Getting my body back- the 4th trimester

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This week my boy turned 8 weeks! Wow, where has that time gone? We’ve settled into quite a nice routine, helped along by my 4 year old, Lauren, having started school- we HAVE to have a routine! Life feels great!

8 weeks also means I’ve had my ‘6-8 week check’ from my GP and the “sign off” to essentially get back to my life- doing whatever I was doing pre-pregnancy. The sign off, where society, social media, celebrity suggests we should be back in our jeans, back to ‘boot camp’ and forgetting we’ve just pushed a baby out of ourselves. From 5 weeks post birth, I already had clients asking whether I’m back teaching classes yet, when I’m going to start treating people again. After all, our body has ‘pinged’ back to where it was before- right?

Wrong! For me, and as should be for every new mum, this is just the start of a long journey to ‘getting my body back’. I don’t mean fitting into my jeans, getting down to my pre-pregnancy weight, getting my 6-pack back…this is about healing my body, restoring my body to a state where I can function without the risk of causing damage, being kind to myself, and above all for me- making sure I hold myself back…

 

For those of you who don’t know, after I had Lauren, I was left with a small diastasis rectus abdominis (tummy separation) from which I developed a small umbilical hernia from doing exercises I just wasn’t ready for. I also was left with pelvic floor dysfunction, a small prolapse (where your internal organs start to protrude through your vagina) and stress urinary incontinence (yes, I would pee my pants if I ran, jumped, sneezed or coughed!). And I never really fully addressed these things with the correct support until my second pregnancy. So I knew I needed to take recovery seriously this time- after all, we only have one body- and mine is also vital for my career!

Following this pregnancy, I was scared about what I would have to deal with. My pelvic floor felt great immediately following birth- good connection, and the prolapse felt OK- I completely put that down to the work I did during pregnancy with my physio Emma from Physiomum. My tummy, I was a little more worried about- I was sure my hernia had worsened, my diastasis was big (initially I couldn't measure it well on myself as it was wider than my hand), and I could feel my intestines through my gap. It did not feel good, and I just felt like I had no core control whatsoever. In the first two weeks, my prolapse worsened...I was overdoing it! I was upset, angry with myself for doing too much, and scared. However, winding things back and making sure I didn't overdo things where possible, meant things improved down below, and slowly my diastasis started to lessen too. But clearly I'd have a lot of work to do to "get my body back".

 

For me, the first month was about my family- getting to know Mattie, spending quality time when I could with Lauren, and settling into our new normal. The next month was about Lauren starting school and us all finding our groove. To be honest, I didn’t really feel I had time for much else!

It was also MEANT to be about me doing all the right things…but I am human and I didn’t do as well as I intended. I did some of the right things…maybe even a lot of the right things…but could have been better. So I’m trying not to beat myself up about it (although I do!) and buck up my ideas now! When I had just given birth to Lauren I knew nothing about what I know now about the so called 4th trimester…but I’ve since trained in Advanced Postnatal Core Restore and Functional Exercise, and am in the middle of learning about Optimal Nutrition for Postnatal Recovery, both with the wonderful Jenny Burrell from Burrell Education, and know there’s so much more to postnatal recovery than just “doing a few Kegals when you remember”.

 

NUTRITION IS KEY! After all, we can’t build a strong house on weak foundations. What we put into our bodies is so important for making our bodies strong, healing our tissues, getting our body back. I’ll talk much more about this in future posts! This is definitely a "could have been better" for me...but all those tempting cakes people kept on bringing us... I'm back "on it", though, and this was my healing midmorning snack, and lunch today- a green smoothie, and protein packed smoked salmon omelette stuffed with spinach. Yum!

 

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The extent of my exercise so far has been focusing on how I breathe, integrating my pelvic floor muscles into my breath pattern (squeezing them up AND letting them go!), and just really trying to connect with my body again. And it should have been about posture in my day-to-day life, but I fell down on this one too! I’ve tried to be posture aware, knowing how important it is for recovery, but I’ve developed an awful slouch- a combination of the position we adopt as a new mum, tiredness and the lack of support I have from my core. But with a posture like that, I’ll never heal my diastasis. So I’m back “on it”.

 

Monday was a milestone point for my recovery in my own mind…I had my first Mummy MOT physio appointment. Mummy MOT practitioners are a group of highly trained womens’ health physios who specialise in assessing and treating the pelvic floor and tummy following pregnancy. I met my Physio, Emma from Physiomum, through work, but started seeing her for treatment during this last pregnancy. She was amazing supporting my issues through the pregnancy, and I couldn’t wait to see her on Monday to see how my body was coping following the birth, and to get a plan of action for my rehab. I was delighted to hear that my prolapse hadn’t worsened (it’s about a stage 1- at it’s worse during pregnancy it was about stage 2) and my pelvic floor muscles were OK (but of course need lots of work!). My diastasis is ‘significant’- around 3-4 fingers (so improved since birth!), and I’ve poor control, which I knew. We’ve stripped everything back to a few very basic exercises. Even these exercises I’m struggling to do really well- I have to really concentrate on my form- which just shows how I am not ready to do any more than this right now. Irrespective of how 'fit' I was pre-pregnancy/ pre-birth.

 

And of course soft tissue work. I ache. I honestly ache all over. And I know I have so many restrictions left over from pregnancy, and emphasised by being a new mum. Restrictions that are limiting my body's ability to 'ping back'. I've been doing some releases on myself, but you really can't beat a good massage for really getting to those spots, and also feeling good! I'm a picky client! I struggle to find therapists who I believe will have the knowledge and deliver the goods to the standard I expect. Which means I don't get treatments as often as I should, and haven't yet had a postnatal massage. But, I've found someone locally who has the postnatal knowledge and training...now to find the childcare and get myself booked in!

 

While my recovery started immediately following birth, I really wasn't "on it" like I wanted to be. I'm now feeling focused, determined, and most of all, positive about getting my body back! I'll be using my blogs partly as a way to share my experiences, tell you about the ins and outs of REALLY "getting your body back" after a baby, but also, as a way to keep myself accountable...YOU can help me make sure I practice what I preach! I look forward to welcoming you on my journey to find my body again.

Anna xx

 

Anna Curtis is a fully qualified and insured Sports and Clinical Massage Therapist, and Personal Trainer, specialising in Pregnancy and Postnatal. She is owner of BodyResults and co-owner of TeamMama

 

 

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