We will often read or say “listen to your body” (I say that all the time too) but I have to admit there is an ISSUE with this statement especially if you have just had a baby…even more so if it’s your first baby…YOUR BODY IS DIFFERENT NOW AND HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU KNOW HOW YOUR BODY SHOULD FEEL!? LOL It’s true though, you don’t know if that pain you are feeling is something normal or if you should go to the doctor. We often tend to ignore these pains and other unfamiliar feelings. We don’t want to overreact plus we are too busy to give it another thought since we have a baby to look after.
The “listen to your body” phrase is often said when mums go back to exercise after giving birth and that’s when I see a problem with it. I believe that most people think they know what their body needs after child-birth and have the best intentions for themselves but will often fall short since it is not truly understood which exercises should be done and how hard to push your body after child-birth. I went back to training way too early and I’ve learned my lesson since developing prolapse. The thing is I can’t remember (it was over two years ago) feeling that there was something wrong, I felt like my body was capable of all the exercises I did. My midwife said to me that I could start exercising “just to take it easy” (she meant well but this is another phrase I have an issue with now). So I started with body weight exercises just twice a week for 30 minutes. I started with an exercise regime after giving birth, not because I wanted to get my “pre-baby body back”, yes this was probably somewhere at the back of my mind if I’m totally honest, but mainly because I didn’t want to lose my fitness. I worked out and taught fitness classes throughout my whole pregnancy and I thought that the longer I delay exercising after birth the harder and more painful it was going to be to get back into it. Also another reason was that I was really scared of postnatal depression (PND) and I knew that exercising could help to prevent it. My husband and I don’t have family in Sydney and we don’t have much support so I really wanted to make sure I was looking after my wellbeing to decrease the risk of PND. So as I’ve mentioned I started with body weight exercises but as they didn’t really lift my heart rate, I very quickly added some shuttle runs/shuttle jogs… I did the exercises as a circuit and then in between I would run to a tree and back 3 to 5 times (which would take more or less 3 minutes). So during my 30 minute workout I would probably run for about 10 minutes, not too fast as I didn’t run through most of my pregnancy so it was challenging anyway. Just what I wanted, right? I was very much mistaken at the time – do you know what running can do to your weakened pelvic floor (PF)? I know first handed, running can weaken it even more, so much that your PF won’t be able to hold your pelvic organs anymore which can cause prolapse! Did I listen to my body and understand what it needed? I think so, everything seemed ok at the time (I can’t even remember if I was leaking when running, but if I was I would think it’s normal as that’s what other mums say). It was afterwards when I suffered the consequences and pelvic floor dysfunction. So where am I going with this? I think we overuse that term a bit. Definitely “listen to your body” when something doesn’t seem right. But sometimes “listening to your body” might not be enough. Sometimes you might need advice from a professional, in this case someone who is specialising in postnatal fitness or a women’s health physio before diving back into exercising since you might feel like you are capable of more than your body is able to do (or at least your lady bits 😉 ), especially if you were fit before and during pregnancy. And lets not forget that many mums still think that leaking is normal, that shows that guidance from professionals is needed so you know what actually is normal. Also often after childbirth your body doesn’t feel like yours anymore so how you suppose to know how it should feel?
And what’s wrong with term “just take it easy”? Well, if you are a runner for you “take it easy” might be a 15 or even 30 minute run. If you lifted heavy weights for you “take it easy” might be 40 to 50 kg squats…and even when you feel like you can do it you shouldn’t do it till your PF has regained sufficient strength. And yes everyone is different but you can’t really know the condition of your pelvic floor till you get checked by a women’s health physio.
I don’t want you to think that I want you to sit on your bum for 6 to 8 weeks post birth. You can exercise and you should as exercise promotes recovery but you need to make sure that your exercises are PF safe. And also keep in mind that if you work out a lot you can actually have hypertonic pelvic floor and this can only be verified by a women’s health physiotherapist. So “listen to your body” and “take it easy” but also make sure you speak to someone specialising in women’s health!