Pregnancy is a big deal! Not only are you preparing to bring a human into the world (!) your body goes through a multitude of changes along the way. This incredible process invites you to experience your body and your life completely differently. The life aspect likely happens instantly as you are immersed in the experience of caring for your newborn baby. The body aspect becomes important at varying stages of the game depending on the person. I have seen mamas who are right in my office at two months post-partum saying they want to get their core back, and I have seen women who had babies 40 years ago and have had nagging back pain ever since and didn’t know why. Many shades of mama in between too of course but the one thing all the women have in common is wanting to love their body after baby.
Patients have told me they feel like there are no muscles in their belly anymore, or that they don’t have the same power or endurance that they used to. Many women talk about having a sore and tight back and or a sore and tight neck. One of my good friends said that her core muscles felt ‘disorganized’ and ‘like they needed to be woken up again’.
It is common to struggle with peeing when you don’t want to – feeling like you need to brace yourself if you sneeze or laugh.
As a new mama reconnecting with your body after having a baby is not easy for many different reasons. The first and biggest one is that no one tells you about this! I must say, the information is out there more and more thanks to pro-active health care providers such as midwives, physiotherapists, and physicians, but it is not enough until every woman knows that specialized rehab is something she can do for her own health and quality of life.
The second reason this is not easy is that it is literally not easy! I have very body aware (physiotherapist) friends who have had babies and struggled afterward. Even though they know this is something they can do, and have the knowledge of what they should do, without external cueing they found it very hard to do.
The third reason is related to the first because there traditionally hasn’t been a lot of information about how to reacquaint yourself with your body after having a baby, society has tended to normalize a lot of the side effects of an untended post-partum body. A great example of this is the absorbent underwear I see advertised in women’s magazines in case you pee a little (or a lot) when you don’t want to. I’m sure these are a lifesaver for many but I am also sure that many women would not need them if someone were to teach them how to properly utilize their inner core muscles.
Ladies – you have options.
Those muscles are NOT gone forever. You do NOT have to live with peeing your pants every time you laugh. You CAN do a plank again. But you will need some guidance and it will take time.
It starts with seeing a professional with experience in this area. For any woman who is pregnant or has had a baby, I recommend seeing a pelvic health physiotherapist at least once. This profession is growing quickly and there are pelvic health physios in most major centres. They will provide you with a rich source of education and likely a series of exercises to help you reconnect your core and pelvic floor muscles. No matter how the baby comes out (C-section or vaginal birth) your core and pelvic floor have changed through the process of pregnancy and delivery.
Having a thorough assessment done will bring to light any issues that could become a bigger problem down the road.
If you don’t have access to a pelvic floor physio or if you have seen one and they have graduated you – the next step is to see a physiotherapist who is well versed in core rehabilitation. They will carefully assess you and will work with you to rebuild optimal muscle firing patterns.
Seeing a professional is priceless, this is an opportunity to take care of yourself at a time in life when that is ultimately less of a priority. It is empowering to know that you can make a change in your body and everything is just easier when your body works better.
If you can’t see a professional or are curious to learn more there are many phenomenal sources of education out there. Instagram has proven to be a wealth of information actually! A few of my favourite accounts are @bumppelvichealth, @mommyberrieshealth, and @karephysio. These women care so much about helping women that
they provide an abundance of free information. I have learned so much from them over the past few years.
As your body changes know that you are not alone.
If you are in pain or don’t feel at home in your body know that it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are professionals out there who would be so happy to help you that they are providing free information online. We are continuously changing the narrative for women. Issues that were once taboo to even talk about are now being openly discussed and studied. Best of all, solutions are being found and prescribed so that women can live their best lives and learn to love their bodies again. If you have any questions arising from this article and or if you are looking for a physiotherapist in your area email me – I’m happy to help. Bodies are amazing and are often just waiting for a nudge in the right direction to heal, strengthen, and thrive!
Heather McNeil is a registered physiotherapist and fellow of the Canadian Academy of Manipulative Physiotherapy. She has successfully treated many women who were suffering from aches, pains, and weakness after pregnancy and loves working with this population. Her practice - Feather Physiotherapy is in Williams Lake, BC. When she is not in the clinic you can find her out trail running, on her yoga mat, out checking cows or curled up by the fire with her cat and a good book.