on our pelvic floors, back, and hips. No good!
There is a temptation to want to “get your pre-baby body back” as soon as possible. A lot of things have changed irrevocably in your life and there isn’t as much control as there was. All of a sudden your days are directed by a tiny despot and having your body back to its old self would be a nice way to offset that! The thing is, your body is never going to be exactly the same again. You created, carried and birthed a human being. That’s awesome. Not in the overworked “I had an awesome latte” way but in the “I am awed” kind of way.
Now that you aren’t pregnant anymore you get to hold, carry, feed, walk, rock, change and wear your new human. Those tasks all add up and may be putting a strain on your tissues. If you jump back into traditional workouts, you may be layering tension on tension, which can lead to pressure issues like diastasis recti (separation of the connective tissues of the abdominal wall commonly known as “mummy tummy), pelvic floor disorders ranging from urge frequency to incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse. None of those are fun! And they are all manageable with movement re-patterning and usually some relaxation. Mmmm. relaxation…. new mums have tons of time for relaxation….
If you are interested in the deep core re-training that might help you address any of those issues there are lots of amazing resources at Nutritious Movement (home of Katy Bowman and the no-more-kegels approach to pelvic floor work).