What Were You Surprised About When You First Became a Mum?
Catherine Defty of Tactile Tots shares some real life, (and honest!) thoughts on becoming a Mum - as well as introduces us to Juliette Green from BuggyWorkout UK.
After a manic few weeks of extra massage classes, poorly babies and a husband revising for an exam (arrrggghh), my brain was feeling a little clouded about what to write about for my next Winchester Bloggers piece. So I did what we all do now, got on Whatsapp and asked the collective hive mind of my wonderful NCT group.
“What were you surprised about when you became a mum?”
The answers came thick and fast and all of a very similar theme!
(Warning to all pregnant first-time mums, this piece contains spoilers!)
“I was not prepared for how rough I felt straight after birth and yet I had to look after a new baby!”
“I was not prepared for spending time in hospital, I just didn’t consider all the post birth stuff that could happen”
“There were times when I worried I’d never be myself (physically) again - really shook me”
“I’m still having physio from the after effects of birth, I think there is a lot of focus on the mental health aspect in the first weeks but not so much about the physical wellbeing”
“I wish I had prepared my back better!”
Everyone said they were completely shocked by how terrible they felt post-delivery. We all expected the birth to be painful, in fact it was all we spoke about in the last weeks of pregnancy but no one really warned us just how much your body needs to recover after carrying and having a baby.
Now I’m probably going to receive hate mail after writing this but my delivery was actually pretty easy. I went from waters breaking to baby arriving in five hours and managed the whole lot on the lowest setting of my tens machine. Although if I’d known it was going to be that fast I would have whacked it up to max! This blessing meant that unlike most of my mum friends I’d had a good night’s sleep before going into labour and hadn’t had to work that hard for too long to pop a baby out (HA!).
But the price I’ve paid for this is that pregnancy and the hormones which followed are still affecting me over a year later. I have literally had nights where I lie in bed thinking; my back hurts, my hips hurt, my knees hurt, my shoulders hurt, my wrists hurt and at one point my big toes even hurt.
I’ve even suffered with carpal tunnel (or at least that’s what Dr Google has told me as I haven’t had time to go to the GP), which apparently is linked to breast feeding! They don’t put that in the leaflet do they!
Ever tried pushing a double buggy up a long hill with both your wrists hurting… It sucks!
My heart truly goes out to all those women who endured 24 hours plus, marathon labours, with inductions, forceps, episiotomies or c-sections. They began the journey into the exhausting world of motherhood already physically ruined and knackered and that takes time to recover from.
When you have a baby, you are seen by the GP for a review about 6 weeks after delivery which is to check you are recovering appropriately. However, because of this, 6 weeks has unfortunately become a bit of a target for recovery. By 6 weeks you should be back doing sit ups, having a sex life and throwing wine and cheese parties! The reality however is the six-week review is more about checking you’re not deteriorating and are generally moving in the right direction; very few women will actually be totally back to normal by this point.
With this is mind I’ve enlisted the help of the lovely Juliette Green, mum of three and trained pre- and post-natal fitness instructor of BuggyWorkout UK for a Q&A about mums’ bodies post baby.
What are the most common problems you find women can suffer with after having a baby?
- Pelvic floor troubles (worried might leak when exercising - some actually do).
- Very weak core - takes time for the core muscles to regain their post-pregnancy strength.
- Some women suffer from diastasis rectis (separation of abs - more than 2 finger width is a good gauge of a separation).
- Pain in the pelvic area (especially if suffered with SPD during pregnancy).
- Issues with the wrists (especially if suffered with carpal tunnel during pregnancy).
- Confidence and adjusting to new body shape and caring for a new baby can affect their mental state also.
How long do you think it takes to really recover from pregnancy and delivery?
“To be honest this is so individual to each woman. I would say 12 months to really be back to the new normal - longer if breast feeding still. The effects of relaxin are still in the body all the time you are feeding so joints will still be affected. Some women to get back to the new normal fairly quickly - 4-6 months. I am a firm believer that being active as much as you can during pregnancy hugely helps the post-natal recovery so much.”
What things can help recovery?
“As I’ve said exercise and keeping as active as possible during pregnancy gives you a great start with post-natal recovery. Gentle pelvic floor exercises and daily walks as soon as possible after having baby really kick starts recovery. Daily fresh air and meeting other mums. Eating well and enough! This is not the time to diet - especially if breast feeding.”
(Hmmm do not diet I think I can live with that advice she says shovelling a twix duo!)
When is it ok to start exercising post-delivery?
“Normally, 6 weeks after a straight forward natural delivery and 8-12 weeks after a C-section. MUST have sign off from the doctor first. However, this is not the go -ahead to resume pre-pregnancy exercise. Everything must be low impact to start and NO abdominal work. It's very important to work on the TV muscles (inner core) first to aid recovery of the abs. No crunches, sit ups, full plank for 8-12 months (until any ab separation has closed).”
What can women do in pregnancy to help postnatally?
“Keep active. Walking, gentle weights (nothing heavy above the head). Squats and lunges to keep the leg muscles strong to aid labour (especially if looking for a squat or kneeling position for birth). Swimming is a fantastic way to keep active but take the weight off the joints. Steer clear of breast stroke legs towards the end to avoid any pelvis issues). Pregnancy Pilates and yoga are great. Pelvic floor exercises are VERY important.”
What are your top tips?
- “Listen to your body. Do not push yourself. Your body has been through a lot and needs time to recover.
- Try to get out daily in the fresh air with baby for your mental health as much as your physical health.
- Resume your pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible after giving birth.
- If you're worried about your abdominal muscles so get them checked out by a women's physio. NO crunches, sit ups or full plank or lifting heavy weights above your head.
- Enjoy this precious time with your baby. Weight loss/old body shape/diet etc can wait.”
And just because I pull such a weird face trying to do them, are pelvic floor exercises really that important!!??
“YES! During and after pregnancy. The Pelvic floor is stretched whether you have a natural birth or C-section so it's very important for all. A strong pelvic floor aids recovery, prevents pro-lapse. It also ensures you are in a great shape for future pregnancies, getting older and menopause! Pelvic floor issues are common but they are NOT something you just put up with. Seek advice from your GP.”
So tell us more about your classes?
“I run Buggyworkout classes in Winchester. The classes have been running for over 6 years. They cater for all stages of post-pregnancy and even pregnancy. They are very informal with a very friendly group of like-minded mums. Babies/children of all ages are welcome and classes run all year round. We run 2 daytime classes - Tuesday/Thursday/Friday at 1030am and Monday and Wednesday 8pm circuits for those who wish to exercise without children. I am a pre and post-natal specialist Personal Trainer and have 3 children of my own. So, I have all the knowledge but also have experience of having a baby and exercising. The main feedback from mums who come along is that the classes are very informal (so they don't feel bad if they have to feed/change/cuddle baby), great place to meet other mums and get some fresh air. We have many mums who return with second and third babies!”
Unfortunately, it sounds like the aches and pains of motherhood don’t seem to have an easy solution except time and keeping active. But they do get better eventually and I have to say I agree with Juliette about walking, it has been the single best thing for my fitness that I’ve ever done.
Just need to get better at those bloomin’ pelvic floor exercises now!
Yet another fantastic article from Catherine - thank you so much! To find out more about Catherine and her business Tactile Tots, visit her website or drop her an email. Alternatively, follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.