Happy Mother’s Day!
By Renée Malyon
It is known to be one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life…do you ever feel completely ready for it?…many women say no. Motherhood is a ‘rite of passage’ as some call it; a truly life changing event. Here at Auckland Physiotherapy, we want to acknowledge all of the women out there that have embraced this journey and salute you this Mother’s Day.
Working in the Women’s & Pelvic Health field for the last 16 years has taught me so much. The resilience, willpower and emotional strength women have is such an understatement… it is a testament. I am incredibly passionate about supporting women and work in a very holistic way to ensure you feel seen, heard, and nurtured.
We have a Women’s Health team along with other niche services and products to support you throughout this journey. No matter what stage you are - be it pregnant, early postnatal, or even ‘years gone by’, a ‘WOF’ session with Anna or myself can assist you in treatment, prevention and upscaling your daily function and wellbeing.
What treatments do we offer?
We can provide manual therapy and rehabilitation for spinal & pelvic pain (PGP/SPD)/sciatica/sprains/strains, dry needling, Clinical Pilates, preparation for labour, abdominal re-training following C-section or Rectus Abdominis Diastasis, pelvic floor re-training, urinary and bowel dysfunction, prolapse management, bladder retraining for overactive bladder, internal manual therapy, and rehabilitation post prolapse repair, hysterectomy and other pelvic floor surgery. Guidance for return to sport and exercise is also included within this, along side our other physiotherapy colleagues, running assessment and strength and conditioning / Pilates team. Mindfulness and Somatic Trauma Therapy may also be something you may want to explore with me – check out the website for more information.
Furthermore, our Women’s Health and Pregnancy Support shop on our website includes products such as belts, pelvic floor devices, SRC shorts (for pre and post natal pelvic/abdominal support), Pilates and exercise equipment, period underwear and more. We advise that you contact the team for a call if you have questions about one of these products and have not yet been assessed.
What exercise can you do during pregnancy?
Pregnancy can feel like a marathon at times so the fitter you are before pregnancy, the better you may generally feel during pregnancy and afterwards. There are many forms of exercise you can do before and during pregnancy to help prevent and treat musculoskeletal pain, and pelvic floor dysfunction. Firstly, Pilates-based exercise, continuing cardiovascular activity and specific strength exercise that your body is used to is advised. It is important that you listen to your lead maternity care professional as some exercise is not indicated for particular issues.
There are sound guidelines that support exercise during pregnancy (e.g. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Sports Medicine Australia). Women must ensure they have been cleared to exercise, and a physiotherapist or trainer with specific qualifications in exercise in pregnancy can help guide you.
Looking after your pelvic floor muscles is essential to help prevent leakage from the bladder and bowel ante and postnatal, to help safeguard from prolapse and may improve your sexual function. It is quite important to know that you are doing these correctly and that they are actually appropriate for you.
What forms of exercise do we recommend post-partum (and what to avoid)?
The first thing to understand postpartum is what your body has been through. Hormones and the growth of your baby has affected a lot of the soft tissues and therefore how your joints function. This can have a significant effect on the stability system of the body.
For the first 6 weeks, take it easy, let your body heal, and the soft tissue recoil without overloading it. Avoid heavy lifting (apart from your baby) for the first 6 weeks and wait until you have been cleared to do so. Learning to isolate the pelvic floor and transversus abdominis muscles with your breath in different positions is a nice starting point. Walking for cardio with gentle progressions then moving onto other non-impact cardio e.g cycling, cross trainer from 6-8 weeks. No other abdominal exercises should be performed until you have a good deep transversus abdominis activation and proper breathing technique.
Rectus abdominis diastasis can occur in up to 80% of women in the third trimester. It is therefore very important to avoid sit-ups, planks and heavy loaded exercise or running/impact work until it is almost closed. Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between abdominal muscle weakness, rectus abdominis diastasis and pelvic floor dysfunction/incontinence.
Return to impact exercise is often the most common topic women are concerned about. Some of the hormones that influence soft tissue laxity during pregnancy can remain in the body until 6 months after you stop breastfeeding. Therefore, the effects and vulnerability to the pelvic floor can continue up until this point. Research is now saying to avoid any impact exercise for the first 6 months at least post-partum, but this in individualised to each person and their health and exercise history.
Still have questions? Give our team a call!
If you are experiencing symptoms that you are concerned about and you are not sure what to do, we are here to help you. Book a complimentary consult in with Anna or myself, or book in for an initial first appointment women’s health consultation for when suits you. We also offer telehealth video call appointments to get you started.