Today, I would like to cover pregnancy and postpartum fitness. First of all, let me put you at ease by saying I’m NOT pregnant BUT there are a lot of women around me that are, so this topic just came to mind. The goal of this post is to simply bring awareness to the ongoing issue and hopefully encourage to look at this topic from a different point of view.
While pregnancy and postpartum create a new and completely different chapter of a woman’s life it is often taken lightly from a fitness point of view, and it really shouldn’t be. When we talk about postpartum fitness the first thing that comes to mind is weight loss and getting your body back. But what about the HEALING of the body that created a human-being? How does this get lost in the race for the good LOOKING body? We have this idea in the society that once the baby is out you can go back to doing what you have been doing before pregnancy as long as you “listen to your body”. But why?!
Pregnancy is a huge stress for the body, and the delivery itself creates a trauma. The muscles and connective tissues are overstretched, the hormones are all over the place… I mean, any mom will tell you that for at least one year postpartum she didn’t feel like her body belonged to her. So why do we treat it as if nothing happened?
There are so many nuances that usually accompany pregnancy and postpartum athleticism that are often overlooked or misunderstood.
Here are some examples:
- Do you know what exercises you (or your client if you are a coach) should be and should not be doing if there is an issue of diastasis recti postpartum (besides generic “don’t do crunches”)?
- Did you know that recommendation for pregnant women of not going above 140 heartbeats per minute during exercise is far long outdated and should not be promoted as a guideline?
- Did you know that incontinence affects women who haven’t had babies (and sometimes men), and that 85% of women will develop this issue towards the end of the last trimester?
- Did you know that overhead movements, jumping and running should not be implemented in MOST cases of pregnancy and postpartum?
And those are just a few of the most common issues. So simple but yet such important topics to look at and be able to screen for, but how many of us actually do that?
A big part of it is a lack of education in all branches of medicine and fitness (for ex. a Dr. who discharges a patient from the hospital with words “go back to your regular fitness activities as long as you feel fine”, along with the trainers and coaches that don’t account for all the changes that female body is going through and prescribe inappropriate exercise routine). Another part of it is social media. The feed is bursting through the seams with “get your body back” posts from new moms. And while the intention of those posts is good, the consequences are often not so much.
We also have female trainers and fitness enthusiasts that got themselves in a good physical shape soon after giving a birth. But how many are actually talking about all the behind the scenes issues that are having? And besides, nobody is claiming to be a doctor just because they are generally healthy, so why is it O.K. to give uneducated advice just based on a personal experience when it comes to postpartum fitness?
So what CAN we do?
- Educate ourselves on this particular population just like any other
- Build a better connection with our clients so that they feel comfortable sharing important details that affect their health
- Know when and to refer to pelvic floor specialists and physicians
- Work with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist during pregnancy and postpartum (most insurance plans in the US will cover the visits, at least for some time).
- Educate ourselves on what is normal and what signs of dysfunctions we should be on the lookout for. And by educate I don’t mean “google it”. I mean talk to qualified professionals in different areas of expertise..
- Let every professional work in their scope of practice. You Dr is not there to prescribe you exercise program and your trainer is not there to diagnose and treat.
AS A SOCIETY
We need to talk about pregnancy and postpartum fitness more. We need to be more aware and educated of this particular population as much as of any other (like kids, elderly patients and people with disabilities). Pregnancy and having a baby is such a huge chapter in any woman’s life and should not be overlooked and taken lightly.
With all that being said, here are some resources that helped me to be more educated on this topic:
1. Brianna Battles – “Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism” course
2. Julie Wiebe PT
3. Dr. C. Shante Cofield
I hope this post helps you look at pregnancy from a bit different angle. Using words of Brianna Battles ” Pregnancy is temporary but postpartum is forever” so it shouldn’t be treated lightly.