May has been the unofficial month of the Woman – with Mother’s Day making an appearance early in the month, we decided to dedicate May to women’s health and post-natal exercise. So who better to chat to than Michelle Wright from Mishfit, our local post-natal expert? We asked her a few questions about post-natal exercise and how new mums can get fit and return to their pre-baby figure after giving birth. Here’s what she had to say…
How did you get involved with women’s health & fitness?
I returned to exercise after the birth of my second child in order to get back into shape and to help deal with post-natal depression. Throw into the mix a divorce and no family in the country – exercise was my daily sanity break! I decided to change my career from a primary school teacher to something I enjoyed doing and became a personal trainer. During this whole time, I was noticing that the more I exercised the more my pelvic floor was struggling. I completed my training without learning how to change that and certainly wasn’t given any advice at the gym.
I went to a women’s health Physio and learnt that I was near prolapse and I needed to change how I exercised. Upon exploring this issue further, I learnt that one third of all women who have children were suffering (mostly in silence) just like me. I healed myself through exercise and found that once I had retrained both my body and my mind, I was able to go back to the full on exercise I enjoyed, only now I didn’t leak.
This motivated me to help educate other women, and with my teaching background, wrote an exercise/education program where mothers could bring their children and babies (one of the biggest obstacles for women trying to exercise) and thus mishfit mothers was born! I am very proud to say that 5 years on, I have helped many women heal their own bodies.
When is the best time to return to exercise after giving birth? Is this different to the time you should take before doing Power Plate training?
I believe you should start exercising the day you give birth… but the key is the type of exercise you do! When we train, we need to train to our weakest link. Post-natally, this is your pelvic floor, which is a muscle that has worked extremely hard over the time of your pregnancy (even if you had a caesarean). So you can start making a positive change to your body immediately after birth. With a new baby you are often sitting and feeding, so this is a perfect time to practice your pelvic floor contractions – both long and short holds. A lot of people don’t realise that strengthening your pelvic floor also helps flatten the lower abdominal area.
Depending on your recovery you could start introducing walks into your daily routine. This is not only a beautifully gentle way to start exercising, but brilliant for your mental health too and gives you a chance to get out of the house!
To return to more strenuous exercise or Power Plate training, I fully recommend either after your 6 or 8 week check up with your doctor. Make sure that if you have had a C-section you have the OK from your obstetrician before you begin strenuous exercise. I always recommend being guided by someone who knows how to train you safely and help guide you in contracting your pelvic floor correctly while you are exercising.
How many ways are there to skin a cat? We all find different exercises or exercise programs more enjoyable than others. The key is to do something that you love, however, experiment with new ways to exercise but always work from the inside out! Learning to contract your pelvic floor while performing exercises will not only strengthen you from within, but also help you obtain the flattening effect you are looking for. If you are unsure if you are contracting correctly, seek help from a women’s health Physio and ask to use the real time ultrasound.
One part of women’s health you are passionate about is curing incontinence. Why is this so important and how can women prevent or cure this embarrassing problem?
Living with incontinence is really debilitating – it can stop women from exercising and in more extreme cases, can stop women from even leaving the house. It affects not only your self-esteem but also sexual enjoyment. Incontinence affects around 4.8 million women in Australia alone and 50% are women under 50 years of age. This is not just an issue for the elderly – it is a real issue facing one third of post-natal women. Often sheer embarrassment of leaking stops women from actively seeking advice or help.
However, often incontinence can easily be fixed by a change of lifestyle and understanding of your body, including how to contract it correctly. Remember, the pelvic floor is a functional muscle, so we need to train it in this situation as well. Having a strong pelvic floor is essential to all facets of your life. My goal is to not only take the issue of incontinence out of the closet, but for the pelvic floor to be part of every women’s exercise program.
What are your top three tips for new mums who are thinking about getting into exercise after the birth of their children?
- Pelvic Floor First – if you are unsure about contracting correctly, usually a one-off visit to a women’s health physiotherapist (especially those who use Real Time Ultra sound) can do wonders to improving your technique. Also www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au has easy to read and free help and support.
- Try include exercise every day, this means not only practicing your pelvic floor contractions, but try and get out for a walk and once you have your 6 week check, do your homework and find an exercise option that you not only enjoy, but understands your changed physical needs. Exercise is a fantastic way to deal with or keep post-natal depression at bay.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t underestimate the job your body has just done and treat it with the kindness that it deserves. This will not only mean that you will make a full recovery, but also put you in the best possible position for your next pregnancy or menopause!
Mish is the founder and CEO of mishfit. mishfit mothers is a specialised personal training program designed for pregnant and post-natal women, educating women on how to exercise safely and where their babies and children are welcome. mishfit is truly a family friendly small business and is now available as a franchise.