Today we are continuing our new series Mimi’s Friends: I am excited to introduce our February expert and contributor: Clare Bourne women’s health physio. Before I introduce Clare in more detail, I want to add a personal note: I cannot recommend Clare and her expertise more highly. She supported me in both my pregnancies. My second baby George, was born last July, at 9.5 lbs and the pregnancy was not without it’s challenges. I felt incredibly lucky to have Clare’s support and I really wanted to share some of her expertise through Mimi’s Bowl. Pregnancy can be a challenging time physically and Clare’s practical and effective approach to women’s health, helped me so much. She is a mum herself and this month's she is sharing her top 5 top tips for post-natal health and wellness.
Introducing Clare and Clare Bourne Physio
Clare is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist specialising in caring for women during and after pregnancy. She has worked in the field for 6 years with extensive NHS experience and has now moved into private practice at @sixphysio in Chelsea. She is mother to a two-year old daughter and has learnt first hand the physical challenge of pregnancy and motherhood. Clare is also part of the @Mummy Tribe team, a retreat for postnatal Mums providing a holistic approach to postnatal recovery: for more information please visit http://www.themummytribe.co.uk
Through her work, Clare is aware of how alone women can feel during and after pregnancy and how they can be unsure where to get help for symptoms that are often embarrassing and difficult to talk about. She loves to support and provide rehabilitation, helping women to achieve their goals whatever their birth experience. She provides postnatal body checks for women at 6 weeks, which is a comprehensive physical assessment with tailored advice to guide return to exercise. Clare is a trained pre-and postnatal Pilates instructor and uses this extensively within her practice and values the huge benefits of Pilates in pregnancy and postnatal.
Clare shares her top 5 tips for Mum’s after birth ~
Do your pelvic floor exercises whilst feeding your baby
The best tip I have for doing your pelvic floor exercises is to do them when feeding your baby. It is generally a time when you are sitting down and baby is settled. I find, and I am speaking from my own personal experience as well, that if you relate it to something you do with your baby you are more likely to do them. It is SO easy to forget about them!
Some of us won’t be able to feel any pelvic floor activation when sitting, so try lying on your side before you go to sleep and see if you can feel anything. If not then please speak to your GP and ask for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist.
2. Don’t fear diastasis recti
Diastasis recti is a problem lots of mums to be and new mums fear, but what is it exactly? It is the natural process of gradual separation of the abdominal muscles as your baby grows. Not something to be feared, but something to be informed about and feel empowered to look after yourself during and after pregnancy. It is one of the main topics I talk about with women when they come to see me after birth, and my take home message is, it isn't about how big the gap is, but what the connective tissue is like between it. This connective tissue is called the linea alba and is one for the things I use ultrasound to assess in my clinic. There isn't a one size fits all solution but there are a lot of things that you can do to help. So don’t suffer in silence, help is out there.
3. Think about your posture when pushing the buggy
Posture is key throughout life, but it is never more important than during and after pregnancy. The advice I give all new mums is that you can exercise and focus on getting strong again, but if your daily posture and what you do between sessions is wrong, you are still likely to feel aches and pains in your back. We spend a lot of time as mums pushing the buggy, and it’s all too easy to have the handle at the wrong height, resulting in rounded shoulders and a poking chin. Additionally it’s very easy to walk around with our pelvis slightly tilted forwards like we did during pregnancy. So some helpful pointers are:
Imagine your pelvis is like a bucket where you can pour water out of the front and back by tilting it. Try and work on keeping your pelvis level so that it is not tilted forwards or backwards so all the water stays in the bucket.
Then try and stack your ribs over your pelvis – look at yourself side on in the mirror. You might be surprised to see that your rib cage and upper back is set back from where you would expect it to be. This is normal after pregnancy and from carrying children.
Finally, think about lengthening your neck. Visualise a piece of string on the top of your head, and imagine this is being pulled upwards. Combine this with a slight chin tuck and it will help to get your neck into the best position.
4. Make sure your baby’s weight is on a pillow when feeding – Save your upper back!
It is really common for new mums to have upper back and neck pain. Part of this is due to the postural changes mentioned previously, but a lot of the time it is due to our feeding posture. This is relevant whether you breast feed or bottle feed. In those early days it is easy to take the weight of our little ones in our arms, but as they get heavier we need to support their weight more, otherwise we start to get a lot of tension into our neck and upper back. This can create muscular tightness and joint stiffness. You don’t need a special feeding pillow, you can use one or two normal pillows to create a supportive platform for your little one.
Also, when burping your little one, try to alternate which shoulder you do this on so that you don’t repeatedly overuse the muscles on one side.
5. Pelvic tilts - A top exercise for pregnancy or postnatal
Pelvic tilts are a great exercise both during and after pregnancy. They help to relieve lower back pain, for most, in pregnancy, and help you re-learn the correct position of the pelvis after birth. They are highly versatile and can be done sitting, lying, standing or on a gym ball. So wherever you are they are easy to do. The videos show them being done in different positions. It is slightly easier to do it for the first time in lying or standing against a wall so start with those. If you are heavily pregnant, then against a wall or sitting is best for you.
Keep your upper body relaxed
Gently flatten your lower back into the mat or wall by tilting your pelvis backwards – again imagine that bucket of water pouring water out the back of your pelvis.
You can think about contracting your pelvic floor as your tilt your pelvis back, whilst also breathing out…which can be a lot of think about, so don’t worry if you struggle initially.
Then relax back to your starting position, before repeating.
These can be helpful if you have a desk job during pregnancy and you notice by the end of your day you have back or pelvic pain. Try every few hours to do 10-15 pelvic tilts on the edge of your chair and see if that helps. Once you have the baby these can be great to do at the end of your day, when you’ve been carrying a car seat, buggy or just been run off your feet.