Best exercises for first trimester

Best Exercise for First Trimester

Safe first trimester exercises

You’re pregnant! Most likely googling what you should do now- what vitamins should you take, what things should you now avoid, and what first trimester exercises you should (and shouldn’t) do. You may be feeling a new level of tired that you have never experienced and anything from slight nausea to “should I even leave the bathroom, this is going on all day why do they call it morning sickness?!”

The best things you can do to counteract nausea and fatigue is:

  • Listen to your body and rest
  • First Trimester Exercises! It sounds strange to tell someone to exercise when they are feeling fatigue, but it actually give you more energy and even minimize nausea for many. It also helps to set a good habit for pregnancy.

A lot of people are eager to prepare for birth and ask us if it’s too early to do prenatal exercises routines in the first trimester. The first trimester is the perfect time to begin! It is much easier to prevent pregnancy-related aches and pains than to eliminate them once they have popped up. We find that when people begin prenatal specific work in the first trimester, they may be able to prevent and minimize issues such as hip pain and core and pelvic floor concerns. For example, building stability in the hip musculature may help prevent the hip and back pain that is so common during pregnancy. Once the pain is there, it can be harder to work on it because movements that used to be available- now cause pain.

Below is our list of first prenatal exercises that you should begin in your first trimester

1. Candles Breath, core activation strategy

Benefits:

Candles is the basis for core engagement in the One Strong Mama world. We at OSM strongly believe that no one should ever be walking around with their core engaged all the time. That is known as core tension and not core strength. However, we do teach our clients to use candles whenever they need support: picking up something heavy or another child, twisting and reaching for things, leaning forward to clean up, pulling open a heavy door. Anything that requires support. The default for many folks for these moves is to “let go” –which means to not engage, to bear down, bulge, brace– to default to a non-supportive pattern. To do this exercise, stand or sit and imagine that there is a birthday cake with 100 candles on it in in front of you and you need to slowly blow out the candles – feeling how your core tightens and pulls in as you do that. That is candles. As you blow out the candles, you can and should gently help your core by pulling it in as you blow. Your core should feel very tight and engaged at the end of that exhale.

2. Hip Hinge/ Deadlift

Benefits

This is a great prenatal exercise for learning how to move your pelvis! So often, we round our spine, rather than hinge at the hips in activities of daily life. Learning to hinge at the hips will help to create more active mobility of the pelvis and take the strain off the back. Place your fingers on your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines- two bony knobs in the front of your pelvis) and feel them move as you hinge. It is helpful to do this the first several times in front of a mirror. Notice when the curve of the back starts to flatten, which will indicate that the pelvis has stopped moving and the back has begun to flex. If you are having a hard time with this, place a broomstick on your back and feel how the back shape does not change as you move forward through the motion. To rise, exhale, press into heels. This exercise is foundational and should be understood prior to moving onto the squat, which starts with a hip hinge. Holding weights or a kettlebell in the hands is another great option for the hip hinge.

3. Aligned squats

Benefits:

This exercise for the first trimester is great for creating space in the pelvic floor. As the body squats the hamstrings lengthen and the pelvic floor gets an eccentric (lengthening) load. We encourage clients to door squat daily during pregnancy. Grab onto either the two handles of an open door, a TRX band, or anything sturdy that can support body weight. Hinge at the hips, and booty moves back  like it’s looking for a chair to sit on. Stop before the butt tucks under, indicating the max range of the hamstrings at that moment in time. If there is low back pain, try not excessively pushing the booty out to go down farther without tucking pelvis. To stand, exhale with candles deep core engagement and press into heels. Common cheat is to either overarch the low back or excessively thrust the ribs.

4. Open twist

Benefits:

People, especially when pregnant, can become very rigid in their chest and rib muscles. When the chest and ribs do not move so well, we get added pressure in the abs and core so this move really helps to load these much neglected muscles. This exercise also doubles up as a core exercise. The common cheat here is to twist the pelvis and not the ribs and chest. Keeping the pelvis totally immobile can cause SIJ gapping and instability so a small amount of pelvic twist is fine. The issue is if they can ONLY twist by initiating from their pelvis. This can be done seated on a stool or a chair as well.

5. Walk

Benefits:

While it sounds simple, walking is one of the best exercises you can do during pregnancy. Get in the habit of going for a daily walk, or walking to places you would normally drive to but technically could walk. And no, you cannot replace your daily walking with running… it’s a completely different movement. If it helps, consider tracking your steps to see how many you can get in a day.

6. Consider your alignment

Try relaxing (not forcing or muscling!) the rib cage down. Often we are taught that ribs lifted in “good posture,” but in reality it is compressing the spine and pulling the core out of alignment.

For more information on exercises that are appropriate for the first trimester and throughout the entire pregnancy and postpartum time, check out the One Strong Mama program. Many moms join our One Strong Mama program in the first trimester exercise. They love that it allows for them to just hit play and follow along and not have to think so hard about what moves are best for their pregnancy, their body and their birth. They also love that they get extra education about how to do each exercise so they are getting the most benefit. OSM is truly a ‘one stop shop’ for prenatal (and postnatal!) exercise and takes the guesswork out of the equation.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

Prevent tearing during birth

Tips to Prevent Tearing During Childbirth

Many people’s biggest fear about childbirth is tearing.  Tearing is indeed painful and ranges in different degrees of severity. We have seen many women birth large babies without a tear and others tear birthing not-so-large babies. There are things you can do to prevent tearing or more accurately – minimize the risk of tearing. Here are our top tips of what to do, these are things you should do both prenatally and some great tips to do during birth to prevent or minimize tearing.

Prenatal Preparation Tips for Preventing Tearing

The list below is of things you should do during your pregnancy that will help reduce the risk of tearing during birth, it is easy to follow and require a relatively small effort to implement.

  1.  Hire a doula, take a Childbirth Education class, and learn relaxation techniques. This one is huge because being calm during birth, finding good positions, possibly choosing to forgo the epidural (no judgement and we support all) is going to lessen chance of tearing or lessen amount of tearing.
  2. Orgasms!  It’s not crazy- more blood flow to those tissues=good thing.
  3.  Nutrition. Learn more about nutrition for better skin elasticity. Look into foods with Omega 3, Vit E, Vit C, and Zinc.
  4.  Lengthen and Release tension in the pelvic floor. Find out how in a video posted to our FREE Facebook group. We should not have to PUSH SO HARD. If the pelvic floor is too tight (hypertonic) and does not yield well, it can make the pushing stage more difficult, which can increase the chance of tearing.
  5.  Balance the body. We know there are certain fetal positions that are easier to get a baby out and certain positions that can be more difficult for some moms. If mom’s body is balanced, baby is more likely to find a more optimal position. The One Strong Mama program has exercises and techniques designed to create balance in mom’s body so that baby can find a more optimal position.  We also recommend our friends over at Spinning Babies for techniques to be done during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and during birth.

Birthing Tips

This list is of tried and true tips for how you approach your birth in order to reduce the risk of tearing during. I suggest you prepare yourself before the birth, arm yourself with knowledge and communicate your expectations with your provider ahead of time.

1. Consider going epidural free.

(note: we are not anti epidural) This will give more variety of positions for mom and also help mom to feel what is going on when crowning. If you do decide to go for the epidural, consider laboring down/passive descent where you allow your body to push the baby down most of the way, passively.

 2. Optimal fetal positioning. 

During birth, have some Spinning Babies techniques in your back pocket, or hire a doula who knows them, so that if needed they can assist you in gently encouraging baby into position. Ideally, this is not something that the birthing mom should be having to remember and think about during the process. Rather, it is best to let mom relax and go inward while having external support to encourage the best positions as baby makes their journey down and out.  

3. Avoid the episiotomy.

An episiotomy is a cut performed by provider and is more likely to extend into a more significant tear. They were done much more commonly in the past, but new evidence suggests that it is not often needed and can cause long term issues (1). Additionally, it is easier for our bodies to heal from tearing than cut because tears tends to happen around the cells and an episiotomy cuts through them.

 4. Safe environment.

This goes back to prenatal preparation. We need to get out of the fear-tension-pain cycle. Tension is not ideal for the mind OR the tissues. Create a safe place, wherever you are birthing. This may include things like dim lights, sounds and smells you enjoy, your own clothing, and people who love and support you.

5. Mother directed pushing vs. coached breath holding

(*****see our article on breathing the baby out) Additionally, when baby is crowning, slowing down!! When baby is on the perineum and there are strong sensations happening, sometimes we want to just push quick to get past it. But those strong sensations are our bodies way of telling us to slow down and let the tissues stretch.

 6. Maternal positioning.

When we push on our back it decreases the diameter of the pelvis, which will mean we may need to use more force to get baby out. More force can put a greater strain on the tissues. If a baby needs help getting out, squatting is amazing, as it increases the diameter of the outlet of the pelvis. But if baby is coming fast or upon crowning, switching to hands and knees, kneeling in some way, or side lying is optimal as these positions puts less strain/force on the tissues.

Tearing is not something one would mention as the “highlight” of giving birth and it’s best when it’s avoided. This article offers a wholistic approach for preventing tearing during childbirth rather than a one “silver bullet” type solution that may address one root cause. Please read thoroughly and see if it makes sense to you. Please feel free to comment or ask question on our email or in our FB group.

(1)Lappen, Justin R., and Dana R. Gossett. “Changes in episiotomy practice: evidence-based medicine in action.”
Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology
5.3 (2010): 301-309.
FitzGerald, Mary P., et al. “Risk factors for anal sphincter tear during vaginal delivery.”
Obstetrics & Gynecology
109.1 (2007): 29-34.
Samuelsson, Ellen, et al. “A prospective observational study on tears during vaginal delivery: occurrences and risk factors.”
Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica
81.1 (2002): 44-49.

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How to have an easier birth

Prep for a smooth, efficient birth

Easier and childbirth are not typically words that are put in the same sentence. And of course there are many factors outside of our control. But we might as well take advantage of the factors within our control to make the birthing process easier. 

Easier meaning that the birthing process is optimized for a smoother and more efficient process. Not only is an easier birth is of course easier in the moment, but it also helps the recovery process to be smoother as well. Many people are talking about the importance of mental preparation and this is CRUCIAL to eliminating that fear-tension-pain cycle and making birth less painful. But what if the mind stuff is all figured out but the pelvic floor is still really tight and unyielding, or baby is in a less favorable position? Ideally we want to work on preparing the mind AND preparing the body. This article addresses the preparing the body for birth component. Something crucial yet rarely talked about. Rather than buying into the assumption that we are just victims to whatever is going on with our bodies, we must get into the driver’s seat and take control.

Why will preparing the body for birth make the process easier?

1. Better Baby Positioning

One of the reasons that body preparation for birth makes the process easier is that it helps baby to find an optimal position. Baby accommodates the space they are given.

 If they have less space, or that space is more roomy on one side, twisted, kinked, they are more likely to find a position that may not be as easy to birth. The simple fact of the matter is, baby’s tend to have an easier time going through the birth canal in a position like LOA, which stands for Left Occiput Anterior (see image), with chin tucked, smallest part of the head coming first. Posterior positions (baby’s spine against your spin. Sometimes called “sunny side up”) do not fit through the pelvis as well and can be accompanied by back labor, where contractions are felt very intensely in the back.

Proper body prep for birth takes baby positioning into account. When we balance and prepare the body we are not forcing baby into optimal positioning, we are just opening up the space for them to find it. Through balance, alignment, breathing and core support we support and give baby room. Babies are smart and they want to find the optimal position, we just need to give them the opportunity and room!

2. Body Balance + Alignment

When we find balance in the body- through the soft tissues (muscles) and boney structures (like the pelvis- which baby passes through), we help baby to find an optimal position which, as we mentioned above, can make the birthing process shorter, easier and more efficient. Additionally, when we learn how to carry ourselves throughout the day (alignment, as taught in One Strong Mama program) and use exercise techniques to create body balance, we optimize the function and space in the uterus, pelvic floor, pelvis. Unfortunately, not all exercise classes, even prenatal ones, have a solid understanding of pelvic floor, core, and alignment. So even though they feel good and are mentally extremely helpful, they are not necessarily helping to prepare the body for birth in a more specific and thoughtful way.

3. Sacral Mobility

The back of the pelvis, called the sacrum, is designed to MOVE via the sacroiliac (SI) joint during the birthing process. This movement is called Nutation and Counter Nutation.

Modern life has made our sacrums much less mobile than they used to be. We sit on our sacrums all day and we don’t use our body’s in a way that allows freedom of movement for the amazing sacrum. Let’s learn how to free the sacrum via freeing up all the muscles attaching to it and sitting and moving through life in a way that doesn’t smash it. The first step is literally just untucking the pelvis through the day. The next step is supporting the movement of the sacrum through your exercise program so that you can free this amazing part of the body up so that it can do its job easier during the process of birth.

4. Pelvic Floor Yield

The pelvic floor must yield (open up) to allow baby to pass through. The goal is not a TIGHT pelvic floor. It’s a functional pelvic floor that holds everything (like our organs!) up and in when it is supposed to, but yields to allow a baby to pass through. Short and tight muscles do not yield well and if the pelvic floor is extremely tight, it can make childbirth much more difficult and can contribute to issues such as pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction. There is some thought that too much tension in the pelvic floor can contribute to a prolonged pushing stage. There are many different causes of a too tight pelvic floor and we see this issue come up in athletes and desk workers alike. Often the advice we are given to prepare our pelvic floors for childbirth is the kegel. While we are not anti-kegel, we do not think 100 kegels a day is the best approach for body preparation for children. Too many kegels might actually contribute to the problem. It is imperative that we learn how to prepare our pelvic floor in a way that allows it to strengthen to support our continence and pelvic health for life, but also allows yield for a baby to pass through.

To sum up, preparing the body for birth is important. Just as we must prepare our bodies for running a race, we too need to prepare our bodies for birthing a baby. Not only will preparing the body make the process easier, it will also set us up for long term health and vitality! And guess what? Body prep for birth is kinda our thing and we’ve got you covered if this sounds like something you’d like to work on. After years working with pregnant individuals in person, we knew we had to share this birth changing information with the world and developed the comprehensive online prenatal body preparation for birth program- where all of these topics of body preparation are addressed through exercise and education.

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5 tips for when your baby is breech

5 tips for when your baby is breech

Don’t Panic.

Your baby may not stay in breech (head up) position. It is common that a baby will be breech between 27 weeks and 34 weeks of pregnancy. Most of those little nuggets will find their own way head down.

Some breech baby’s may need a little assist to find their way head down. Find out what techniques are safe, available, and supported in your community.

Often, you have many choices and opportunities to help your sweet baby find their way head down, and plenty of time to do it.

Don’t Panic.

  • You can do nothing. Many families choose to wait and see if baby turns back to head down on their own. It is okay take this route. However, if baby does not turn head down by 36 weeks your providers will propose an external cephalic version (ECV). This is a relatively safe procedure where an OB/GYN or Midwife will use their hands to try and turn baby head down. It can be very comfortable to down right painful. There is a 50% chance it will be successful. If you are working with a well experienced ECV doc the chance can increase up to 70%. So ask them, what is your success rate?
  • You may also choose to do nothing, and opt for a cesarean section. This is the most common choice of families who find out their baby
    is breech.

Let us talk about complimentary therapies that have been shown to be helpful in creating room in the body for baby to find their own way head down.

  • Acupuncture has a long history of assisting baby’s to find their best position. Several studies have shown that the combination of needling and moxabustion (the burning of mugwort herb) are effective methods of helping baby find their way into best position.
  • Hypnosis is another therapy many find helpful in encouraging baby to find their way head down. Studies show that this is particularly helpful right before attempting an ECV.
  • Hypnosis is another therapy many find helpful in encouraging baby to find their way head down. Studies show that this is particularly helpful right before attempting an ECV.
  • Soft tissue therapies can be helpful to reduce your stress and help your soft tissues (muscles, tendons,
    ligaments, fascia) become more responsive and functional. These therapies can include, but are not limited to, massage therapy, myofascial release, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Traeger, and many more. These therapies can potentially create more space in your belly for baby to find their way head down.
  • Dynamic Body Balancing™ taught by Dr. Carol Phillips is another method of bodywork that has been quite successful in helping babies find their way head down. Carol has a listing of practitioners on her website.
  • Spinning Babies™ has a series of exercises that have been helpful for many families to help get their baby into best position. Starting these exercises early, and doing them often garners the best outcomes according to data collected by Spinning Babies™ practitioners. Here is a link to the Spinning Babies™ website.

Use Your Brainn

Whenever you are presented with a method of helping to turn your baby, run through the BRAINN acronym. It is a good method to be sure you are doing what is correct for you and your family. What does BRAINN mean?

  • B – benefit – What are the benefits?  Everyone is happy to give you lots of benefits.  This is an easy one. 
  • R – risk – What are the risks?  Do not let anyone tell you there are no risks.  There is always risk when you choose to do an intervention.  Some risks are minimal, and some are a bit scarier.
  • A – alternative – What is the alternative?  There is always an alternative if the risk outweighs the benefit for you
  • I – intuition – What does your intuition tell you?  Do what feels right
  • N – next – What happens next?  Typically with any intervention, there is a next step.  Sometimes it is homework, sometimes it is rest, sometimes it is medication.  Know what procedure is for the practitioners you are working with
  • N – nothing – What happens if we do nothing?  Often, you have this choice.

Only do as much as feels right

Your care providers will be full of advice and suggestions for you and your family. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Between going to work, going to appointments, caring for your family, and doing your breech homework, it may feel ridiculously exhausting. So, only do what feels like is working for you and your baby. You may try a therapy, and decide it isn’t right for you. That is totally okay. Everything is not for everyone. The appointments and homework need to fit into your lifestyle. This should not feel like a chore, but a choice.

  • Delegate. Reach out to your partner, your family, and your community to give you hand around the house.
  • Get someone to help schlep your kids to and from their places.
  • Allow a friend to come in and clean your house, do a load of laundry, fix a meal for you, or sit and have a cup of tea with you.
  • The more you can reduce your stress, the more likely it is that you can get the self care you want to help your baby find their best position.

Adrienne C. Caldwell is a bodyworker and educator. She specializes in helping create space in the human body for baby to find their best position for labor and birth.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

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Strong core can help childbirth

How having a strong core can help childbirth

Strong core can help childbirth

Sometimes, as the weight of the belly increases in the third trimester, weakness in the core can cause what is called a “pendulous belly” (hanging belly), this is when the belly sags forward unsupported by core muscles. Having Pendulous belly can contribute to less than ideal baby positions like asynclitic (baby’s head tipped to the side) which means the baby’s head is no longer in line with the birth canal, and may also contribute to prodromal labor (long labor, without a lot of progress), or “sticky” shoulders (shoulder dystocia) which is when the baby’s shoulders get stuck and cannot pass below the pubic symphysis without manipulation.

Having a strong and effective core should help support the belly and keep it in no less than a 60 degrees angle to the lower body.

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So what’s a pregnant person do to strengthen the core and make sure the pregnant belly is well supported?

1. Prevention.

The first step is to find a solid prenatal core training program that teaches appropriate and safe core work during pregnancy. Obviously, we recommend our comprehensive program, One Strong Mama. Appropriate core training before and during pregnancy can help prevent a pendulous belly. DO NOT run out and do one million crunches or suck the belly in. Too much tension and pressure in the abdomen is not great for childbirth either.

2. Abdominal Support.

If you notice that you have a pendulous belly, try out a support belt! We want the belly to ideally be around 60 degrees. Not only will changing the angle of the belly help prepare for birthing, it can also relieve aches and pains associated with a pendulous belly. The belt we recommend is called the Baby Belly Belt by Cabea. We encourage moms to do their prenatal core training in addition to the belly support band. Use it as a tool, not a crutch.

3. Labor Support.

We teach a technique for birthing called the abdominal tuck and lift, popularized by Spinning Babies. Essentially, what this technique does is lift the belly angle up during a contraction. This can help with both speeding up the process, and helping baby to find an optimal position. Learn more about this technique in our program or at Spinning Babies. If you choose to use this technique, make sure you do it through 10 contractions in a row for full effect.

Change in Margot over 3 pregnancies

Here is Margot’s bellies from her 3 pregnancies. You can see how her belly angle is quite low in her 2nd pregnancy. She did have diastasis recti prior to conception and possibly she had weak lower core support. As you can see by the photo of her 3rd pregnancy, she learned a lot about core support during her 3rd pregnancy and with the help of proper pregnancy exercise training, her core is supporting her pregnancy more effectively. She is not exactly 60 degrees in the 3rd pregnancy, but much better angle than her 2nd pregnancy, no doubt from the work she has put in.

Try to relax.

Do your part with solid core support through exercise and belly band, if needed. Have the abdominal tuck and lift in your back pocket should you need it during birth. And then relax. We do what we can do, and then we let go and know that sometimes baby’s position or certain things that arise during birthing are outside of our control. We stack the cards in our favor, so to speak. And then we let go and enjoy our pregnancy as best as we can. Some people may need a combination of all 3. Prenatal core work, a belly band, and the technique during birth. Others may only need exercise and support. Still for others this does not appear to be a problem at all. Not everyone is going to have a pendulous belly and it won’t necessarily cause a problem for everyone. Learning about it is a tool. Not another thing to stress out about.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

Are you in a Kegel all day long?

Are you in a Kegel all day long?

Are you in a Kegel all day long?

Many women I assess with pelvic floor issues have a pelvic floor that stays contracted/ tight / engaged throughout their day. It is so “normal” feeling that they are not even aware that they are pulling it up and holding tight until we begin to do our pelvic floor work and they become aware of the tension there.

There are many reasons why we might hold our pelvic floor chronically tight:

  • Because we feel like otherwise stuff will fall out (organs, pee, a baby…. you know, stuff)
  • Certain sports…. I tend to notice that athletes in certain sports tend to have the tendency to clench. Take Roller Derby for example- I can pretty much guarantee you that if I was about to be body slammed by someone named Soul Crusher, I would probably clench my pelvic floor.
  • Chronic stress. We hold it somewhere and many people hold it in the pelvic floor.
  • Acute stress. Someone you do not feel comfortable with walks into the room- what does your body do? Tense up.
  • Trauma in our past. Considering that every 98 seconds (yes, seconds) someone is sexually assaulted in the United States(1). This one may be a big one for many people. If this is one of your reasons- please seek out professional support as you begin the release work.

What are some issues caused by tension in the pelvic floor?

Pain. A too tight pelvic floor can cause a lot of different types of dysfunction and pain. The one I see most regularly in my private practice is pain during penetration.

Not very yielding for childbirth. The goal is not a super.tight.pelvic floor but rather a strong, functional and YIELDING pelvic floor. Imagine your bicep muscle… if it was too tight you wouldn’t be able to extend your arm all the way. Tighter isn’t better, it’s just tighter. Not great for childbirth. But not great for the rest of life either so if you’re done having kids or not planning kids, you still don’t want a too tight pelvic floor.

The deep core muscles not working as well. The pelvic floor and the deep core, oversimplified, co-contract i.e. work together. Lifting the pelvic floor should ideally automatically cause the deepest core muscle, the Tranverse abdominus, to contract. But if the pelvic floor is lifted all the time?? Well of course that is going to jack up that whole coordination system.

Release with a ball:

  • Be aware that if you are new to this you are going to want to find a really squishy one. Sit on the ball just to the inside of one of the sitz bones.  You should be able to look like you are just sitting in the chair, but you may not be able to sink all the way back down- go slow and don’t force it.
  • If you’re able to sit normally and it’s not too intense, add some movement. Circling the upper body, gentle rocking from one sitz bone to the other.  Just explore.  Again- this is genttttttttle.  Do not force yourself through something that is uncomfortable.  The goal is to be able to relax and release.
  • Switch to the other side and do the same thing.

Learn how to move your body better.

Once you have done release work we need to add movement improvement. This is everything. Learning to exercise “smart” is key for your pelvic floor. That is why we have developed an entire program devoted to smart prenatal exercise.One Strong Mama is incredible comprehensive and covers each one of the tools mentioned in this post and much much more. Join our free Facebook community to learn more, watch video tips, and have your questions answered by us.

  1. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2014 (2015).
  2. Postma, Riemke, et al. “Pelvic floor muscle problems mediate sexual problems in young adult rape victims.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine 10.8 (2013): 1978-1987.
  3. Madill, S. J. and McLean, L. (2006), Relationship between abdominal and pelvic floor muscle activation and intravaginal pressure during pelvic floor muscle contractions in healthy continent women. Neurourol. Urodyn., 25: 722–730. doi:10.1002/nau.20285
  4. Tajiri, Kimiko, Ming Huo, and Hitoshi Maruyama. “Effects of co-contraction of both transverse abdominal muscle and pelvic floor muscle exercises for stress urinary incontinence: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of physical therapy science 26.8 (2014): 1161-1163.

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We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

Free Mama Power workout video

Exercise and the First 6 Weeks Postpartum

Exercise and the First 6 Weeks Postpartum

Your focus in the first 6 weeks after having a baby should be on bonding/caring for baby and recovery, not exercise. Too often the media portrays celebrities in bikinis just a few short weeks after giving birth and praises them for how amazing they are. Guess what? In addition to those images being largely photoshopped, there is a lot more to recovery than appearance such as not peeing your pants or have organs prolapsing out of the body. And there is mental health to consider as well. When we put so much pressure on ourselves to find bikini body perfection immediately, we do so at the sake of our mental health and our physical health.

Of course, this does not mean that you cannot do gentle and simple exercises and movements. But too often, there is pressure to “get your body back” and this pressure both from external sources and in our own heads, can lead us to:
A. Not allow our bodies to proper heal postpartum
B. Make decisions that can have lasting consequences on our bodies

Six weeks can feel like a long time, but early postpartum recovery sets the stage for getting back to what you love sooner and safer. Whether that is more intense exercise, yoga or just walking around the block and playing with yours kids without compromising your body, core and pelvic floor.

Your early postpartum plan should factor in several things:

  • Vaginal tearing/episiotomy
  • Surgical birth
  • Hemmhoiroids
  • Bleeding (called “lochia”)
  • Any other complications during birth (blood loss, prolonged labor, etc)
  • Exhaustion (either from a long birth or just from taking care of a newborn, or both!)
For some, the first several weeks are going to look like a lot of resting. Maybe they are trying to catch up from a difficult birth or major abdominal surgery. For others, they may feel great! In some ways, feeling great can be tricky because it feels like we should just go back to ‘normal’ and can make it difficult for us to take the time to appropriately recover.

We recommend the 5-5-5 rule. 5 days in bed, 5 days around the bed, and 5 days near the bed. This means, for the first 2 weeks you will largely be inactive. There is a placenta sized wound within your uterus. That big of a would on the outside of your body would make you slow down, it should be the same for an inner wound. Additionally, your organs that were previously squished from a baby, now need to go back to normal and the best you can do to not be upright for extended periods of time, the better.

During this 5-5-5 time and for the first 6 weeks postpartum, we recommend several gentle exercises in the postpartum protocol of our program that we call the “Daily 7.” Here are 2 of them:

1. Candles Breathing

(be gentle and do not bear down at all. If you feel any pelvic floor heaviness while doing this, discontinue, we are trying to just gently connect with our core) 5X in a row, 1 X a day. Come onto your hands and knees or sitting comfortably. Imagine there is a cake with 100 candles between your hands if on hands and knees or in front of you if sitting. Inhale and exhale slowly blowing out all the candles. As you do so, your should feel your abs slowly moving back and at the end of the exhale they should feel very tight. Next, come to sitting and imagine there is an oval shaped object (be creative) in your vaginal / birth canal in your pelvis. As you exhale and blow candles, lift that object up toward your belly button. If there were an arrow direction, it would be pointing UP. So with candles and the up arrow, you are feeling your deep core move both up and back and it is starting at your pelvic floor. Do not squeeze your superficial vaginal muscles – the lift comes from a bit higher up than that. Do this 5X in a row, 1 X a day.

2. Floor Angels

Either reclined back or seated, do an ‘angel’ by externally rotating your shoulder so that your palms are up and thumbs reach behind you. Keeping your shoulder blades wide and your ribs down, slowly make the motion of a snow angel. This opens up those tight chest muscles from feeding and holding a baby! Shoot for a few angels per day, or when you’re feeling it from all those baby feeding sessions!

Once the 6 weeks is over, you have sufficiently rested, your body has healed and you are ready for more exercise and movement: ease back into it slowly slowly. It is all too easy to rush back into intense exercise but remember, you just gave birth, you are in a different body and you are still
healing for the first year postpartum. Your gains will be much larger if you go slow and steady over rushed and fervent.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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Postpartum Belly Binding Should I do it?

Postpartum Belly Binding- Should I do it?

Belly Binding Basics

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what you should do with your belly postpartum. The abdominal wall has been stretched out through pregnancy and many find it extremely helpful to use something to support their body in the immediate postpartum time. However, not all belly binding is created equal and there can be a lot of damage done by what are sometimes referred to as “waist trainers.”

Be sure that:

You are not binding too tightly
Binding too tightly can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The goal is not to push everything in, it is to reapproximate the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones that can separate during a diastasis recti) and give the core some additional support while it is recovering from pregnancy.

 

You have perineal support at the same time
There are many types of post-birth support garments on the market and it can be quite overwhelming to decide! Avoid any garment that binds the abdomen only. It should also have support for your pelvic region as well.

You are not binding too tightly
Binding too tightly can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The goal is not to push everything in, it is to reapproximate the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones that can separate during a diastasis recti) and give the core some additional support while it is recovering from pregnancy.

You have perineal support at the same time
There are many types of post-birth support garments on the market and it can be quite overwhelming to decide! Avoid any garment that binds the abdomen only. It should also have support for your pelvic region as well.

Myths of postpartum belly binding

Myth: Belly binding will make your waist slimmer.
Reality:  Despite some celebrities showing their “postpartum waist trainers,” belly binding is not going to slim down the waist in any way. If the binding is too tight it can actually put strain on the pelvic floor and increase prolapse symptoms.

Myth: Belly binding is all you need for core recovery.

Reality: Belly binding is a tool, not a cure. It can not take the place of proper rehab of the pelvic floor, core and whole body system.

Myth: You should bind tightly.

Reality: Binding too tightly can negate any positive effects by putting too much pressure on the ribcage, abdominal cavity, and pelvic floor. You should be able to take a deep breath into your ribcage while wearing your support garment, and you not feel any restriction of movement. Additionally, you should not feel an increase in pelvic floor symptoms. If you are experiencing this you either have a less than optimal type of binder, or it is simply too tight.

Myth: You NEED to belly bind.

Reality: Not everyone wants to belly bind and that is just fine. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t feel like you need to do it. Belly binding does not and should not replace a solid rehab exercise program, which is the most critical piece.

OSM garment suggestions:

We suggest shorts or leggings style of garment for postpartum recovery, as they support both the core and the bottom and are easy to move around in. Make sure you get your correct size, as these are not as adjustable as other types and you do not want to size down and get something too tight. Remember, we are not “waist training,” (which is a myth), we are supporting the recovering body.

WOULD NOT ADVISE: Waist Trainer

  • Does not support the pelvic floor
  • When too tight, can cause prolapse and other pelvic floor symptoms
  • Restricted breathing, not good for core
  • Stress the sympathetic nervous system, causing feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.

WE RECOMMEND: Recovery Shorts

  • Compression of the pelvic region.
  • Compression and support for the abdominal and back without restriction
  • Helpful post surgical birth for incision.
  • Helpful for feeling support and “held” emotionally, without feeling restriction of breathing.

Belly binding is a personal choice. If you decide to try it out, make sure to research what you buy and even then, if you notice any pelvic symptoms from use, discontinue. Belly binding is not a solution, but it is an excellent tool for many moms to aide in recovery.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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Your Recovering Core and Pelvic Floor

Your Recovering Core and Pelvic Floor

“C’mon ladies. Let’s get you back to your pre baby body. Time to shred your core!”

Overheard in a gym class for postnatal women. These types of comments are ubiquitous in the fitness world. Seemingly harmless fitspiration types of rah rah. Harmless they are not. Helpful? Not that either. Often these types of sentiments go hand in hand with the idea that a ripped, toned core is a good core and can come with a price tag, especially postnatal, when things are healing, different and changed in our core and pelvic floor.

I have had 3 kids, all in 4 years time. I totally get the desire to get our bodies to feel and look like they did pre baby. There is a smart way to do that and way that takes into account the changes to our body postpartum. Many women struggle with leak pee, their might feel heavy in their core, they might feel totally disconnected from their abs, have an abdominal separation and they might be lacking the confidence to speak openly of these things.

Whether you are a fitness pro or a new mom, here are some very important  things you should know about your core and pelvic floor postpartum. You can be 10 years postpartum and many of these things still apply, however they are most critical for the first few years.

Diastasis recti: Abdominal Separation

A diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominals at the midline. Meaning that there is a gap in the center of your belly, above and / or below your navel. The gap can be wide, narrow, deep, shallow and is measured in finger width. It can lead to your abs feeling “saggy,” “loose,” “weak” and is best diagnosed by a doctor or PT. There are many videos on youtube showing how to do a self test but I have seen many women do the test wrong so a professional opinion is best.With a diastasis recti, it is crucial to train your core in a very specific way as you can make the gap larger with poor core training and exercises.I often hear people say: “If you have a diastasis recti, just do deep core exercises and avoid crunches.” However just avoiding crunches and doing exercises like deadbug or tabletop or navel to spine is not enough.

How you do the exercise is more important.

How you are breathing during the workout matters as does your form and alignment matters. How you train matters.One more piece of advice I often hear women with diastasis receive is to hold their abs tight all day to make them strong again. Actually that is not getting strong, that is getting tense and tension in that form can make a diastasis recti worse! So be sure that one thing you are not doing is holding your belly “zipped” in all the time. It really does not make your abs stronger.

Pelvic floor: Leak pee and heaviness in your pelvic floor

The most common, not discussed issue for women postpartum. Pelvic floor issues can range from urinary incontinence to run and jump pee to prolapse of organs into the vaginal canal. A PT or urogynecologist would be the first place to turn for a diagnosis. Sadly I have heard many many women tell me that they were told that leak pee is not resolvable and “just learn to live with it.”That can be extremely discouraging to hear and thankfully it is not true. There is a lot that can be done to resolve leak pee but we must ensure that we are not making the issue worse with our movement and exercise choices. Any activities that increase intra abdominal and pelvic pressure can make it worse.

Increasing pressure can look like breath holding, excess abdominal tension in the form of sucking our bellies in, bearing down when we exercise, and doing exercises that ab our abs bulge up or out. Again, it comes down to finding a training program that focusses on these areas and can teach you how to exercise wisely in a beneficial way.

Postpartum, your pelvic floor and core are healing for at least 1 year. Both regions have gone through extensive changes and will take time to build back resilience and prior strength. Pushing too hard at first can put strain on the core and pelvic floor and strain on the pelvic floor when it is already in a weakened state is not ideal.

In summary:

Not all exercising and core training is created equal and our postpartum bodies need to be treated not as a piece of clay to mold back to original shape but as a structure that has gone through substantial changes and needs specific training to regain strength and integrity. If I had a penny for all of the women who wish they had done things differently postpartum and learned the hard way…

There is no need to push yourself in exercise to get your body back. Rather, think of healing your core and pelvic floor in a smart fashion so you can have a functional core and pelvic floor for the long haul.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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Pelvic Opening During Pregnancy

Pelvic Opening During Pregnancy

The pelvis is not a fixed entity. Sometimes we think it’s one continuous bone that is either big enough or not big enough for childbirth. Truth is, there are things we can do for pelvic opening during pregnancy.

Remember the skeleton model from school? It wasn’t exactly accurate. To be accurate, we’d need to have all the bones floating in space, held together by our soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, fascia). This means that everything is connected. Our body (including the pelvis) is amazingly adaptable. Shorten one tissue (let’s say- a tight ligament), you see a global response in the system. Open the leg a certain way- the tissues respond!

Do you know how many births I’ve attended as a doula where the birthing person was told their pelvis was too small for the baby to pass through it and they did it anyway? A lot. CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion) or true narrow pelvis, happens, but it’s very rare and usually associated with malformation of the pelvis- whether from other medical diagnoses or other causes. Yet, so many are told they have a small pelvis instead of really considering all the factors that were at play such as:

Do you know how many births I’ve attended as a doula where the birthing person was told their pelvis was too small for the baby to pass through it and they did it anyway? A lot. CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion) or true narrow pelvis, happens, but it’s very rare and usually associated with malformation of the pelvis- whether from other medical diagnoses or other causes. Yet, so many are told they have a small pelvis instead of really considering all the factors that were at play such as:

  • baby’s position.
  • birther’s position.
  • other factors like medical interventions.
  • And even still sometimes it’s a mystery.