Tell us a little about your passion for women’s health & continence?
Women have such a unique gift of growing a baby, giving birth and nurturing a little human. This is a transformational time for women, physically and mentally, and I am incredibly passionate about supporting women along this journey.
My passion for women’s health led me to do my Masters in Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapy, which was the best decision I made. With my knowledge, I now empower women during their pregnancy and postpartum experience, inspiring them to be the best version of themselves.
Since there is a severe lack of education and support given to pregnant women and new mothers from the medical system, I am dedicated to helping women navigate the changes that occur in their bodies, teaching them how to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction, how to exercise safely and the importance of looking after themselves.
What would be your top 5 physiotherapy tips for women preparing for birth?
1. Keep Fit and Strong During Pregnancy
Exercising safely during pregnancy improves your fitness, strength, and therefore ability to have an active birth, which has been proven to assist birth outcomes and help avoid intervention. I recommend a combination of low-impact cardio exercise like walking or swimming, strength training with lightweights or resistance bands, and Pilates or Yoga focusing on core strengthening and stretching.
To learn more on safe exercise during pregnancy click here.
2. Prepare Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a pivotal component in childbirth. In a vaginal birth, it is where your baby will exit the world, so your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and stretch to accommodate your baby’s head. In addition to this, your pelvic floor muscles need to be strong during pregnancy to assist their recovery after childbirth to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. With both these functions in mind, I recommend all pre-pregnant and pregnant women learn how to both contract and relax their pelvic floor muscles correctly. To do so, get your hands on my FREE Pelvic Floor Guide here and make sure you book in to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
3. Attend a Birth Course (aside from the hospital course)
There is often a lot of fear surrounding childbirth, so it’s essential that you work on shifting your mindset from being fear based to understanding the purpose of pain during labour. An amazing birth course that educates and empowers, both you and your partner, with mindset and pain management strategies is Calm birth.
Meditation is powerful and beneficial in all life stages, particularly during your childbearing years when there is so much uncertainty. Meditation calms your mind, helping it from running rampant to all the different ‘what if’ scenarios that could happen during childbirth and motherhood. It helps you to accept what you can’t control and to embrace uncertainty rather than resist it. Because at the end of the day, anything can happen during your birthing experience, and it’s important for you to adapt to any changes that deviate from your birth plan.
5. Use the Epi-no
This is one device every pregnant woman needs to get her hands on! The epi-no is an inflatable balloon device that you can use to prepare your perineal (superficial muscles of the pelvic floor) for childbirth from 36 weeks. The epi-no is inserted into the vagina, and slowly inflated via a pump, slowly stretching the perineal muscle. This teaches the muscle how to stretch to accommodate the baby’s head. The stretching is not permanent, but instead increases the flexibility of the muscle, and familiarizes the woman with the sensation of being stretched. The epi-no has been proven to reduce women’s anxiety levels surrounding childbirth. Studies have also shown that the epi-no prevents perineal injury i.e. episiotomy (cutting of the perineal) or perineal tearing. To find out more on the epi-no click here.
What are your top 5 physio tips for women post birth?
1. Prioritise Rest and Recovery in the First 6 weeks
This is key ladies! Your body has grown life for 9 months, and has then given birth. We need to really appreciate this, and allow your body time to heal. This means balancing activity with rest. So if you do an activity around the house, make sure you rest for the same amount of time i.e. lying down, taking pressure off your pelvic floor or c-section scar. Only gradually increase your level of activity around the house and don’t pushing yourself, as this can do more harm to your body and pelvic floor.
2. Start Gentle Pelvic Floor Exercises Day 1
Gently doing pelvic floor exercises the day after giving birth (even if you have had stitches) will help to increase circulation to the area and reduce swelling. It will also help to re-activate neural pathways to these muscles to regain strength and motor control over time. I recommend doing little bits often, so 4-5 gentle pelvic floor contractions each time you feed your baby. When you gently contract your pelvic floor, you also need to ensure that you release the muscles completely. Breathing into your belly between each contraction will help to achieve this.
It is a common misconception that women who have a c-section are exempt from pelvic floor exercises. However, the weight of the baby in utero, an emergency c-section or the impact of the surgery can be enough to create pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum. Therefore all woman need to prioritise pelvic floor exercises before and after birth.
3. Focus on Posture and Core
Optimal posture and core exercises in the first 6 weeks post-birth will also set you up for a better recovery. Since you are sitting a lot to breastfeed, make sure you sit upright, lengthening your spine to the ceiling and gently drawing your shoulder blades back and down. Use a breastfeeding pillow to bring your baby to you, rather than you slumping towards your baby. Once your baby is attached, look straight ahead rather than down. In this position you can engage your deep abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis) by gently drawing your hip bones together. You can also perform a pelvic floor lift at the same time.
Postural awareness and core exercises post-birth will assist:
- Recovery of abdominal muscle separation
- Prevention of pelvic floor weakness
- Facilitate safe return to exercise
- Prevention of postpartum back pain
4. See a Women’s Health Physiotherapist
I highly recommend an initial consultation with a Women’s Health Physio during your pregnancy and again at 6 weeks postnatal, regardless of how you give birth. Since activation of the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles can be difficult for many women, your Women’s Health Physio will teach you how to correctly activate your core muscles via an Ultrasound machine or an internal examination. They will also provide you with individualized advice and management regarding any symptoms you may have, such as pelvic floor dysfunction.
Please note that your check up with your Obstetrician/GP is very different to an appointment with a Women’s Health Physio, as Doctors do not specialize in the pelvic floor, recovery of abdominal muscle separation or safe return to exercise.
5. Gradually and Safely Return to Exercise
Your Women’s Health Physio will guide you on safely returning to exercise post-birth, as it depends on your birth experience and how your body is recovering. The key is to always start strengthening your body from the inside out i.e. starting with your core muscles. I recommend new mums start a postnatal Pilates or Yoga class from 6 weeks postpartum, and increase their walking. It’s essential that you listen to your body as you start to exercise again, and do not push through any sensations that do not feel comfortable or right. You should never feel any vaginal heaviness (a sign of prolapse), bladder leakage, abdominal strain/doming or pain during or after exercise.
Since there is so much to say on this topic, I have put together a FREE e-book on Postpartum Exercise Guidelines you can access here.
Tell us about The Whole Mother and how this came about?
The Whole Mother is my web baby! It is an online resource for pregnant and postpartum women to educate and empower them to the best versions of themselves. I blog regularly, providing free expert advice on how to optimize your physical health and wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond. I have also created an e-book to help prevent pelvic and back pain during pregnancy (which affects 76.4% of women). You can access it here.
I plan to continue to create more e-books and online programs for pregnant women and new mums.
The Whole Mother came about because ALL women need to know the importance of optimizing their pelvic health, physical health and mental health during pregnancy and postpartum. I wanted to create a platform to give women around the globe access to my knowledge and make a difference on a larger scale.
What does your typical workday involve?
I believe that your morning routine sets you up for the day ahead, so my day always starts with a meditation. This is something I have been doing since 2015 and it has been life changing! I will then go for an hour walk in nature and grab a much-loved coffee from my local cafe. My workday will either involve me seeing clients 1:1 or working on The Whole Mother from home. I will always prioritise good nutrition throughout the day, and some relaxation at night. And well, who doesn’t love watching the bachelor?!
We hear how important pelvic floor exercises are, can you explain why?
It’s true, pelvic floor exercises are so very important for every single woman! Often women know they should do them, but don’t understand why. This is something I am passionate about teaching, as it’s a game changer. You see, pelvic floor exercises PREVENT and TREAT prolapse and incontinence. For those that don’t know, prolapse is when the bladder, uterus or bowel descends into the vagina, causing heaviness and discomfort. 50% of women will develop a prolapse after having a baby - so this is why you need to do your pelvic floor exercises!
But this is not all - the pelvic floor muscles also make up part of your core, so doing pelvic floor exercises will improve your core stability. The key is to do your pelvic floor exercises correctly as many women do not. I recommend getting my FREE Pelvic Floor Guide to ensure you are doing yours the right way.
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