Awesome Ab Tip #2

Ensure Your Ribs Don’t Flare

My first tip for achieving “Awesome Abs” was Stop Drawing In Your Belly Button. So, how did you go? Did you manage to relax and soften your belly more often when you sitting, lying or whenever you were not loading your body, and letting your core muscles relax when they weren’t required?

As discussed in my first tip, whatever it means to you, having ‘awesome abs’ is something we should all work towards, especially from a functional perspective, so that we can live an active, healthy, fulfilled lives, both now and in the future.

So, what’s tip #2?

It’s another really simple tip: Ensure Your Ribs Don’t Flare!

But, what is rib flare?

Well, during pregnancy, as the abdomen stretches and the uterus (where bub hangs out) enlarges and expands up, many expectant mums experience the baby pressing up under her ribs and chest.

The growing uterus obstructs the movement of the diaphragm, which is needed for deep breathing. With the increased pressure in the diaphragm, due to it’s inability to move as freely as it normally would, the rib cage is pushed out sideways and forwards, resulting in rib flare (think of a bell and the shape it is at the bottom), and also generally rib pain.

Ok, but why should you ensure your ribs don’t flare?

Reason #1:

When the ribs are flared, the spine in upper back, or thoracic spine, gets pulled forward into extension. This affects the ability of the shoulder blades to slide across the ribs, and affects shoulder range of motion and stability.

Reason #2:

When the ribs are flared, the spine in lower back, or lumbar spine, also gets pulled into extension, which results in your pelvis moving into an anterior pelvic tilt, a similar position it was in when you were in the later stages of your pregnancy. Essentially your stomach is pushing forward – not a great look, especially when you’re not pregnant!

This pelvic position also causes your hip flexors, the muscles at the front of your hips, and back extensors to tighten, while your abdominals, glutes (buttock) and hamstring muscles will lengthen. This leads to tightness in the front of your hips, discomfort or pain in the lower back and weakness in the glutes.

Reason #3:

When the ribs are flared, not only is the spine out of a more neutral, or more optimal functioning position, the abdominals also get turned off, or relaxed, which results in spinal instability and a “pouchy” tummy (not the look your wanting to achieve!)

Reason #4:

Finally, when the ribs are flared, you are unable to breath efficiently, particularly when on the breathe out, which in turn makes it more challenging for the body to stimulate the parasympathetic “rest & digest” state, and will keep you in a state of stress! This is not good for your mental health or your digestive health!

Don’t believe me! Give it a try:

Stick your ribs out and take 3 to 5 deep breaths in and out, and notice if you can fully exhale each one. I think you’ll agree it doesn’t take long before you feel a bit wound up or stressed. Imagine being in this state all day. Or are you?

Now, try this – start by taking take a deep breath in and then exhale like you are blowing out candles on a cake. Focus on ‘closing’ your ribs and feel your ribs depress and almost soften in the way they feel. Keeping the ribs in this depressed position take 3 to 4 more deep breaths.

How much calmer do you feel?

Ongoing rib flare in the post-partum period impacts on your spinal alignment, your ability to breathe efficiently and affects the repair of your diastasis recti (abdominal separation)

Hmmm… and as we discussed in “Awesome Ab Tip #1”, if all of those areas are affected then “Awesome Abs” are just not going to happen!

So, your next challenge is to have a look at the position of your ribs, and ensure that they are not resembling the bottom of a bell – rather they are depressed or ‘closed’ towards the centre of your body.

Having a well functioning core muscle system will assist with repairing your diastasis recti (abdominal separation), improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your breathing, help restore your core and contribute to having awesome abs!

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two young children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their health and exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, women’s health physiotherapist or health professional.

Awesome Abs Tip #1

Stop Drawing In Your Belly Button!

I am not a fan of focusing on aesthetics when I start working with a new mum, especially as the majority of the gorgeous women I work with have just been on this amazing & beautiful journey of carrying and giving birth to a tiny little miracle.

However, I am aware that the majority of mums would like to reclaim their bodies after having their little ones, start feeling energised again and look the best they can, which includes having a little less around the mid-section.

But what does having awesome abs mean to you?

Does it mean having a flat stomach?

Does it mean feeling like you are strong in your mid-section and that your pelvis is not going to give way if you lift a heavy item or your lower back is going to go out without you?

Does it mean losing that ‘muffin top’ that seems to like to hang around all over your pants?

Or does it simply mean feeling good about yourself when you go out with the love of your life or your girlfriends?

Whatever it means to you, having ‘awesome abs’ is something we should all work towards, especially from a functional perspective, so that we can live an active, healthy, fulfilled lives, both now and in the future.

Drawing in your belly button, or “engaging your core”, all the time is not a good thing to do for your body.

Though it might make you look aesthetically better, it does not support your body with functioning optimally.

But why?

Our core muscle system consists of your deep core muscles, which includes your diaphragm, transversus abodminis muscle (“corset” muscle), pelvic floor and multifidus  (muscles that run between the vertebrae in the spine)

And it includes the muscles that are fundamental to the deep core working effectively, including your rectus abdominus (‘six-pack’ muscle), obliques (external & internal), gluteus maximus (buttock) and erector spinae (muscles on the spine).

For muscles to work effectively and efficiently, the need to be able to contract and relax to their full length when required and be able to work through their full range of motion.

If our belly button is drawn in the space in our abdominal cavity is reduced, and, therefore, the space for the diaphragm to contract and move down into on the inhale (breath in), which increases the pressure in the abdomen. This in turn hinders our ability to breath deeply, and, more importantly, affects the function and the demands on the rest of the core muscle system.

Think of it like a juice box. If you held a juice box gently around the side and gently blew into the straw, the air would get taken in and, if there was juice in the box, bubbles would be produced. But nothing else would happen.

Now, if you held the juice box tightly and did the same thing, the air would not have very much space to go into, so you would likely end up with the air and juice spirting back out the top. And, if you blew too hard, you may even see the juice box split open. Why? Because, the air has to go somewhere.

And that’s the same with the core muscle system. If your core muscle system is already pulled tight, and then it needs to contract to withstand more pressure, the pressure builds within the abdominal cavity, and there’s no where for the pressure to go except for up, down or out!

So, the result can potentially be:

  • pelvic floor dysfunction
  • prolapse (sagging or bulging of the pelvic organs into the vagina) or
  • hernia (an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place).

And, well, a sucked in tummy sags when you finally breathe out and relax.

Therefore, we need to be able to turn on the core muscle system on when it is required, and relaxes when it is not needed.

We need to ensure that when we push, pull or perform any movement where there is an increase in intra-abdominal pressure in our bodies, that our transversus abdominus contracts when our core muscles engage, providing lower back and pelvis stability and preventing injury.

So, your challenge  is to simply stop drawing in your belly button!

Relax and soften your belly when you are sitting, lying or whenever you are not loading your body, and let your core muscles relax.

Having a well functioning core muscle system will assist with repairing your diastasis recti (abdominal separation), improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your breathing, help restore your core and contribute to having awesome abs!

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two young children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their health and exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, women’s health physiotherapist or health professional.

Pram Posture Tips

One of the best activities for new mums is going for a walk with their new baby in the pram. It is a wonderful way to get in some exercise, and most babies love the movement of the pram and the sights and sounds of being outdoors.

 However, the way you push your pram is very important. It may seem like a simple, uncomplicated activity. However, if you are not using good form, you could do more harm than good.

Here’s a few quick tips to remember when walking with you pram: shutterstock_235348963

Keep your body upright, or slightly leaning forward, and your focus forward not down to the ground.

Your hips should be kept close to the pram and be aligned underneath your shoulders. This is particularly important when you start including more hills in your walks, as it will help prevent back pain that can be associated with walking. And, by using this posture, you will start to use your leg and buttock muscles instead of your back. And, well, who doesn’t want stronger legs and a tighter butt!

Keep your shoulder blades relaxed with your elbows bent and close to your body, or just slightly in front of your body.

Your chest should be upright, however, your ribs should be soft and closed, not sticking out. And, your hands should be relaxed on the handle bar and your wrists should be in a neutral position. Most prams come with adjustable handle bars so make sure the handle of your pram is adjusted for you and this will ensure that you can maintain your upright posture.

shutterstock_196137764Allow your breathing to be natural so that as you breathe in, your rib cage expands, your diaphragm fills with air as it lowers, your belly softens and your pelvic floor can expand and work with the rest of the core muscles to manage pressure within the abdomen. As your breathe out, the reverse process should occur, resulting in the gentle activation of the pelvic floor and deep lower abdominals, and the closing of the ribs. This will help to support your lower back and pelvis, and ensuring that you are supporting the recovery and rehabilitation of your pelvic floor and core muscles.

Alternate swinging with one arm. Rather than keeping both hands on the pram during you walk, consciously alternate swinging one arm by your side, while pushing the pram with the other. It is more natural to swing our arms when we walk (we don’t normally walk with our arms still do we?), and this will help prevent neck and shoulder pain.

And, these same tips apply when you get the all clear to start jogging with your pram.

Check out my other post, Get The Most Out Of Your Walk, for other tips of getting the most out of every walk!

Happy walking!

 

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children under 5, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, women’s health physiotherapist or health professional.

Getting Active As A New Mum: Guidelines For The Early Months

Returning to exercise, including fitness classes, sport, running or any other high-impact activities after childbirth, may in fact do you more harm then good.

High-impact activities, such as those listed above, in the first 4 to 6 months after you’ve brought your new baby into the world may result in weakening the pelvic floor, and potentially leading to bladder or bowel issues, or pelvic organ prolapse – none of which anyone wants!

When considering re-introducing some form of exercise or sport back into your routine,  keep the following exercise guidelines in mind during the first 6 months after having your baby:

1. Include Pelvic Floor Exercises

The main function of the pelvic floor muscles are to support the bladder, the uterus (womb) and the bowel, and therefore play an important role in bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual sensation.

By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, the muscles become stronger, and therefore provide increased support for your abdominal and pelvic organs, and your pelvis and lower back, as well as preventing such issues as incontinence and prolapse.

If you want more information on why you should do your pelvic floor exercise, see my blog 6 Great Reasons To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises.

Correct technique is also crucial, which is why it is something we focus on during the 4-week NewMuma Program.

Following the birth of your baby, most women are provided with information in relation to pelvic floor exercises. If you are unsure how to do your pelvic floor exercises, seek advice from your Obstetrician, Midwife, a Women’s Health Physiotherapist or a Post-Natal Exercise Specialist.

There are also great resources available for you to refer to, such as those put together by the Continence Foundation of Australia and Pelvic Floor First.

2. Include Post-Natal Abdominal Bracing

Abdominal bracing is a light contraction of your deep lower abdominals, and holding that very light contraction while maintaining normal breathing and moving your arms, legs and/or torso. Being able to effectively brace your abdominals will ensure your lower back and pelvis are stabilised and your pelvic floor is supported.

Like your pelvic floor exercises, correct technique is crucial, and therefore it is another major focus of the 4-week NewMuma Program.

Gentle progression is also very important. If you try to progress to quickly, or miss any stages of learning to brace your abdominals, you may have underlying deep abdominal muscle weakness, which could potentially cause back pain, or place downward pressure on your pelvic floor.

3. Aim for 30-minutes of Low-Impact Activity Each Day

Walking, post-natal exercise classes and swimming or aqua classes (once bleeding has stopped) are all great low-impact activities to include when you’re a new mum.

These types of exercises are not only good for your physical health, but are also so good for your mental wellbeing and managing the additional stresses of caring for a newborn.

However, remember that this is a time when you, your family and your new baby are all adjusting to a new chapter of your life. You will be dealing with the extra demands of being a new mum, feeding and interrupted sleep.

So, be gentle with yourself. Start with short walks, about 10 minutes, then gradually increase a minute or two with each walk. Listen to your body, and ensure that the activity you include leaves you feeling energised with a lifted mood, and not exhausted.

Finally, if something doesn’t feel right, seek advice from a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, your Child Healthcare Nurse or from a Post-Natal Exercise Specialist.

4. Avoid High-Impact Activities

Jogging, running, and any activity that sees you jumping and jarring your body, which also places additional load on your pelvic floor, is considered a high-impact activity to be avoided in the first 6 months after having your baby.

Why should I wait?

During pregnancy, research shows that pelvic floor strength gradually declines, and the increasing weight of your baby contributes to this reduction in pelvic floor strength.

Further, your body releases the hormone ‘relaxin’ during pregnancy, which softens the tissues in your body, including your pelvic floor, which makes your body more shutterstock_235348963susceptible to injury or damage.

During childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles are placed under great stress resulting in stretching, and even possible damage, depending on the type of delivery.

One of the roles of the pelvic floor is to support the pelvic organs, which includes your bladder, uterus (womb) and rectum (back passage).

The ‘Boat Theory’ analogy is one way to help you think about the role of the pelvic floor muscles in supporting your pelvic organs.

Imagine that your pelvic organs (your bladder, uterus and bowel) are a boat sitting on the water, your pelvic floor. The ‘boat’ is attached by ‘ropes’, your supportive ligaments, to a jetty. If the ‘water level’ is normal, that is your pelvic floor is healthy, and there is no tension on the ‘ropes’.

As a result of pregnancy and the birth of your baby, your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and lengthened, then the ‘water level’ will be lower, and there is more tension on the ‘ropes’, your supporting ligaments.

Boats-compressedIf you do not strengthen your pelvic floor, therefore reducing the tension on the ‘ropes’ by increasing the water level, then over time the supportive ligaments can overstretch and weaken, particularly if you return to high intensity or impact activities, and you are at increased risk of developing a prolapse.

Thank you to The Continence Foundation of Australia for this wonderful diagram showing “The Boat Theory’.

Therefore, following the birth of your baby your pelvic floor muscles need time to recover and strengthen, and for the effect of relaxin to subside so that your joints and ligaments return to their original position and stabilise, which can take up to 5 to 6 months for some women.

High-impact exercise is generally best avoided for at least 4 months after the birth of your baby, to enable your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles to learn to re-activate and to strengthen. This will reduce the risk of prolapse, incontinence & chronic pelvic pain & pelvic joint injury AND prevent injuries to your pelvis, spine, hips, knees and ankles.

From 4 months on it may be suitable for some women to gradually return to such activities, including jogging or running. However, it is highly recommended that you consult with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist to ensure that your body, particularly your pelvic floor, is ready for these high impact activities.

5. Include Your Baby In Your Exercise

In the early days it is so important to spend time with your baby, getting to know them and bonding with them.

It is also so impshutterstock_381138673ortant to take the time to look after yourself, as a happy, healthy mum means a happy baby.

Including your little one in your exercise means that not only do you get the activity you require to strengthen and rebuild your body after the amazing journey it has just been through, but also enables you to spend time bonding with your little one.

Going for walks and mums and bubs post-natal exercise sessions, such as our 4-Week NewMuma Program, are great ways for you spend time with you new baby but also get the much needed activity you need to be happy and healthy.

Remember, it took 9 months for your body to grow and nurture your precious cargo, so be gentle on yourself and give yourself time to get back into shape.

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two young children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, women’s health physiotherapist or health professional.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Well, most simply, Diastasis Recti, or abdominal separation, is the widening of the gap between the 2 sections of the rectus abdominis (6-pack) abdominal muscle.

AbdominalSeparation_VectorA Diastasis Recti or Rectus Abdominis Diastasis (RAD) or Abdominal Separation occurs when the linea alba, the connective tissue joining the rectus abdominis muscle (or ‘6 pack’) at the midline of the muscle splits and separates. The linea alba is no longer able to provide tension and stability to all of the muscles of the abdomen – the transversus abdominis, obliques and rectus abdominis – which means that all of these muscles are compromised, in turn affecting the whole body aesthetically and functionally.

Studies have shown 100% of women will have some some level of diastasis of the rectus abdominis in the third trimester. This separation will be present in the days following the birth of their baby, but should resolve as the uterus reduces in size over the 2 to 6 months postpartum, which is the time it will take the uterus to fully contract.

However, though is it common condition in pregnancy, pregnancy does not cause separation of the abdominal muscles. Rather it is a result of excessive intra-abdominal pressure or loading, or years of excessive abdominal loading with poor technique. During pregnancy, there is an increase in load and, combined with shifts in postural alignment, exacerbate the deeper problem of excessive and un-supported intra-abdominal pressure.

So, what does this mean?

For women with ongoing abdominal separation it will lead to reduced abdominal muscle strength, which will compromise abdominal muscle function.

For these women this means they are more susceptible to

  • Pelvic floor issues
  • Poor optimal alignment (posture)
  • Lower back pain and injury,
  • Spinal and pelvic instability
  • Difficulty restoring tone in the abdomen (i.e. abdominal bulge or ‘pooch’).

How will I know when my diastasis has resolved functionally?

  • The abdominal separation gap is less than 2cm (2 finger-width)
  • You are free of back pain
  • The abdominal separation does not increase when attempting an abdominal curl, or ‘bulge’ when sitting or attempting an abdominal curl
  • You have regained ‘core control’ and can sustain core recruitment throughout an exercise or movement

How do I know when I’ve regained my ‘core control’?

Having core control means the following:

  • You don’t lose deep abdominal recruitment, your ‘abdominal bracing’, when performing an exercise
  • You don’t hold your breath at any stage during an exercise
  • You don’t  lose form during an exercise
  • You don’t use unwanted muscles when you perform an exercise
  • Your lower abdominals don’t bulge but rather remain flat, and the diastasis does not increase

So, how do I know if I have a diastasis?

There is a simple test that you can do to test for a diastasis, or abdominal muscle separation:

  • IMG_3862Lie on your back with your head relaxed, and with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  • Place your fingers along the midline of your abdomen (palm facing you), starting just above your belly button
  • With your other hand, place it behind your head to provide support
  • Slowly lift your head and neck, while feeling for a gap or bulge above your belly button
  • If you find a gap, you will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head and neck
  • If you feel a gap, measure the gap or space in finger widths
  • Lower your head and proceed to measure just below your belly button, 3 fingers length above the belly button and 2 fingers length below the belly button, ensuring that you lower your head between each measurement

If you identify a gap of more than 2 fingers wide, it is important that you seek advice from a Post-Natal Exercise Specialist or a Women’s Health Physiotherapist as you will require extra exercise modification and possibly further intervention.

However, even more important than the width of the gap though, is the tension in the midline – the linea alba. Contracting the muscles should create tension and resistance when you apply gentle pressure with your fingers to the midline. If it doesn’t, you definitely have some re-connecting to do.

I have a diastasis – what do I do now?…

Firstly, don’t panic! There is help out there from Post-Natal Exercise Specialists and Women’s Health Physiotherapists.

But, if this is you, then your first focus needs to be recovery of the separation and stabilisation of your spine. Overloading your outer abdominals, such as your rectus abdominis, with ab curls and planks, can increase the diastasis and potentially hinder any resolution of the condition.

Making small changes, such as stopping the habit of always drawing in your belly, or “bracing your core” (read my blog Awesome Abs Tip #1) , learning to breath optimally and making adjustments your posture and body alignment (read my blog Awesome Abs Tip #2), will contribute to the regulation of intra-abdominal pressure, and therefore decrease the load on the abdominal muscles.

And, re-engaging and strengthening muscles of the entire core muscle system, including the pelvic floor, will be important to the long-term function and aesthetics of your core and abdominal area.

Then, if you still feel you need professional guidance and support, speak with your fitness professional, if they have knowledge of the post-natal body, or make an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, midwife, doctor or women’s health physiotherapist.

6 Great Reasons To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises

 Ok, we all know we need to “do our pelvic floor exercises”, but why?

When we are pregnant, our doctors, our midwives, our girlfriends, all ask us if we are doing our pelvic floor exercises.

Once our little bundle of joy enters the world, we get told to do our pelvic floor exercises.

And, then, if we experience any issues, such as leaking, lower back pain, pelvis pain, or goodness forbid, a prolapse, we get asked, did we do our pelvic floor exercises!

But, as mums we have so many other things on our mind, plus time often does not seem to be our friend.

So WHY should you make the time to do your pelvic floor exercises?

Well, here’s 6 great reasons why:

1. Prevent Uncomfortable Leakages

I remember after having my Miss A, I was jumping on the trampoline with my Master J. I must have been about 9 months post-natal and I was horrified that I felt leakage! However, I had spent so much time focusing on rehabilitating my knee after surgery, that I had neglected another important muscle – my pelvic floor! And, yes, I should have known better.

One of the functions of the pelvic floor muscles is to keep the bladder closed, therefore stopping any leaking, which mostly happens with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, exercising, or, in my case, jumping.

And, the pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken with age, with menopause sometimes making incontinence worse, which in turn may lead to prolapse.

So, I can laugh about it now (and without concern of leaking!). But, if you don’t take the time to rehabilitate and strengthen your pelvic floor, then simple activities, like playing with your kids, become stressful, cause anxiety and can be potentially very embarrassing. And, then later in life, lead to more series issues that could have been prevented.

2. Stop Embarrassing ‘Wind’ Moments!

After you’ve had kids, for some reason, farts do become funny! (well, in my house they have!)

But, as women, we generally like to consider ourselves to be dignified human beings, especially when we’re out in public. So, the last thing we want to happen is embarrassing noises to occur because we had no control over our own body.

And, in reality, some women do find that following the birth of their little ones they have less control of this bodily function and they find it harder to hold on. This is because the pelvic floor muscles maintain bowel control as they close off the back passage, your rectum. 

Personally, I think another great reason to fit in time to do your pelvic floor exercises!

3. Prevent or Reduce Prolapse

A prolapse is the ‘sagging’ of the pelvic organs when the pelvic floorshutterstock_200938979 is slack, or weak, and therefore is unable to support the internal organs.

One of the roles of the pelvic floor is to support the pelvic organs, which includes your bladder, uterus (womb) and rectum (back passage).

The ‘Boat Theory’ analogy is one way to help you think about the role of the pelvic floor muscles in supporting your pelvic organs.

Imagine that your pelvic organs (your bladder, uterus and bowel) are a boat sitting on the water, your pelvic floor. The ‘boat’ is attached by ‘ropes’, your supportive ligaments, to a jetty. If the ‘water level’ is normal, that is your pelvic floor is healthy, and there is no tension on the ‘ropes’.

As a result of pregnancy and the birth of your baby, your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and lengthened, then the ‘water level’ will be lower, and there is more tension on the ‘ropes’, your supporting ligaments.

Boats-compressedIf you do not strengthen your pelvic floor, therefore reducing the tension on the ‘ropes’ by increasing the water level, then over time the supportive ligaments can overstretch and weaken, particularly if you return to high intensity or impact activities, and you are at increased risk of developing a prolapse.

Thank you to The Continence Foundation of Australia for this wonderful diagram showing “The Boat Theory’.

In women, there may be the feeling of a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, dragging or discomfort. Other signs may include sexual problems of pain or less sensation, recurring urinary tract infections, your bladder may not empty as it should or you may find it hard to empty your bowel.

These signs can be worse at the end of the day and, therefore, it may feel better after you lie down.

It is not an uncommon issue, and it won’t go away if you ignore it. However, help is available, so if you feel any of the above symptoms, please make an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.

Your ignore me now, but you’ll need me later…
Regards, Your Pelvic Floor

4. Flatten your stomach!

Ok, well, if the last 3 reasons didn’t have you sold then this one must!

Let’s face it, most of us would like a flat stomach! For some of us this will be easier to achieve than others due to us all being different in body shape, lifestyle, priorities and so many other factors.

And, we must remember that the journey our body goes on to bless us with our little people, is extreme, with our abdominals going through some of the most dramatic changes over the 9 months we are pregnant. But, if we’re all honest with ourselves, a flat, toned looking stomach would be nice to add to an overall healthy, happy woman!

During pregnancy our uterus increases in size and weight to accommodate the growth of our child (or children), which needs to be supported by the abdominal muscles, which in turn lengthens the abdominal muscles wall and stretches the lower and deeper abdominal muscles.

The pelvic floor works in conjunction with the deep abdominal muscles to provide strength around the lower back and pelvis, as well as flattening of the stomach muscles, particularly in the lower abdomen area.

Therefore, pelvic floor muscles exercise strengthen your core muscles, and contribute to you achieving that “flat stomach”!

5. More satisfying sex life!

For some of us, the thought of intimacy and sex with our other half is something we can’t even think about in the early days. For others, we can’t wait to get back to having some fun! And, I don’t know about you, but sex should be enjoyable for both people, so, let’s make sure it is!

The pelvic floor is also important in sexual sensation. When the pelvic floor is functioning correctly and has good muscle tone, the outcome is increased sexual sensation and improved orgasms during sex.

6. Better quality of life with increased social confidence

Not having to worry about leakages or making embarrassing sounds at any anytime means that you can focus on the important things in life. It means you can be with the people you love, and not worry that laughing or sneezing is going to result in an awkward moment.

And, let’s face the added bonuses of having a strong, functioning body that you can depend on means that you can live life to the full and doing the things that you want and love to do, both now, and in the future.

So, what more reason do you need to ensure that you make time each week to do your pelvic floor exercises, and ensure that they are strong and functioning as they should, just like every other muscle in your body!

As mums, we spend so much time worrying about our little people at this time in our life, making sure that they get everything they need to be happy and healthy, that we forget just how important it is to look after ourselves.

One day our little people will grow into adults, and go out into the world. However, our bodies will be with us forever, so we need to care for it just as much as we care for our children.

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, midwife, doctor or women’s health physiotherapist.

I’m Pregnant! Can I Still Exercise?

Absolutely! Feeling your physical and emotional best during your pregnancy is so important.

However, exercising during pregnancy will be different for each of us, and really will be dependent on your current level of fitness and the type of exercise undertaken prior to falling pregnant, as well as your individual pregnancy journey.

I had two completely different pregnancy journeys when I carried my two little bundles. With the first I had no energy, all day morning sickness (I’m still not sure why they call it morning sickness!) and by the 2nd trimester the only exercise I could do was clinical pilates with a physiotherapist and sessions in the pool.

But, for my second, well, I still had the morning sickness, but I managed to exercise most days, walk all the way through my pregnancy and enjoyed weekly antenatal yoga sessions, even doing one the day I gave birth!

So, now that YOU are pregnant, your main focus should be ensuring that iStock_000076714367_Fullyou are healthy and strong, physically and psychologically, ready for the delivery of your precious cargo and for the busy and demanding, but wonderfully rewarding, early days of being a mum!

But, remember, you are now not just responsible for your own health and wellbeing. You have a little life you are carrying, who is depending on you to provide them with the best opportunity to enter this world as healthy as possible – no pressure hey!

So, what should be the focus of my exercise program now that I am pregnant?

Well, definitely not losing 10 kilos or running a marathon!

However, here are 5 key areas of focus to guide you:

1.Your deep abdominal muscles

Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your spine and pelvis. During pregnancy they undergo significant changes, predominantly lengthening to accommodate your growing baby, which results in them not working as well after your have given birth.

Learning how to correctly and effectively brace you abdominal muscles either prior to falling pregnant, or as soon as possible once you are pregnant, will assist in the return of normal abdominal muscle function in the months following the arrival of your little one.

Be aware that once you have learnt to brace your abdominals, you may find you need to refocus on how well you are bracing your abdominals as you progress through your pregnancy. As your baby grows and moves position internally, your abdominals lengthen and there is increased demand on your lower abdominals as they assist in carrying your precious cargo. Therefore, tuning into your abdominal bracing on a frequent basis ensures that you continue to brace effectively and correctly.

And, not all abdominal exercises are suitable when you are pregnant. Your exercise program needs to ensure that you are training the deep abdominal muscles, to assist in stabilising your spine and pelvis, and not your outer abdominals, which can increase your risk of abdominal separation (diastasis rectus abdominus). Many of the exercises that train your outer abdominals also put additional strain on your pelvic floor and lower back, which are already vulnerable during pregnancy.

2. Your pelvic floor fitness

Your pelvic floor is an area of your body that you cannot see, however, these muscles work with the deep abdominal muscles, deep back muscles and your diaphragm to stabilise and support your spine.

The main function of the pelvic floor is to support the weight of the abdominal and pelvic organs, therefore playing an important role in bladder and bowel control, as well as sexual function. No-one wants bowel or bladder issues, and, though you may not feel like it immediately after having your little one, one day you might feel like “special cuddles” time again!

And, during pregnancy, the pelvic floor is also supporting the increasing weight of your growing baby, which in turn is a contributor to a decline of pelvic floor strength. Then, during labour, the pelvic floor muscles are placed under great stress resulting in stretching, and possible damage, depending on the type of delivery you experience.

So, taking the time to focus on learning to correctly lift and strengthen, as well as relax, your pelvic floor, is important for both your short-term and long-term health and fitness – we don’t want our pelvic floor to be too weak or too tight, we want it just right!

3. Your posture

During pregnancy, postural changes occur due to the increasing size of your baby, the increases in the pregnancy hormone relaxin and changes in the positioning of your pelvis, including relaxing of the pelvic joints and ligaments.

It is important that you include exercises in your program that strengthen and tone your muscles, which in turn will assist you in adjusting to your changing shape, and to the demands pregnancy places on your body. And, including exercises for mobility and flexibility will ensure that your body continues to cope with the every changing demands of your pregnant body.

If you experience back or pelvis pain during pregnancy, please seek advice from a health professional with experience in treating pregnancy and post-natal issues. 

4. Low impact & low intensity

Low impact, low intensity exercise will assist in protecting your joints and pelvic ligaments, which are more vulnerable during pregnancy due to pregnancy hormones, altered posture and weight gain.

It is crucial that you do not place too much strain on your back, pelvis or pelvic floor during pregnancy, therefore low impact activities, such as walking, swimming or aqua classes, low impact exercise sessions or pregnancy specific exercise sessions are recommended.

The recommended intensity of an exercise session will be different for each expectant mum as every pregnancy and every woman is different. However, I recommend the intensity of your exercise sessions during pregnancy should result in you feeling energised, strong and invigorated, and not exhausted or sore.

5. Preparing yourself for labour

Not only is it important to strengthen your body during pregnancy ready for “delivery day”, it is also important that you prepare your mind.

Every labour is different, and you never quite know how it will go. I mean, I’ve been through two deliveries with my munchkins, and they couldn’t have been more different. However, being prepared psychologically, as well as physically, will definitely help.

So, whether you’ve sailed through your 1st trimester without any adverse pregnancy symptoms, or you are just coming out of the haze after months of all day morning sickness, if you are ready to begin your exercise program, do so taking the above areas of focus into consideration, and ensure you listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, stop and seek advice.

If you are looking for exercise sessions that include all of the above components, contact MumaBubs today and enquire about MumaBumps sessions.

Our MumaBumps sessions return in 2018 at Carine Club Rooms,

Carine Open Space.

From Saturday January 13 @ 9am

From Wednesday 31 January @ 6.15pm

We’d love for you to join us!

Contact us today to find out more & register

 

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Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!

 

Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All expectant mums should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pre-natal exercise professional, midwife, doctor, obstetrician or women’s health physiotherapist.