Wow. How quickly this year is flying by! We are halfway through spring already and the fitness industry is really picking up, especially outdoor bootcamps. Speaking of bootcamps, in September I thought I’d do some “competitor analysis” and check out some local bootcamps for mums.
Lets just say that the result was rather interesting. The first thing that struck my mind was that neither businesses had any questions about birth, pelvic floor, abdominal separation or postnatal recovery in their pre-screening forms. One of the forms only asked how old the children were, and the other simply asked whether it was vaginal or c-section delivery. I was more hopeful about the latter – hopeful that the trainer would screen me about my births/pelvic floor/ recovery when I arrived on the scene. …. but she didn’t.
In fact she gave me so much attitude when I decided to volunteer the information myself. I wanted to be open with her so I told her I was a trainer and wanted to train with like-minded trainers to refer to and enjoy a workout of my own every now and then. In no way at all did I sound threatening. But she did not like it, or me, or both. She started talking over me about how she had completed her Postnatal certification 20years ago. I thought to myself…. :a lot has changed since then… just like anything in the fitness industry, there’s always new research and trends and we have to stay updated..) At the time she was setting up with 8kg + medicine balls and dumbbells so I asked her what she does when someone has prolapse. (Pretty much every woman who has had a vaginal birth has stage 1 prolapse – cystocele, rectocele or uterine – with or without symptoms and I just wanted to know what her thoughts were). Her response was – “what is prolapse? ”
….. Do i really need to say more?
During the class I also mentioned a number of times that I couldn’t do certain exercises she was asking me to do – running, deep goblet squats, burpees, power lunges. She said why not? and I said “because they weaken the pelvic floor and I’m not fully recovered yet”.
The only “core” exercise in the workout was a russian twist. She stated that this was a core strengthening exercise and that it was safe for the new mum who was there who’d had a c- section recently. I refused to do it and just did lying down heel taps instead. (A russian twist is not a core exercise – it works the rectus abs, inhibits & contributes to diastasis recti and causes downward pelvic floor pressure and a lot of tension on the c-section scar).
The funny thing about both these trainers and possibly you yourself hold this notion as well – that they both thought I was modifying the exercises because I was not fit. But in fact I am pretty certain that I was stronger and fitter than all the other mums at both these bootcamps. Having Pelvic floor weakness and diastasis recti doesn’t mean you can’t be fit!! You just have to be smart about it.
My lovely friend and fellow trainer came along with me to the other bootcamp session. This one was held in Balmoral. She has prolapse. We decided to let the Balmoral trainer know since he didn’t ask any questions when we arrived. His response?
“Prolapse of what?”
My friend and I just looked at each other. OMG. Is this guy serious? He is training mums three times per week at this location and numerous times at another location, making them run and jump, and lift weights no lighter than 7kg and he doesn’t know what prolapse is? He is no doubt causing many of them!! I even questioned whether he encourages new mums to come along. “Oh yes, everyone” was his response.
He was a friendly guy and it was obvious he had a good rapport with his clients. But what both these classes lacked was a balance in the training program (there was no core or pelvic floor exercises and no back exercises, just a lot of shoulders and legs and running) and this guy relied heavily upon the fact that myself and my friend “know what we are doing” even though he didn’t know we were trainers. Most of us probably wouldn’t know how to modify the exercises we are given and we would expect that the person we are paying, the one who is meant to be the ‘expert’ to modify and understand this for us. If you are a new mum and you joined a mums n bubs session, would you not assume this and just perform what they are asking without a thought?
There were women who were regulars at these classes who were most definitely unaware of the impact this style of training was having on their bodies. In the years to come, I know the frustration they are going to experience. You may be a new mum and you may have started exercising again. You probably think you have no pelvic floor symptoms. But Pelvic Organ Prolapse can occur in women who have had a C-section, and anyone who has had a vaginal delivery, at anytime of their life. It is increasingly common in young women who have had a baby around the 12-18month postpartum mark, due to a change in hormones, decrease in breastfeeds and an increase in physical activity.
It is not something that is openly talked about. Sure, you’ve probably heard other mums and may have even said yourself that things “feel very different down there” after birth. Most women put their head in the sand and try to ignore it. I mean, it is normal to have incontinence and feel nothing (or pain) during sex after having kids right? Right?
I think Prolapse fits into the same category as having your first period, losing your virginity, and the pain of childbirth. There is a kind of silence surrounding it and guilt. Nobody can really prepare you for the ‘bigness’ of these experiences, and there is a reluctance to prepare the young women and first time mums properly for them by being honest, open and supportive. The medical staff don’t mention it during your antenatal visits, nor the GP at the six week check or anyone involved in postnatal care.
There is so much confusion out there around pre and postnatal exercise and I am on a mission to clear it up. I truly believe that my education has equipped me with the knowledge to be the best in programming postnatal exercise and understanding the postnatal body!
So here are some tips for you to keep you from hiring trainers who are just going to hurt your body:
- A trainer (whether postnatal certified or not) should ALWAYS ask screen every woman who has ever had a baby for Pelvic floor weakness, diastasis recti, and birth details. Its extremely sad that those who are postnatal certified still don’t get this.
- If you sign up to a mums n bubs class or any gym and they don’t ask these questions, then find another who does!
- As women approach menopause whether you have had a baby or not, the pelvic floor and incontinence needs to be screened as the change in hormones increases the risk of prolapse
- Be in tune with your body! if something does not feel right, do not ignore it and do not be afraid to tell it to your instructor!
- If you are pregnant quiz your midwives and OB on prolapse and how you can avoid it
- The physio check of your Diastasis recti in the hospital after the birth of your baby is not always accurate. The uterus is still going down and returning to its original size, and there is still an open wound inside full of tissue and blood and fluid that wont’ be fully gone for another five weeks or so. I have heard stories where the physio has diagnosed only 1 cm but infact months later the new mums has three or more centimetres. It may not sound like a lot but in terms of core function those two centimetres may as well be difference between being able to walk or run, and being able to peform the daily tasks of lifting a pram, carrying a baby and bending down constantly without pain or risking prolapse and in exercise selection! What exercises you chose with diastasis recti will make or break you.
- See a women’s health physio after the birth of each baby is the only way to accurately check your abdominal and pelvic floor strength, activation and to know whether you are at risk of prolapse.
- If the trainer ask you to do sit ups and jumping – run the other way!!
- Just because a business is successful doesn’t always mean it is right. Think of McDonald’s. Its super successful, but is it healthy? …. BBG, Crossfit, local businesses – are they healthy exercise for new mums?? What kind of exercises are they asking you to do? Do the cue the pelvic floor? Are they based solely on losing weight or on recovery and healing and wellness? Do they screen you for pelvic floor weakness and check your diastasis recti?
I am so passionate about this subject. I truly hope that things start to change in australia regarding postnatal care and education. If you would like to restore your core after pregnancy and birth You can do so in the comfort of your own home for only a one time payment of $39.95. The “Ultimate Core Restore” ebook is a guide for women who want to heal their diastasis recti, pelvic floor and deep core, while getting fit, losing weight and learning everything they need to know about the postnatal body. This guide is not only for new mums. You can still “restore your core” in the years and decades after children, and is especially beneficial for anyone approaching menopause. And you can still get or be FIT!
I’m looking forward to what October and November are going to bring!