Tag Archives: pregnancy

I’m having a baby! What to expect in the 1st Trimester and exercises to help

Congratulations! You’re having a baby! 

Well, me too, so snap! This is my second child, my first is 5 years old and now I am 19 weeks pregnant with number 2, so I know what you’re going through.
baby on board
What’s the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy 
0-12 weeks of early pregnancy is known as the 1st trimester and a time to establish a routine. Every woman’s body is different and each pregnancy is individual. 
The focus for exercise in the 1st trimester establishing a good routine that will see you through your whole pregnancy, to help you stay active and strong in pregnancy, because let’s face it, it is hard work on your body and for a looooong time! But even more importantly, what you do now during pregnancy, sets up good preparation in your body to help you give birth naturally, with an ideal alignment of baby inside you and with to make the “job” a little bit easier. (she laughs at the word “easier”)
It’s also about pre working on returning to shape and recovery after baby is born, as the investment you make now in your body will help facilitate  this time later to be that little bit easier too.
Early pregnancy is not the time to work too hard. You may be feeling tired, sick, have some weight gain, an increase in the need to go to the loo, breasts become larger and more tender and hormones are all over the place. Avoid overheating in exercise, don’t worry about working out too hard, things may be a struggle for you at this time even though you don’t have a huge bump yet. It’s a time to realise what’s going on in your body is pretty major and amazing and listen to it.  In these early days, baby is doing it’s important forming so let’s give it some thought and chill out a little more on the vigorous stuff and start being mindful of the creation inside you, your changing body and respect the changes.  The 2nd trimester is the time where you can up your efforts so leave that for then.
Creating a good awareness focus on your pelvic floor muscles is key right now. They take a lot of strain over 9 months of pregnancy with the weight of a growing baby, as well as that extra effort during natural delivery. Learn what the pelvic floor muscles are, how to keep them both strong and flexible. We need the “bounce” in our muscles as well as the tightness so remember it’s not all about pulling up, up up down there!
Keep your movements controlled, slow and mindful, remembering to support the lax ligaments that occur in pregnancy from the hormone Relaxin by strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support around the joints.
Pregnancy is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool either! It’s a demanding effort on mum, and you need to be strong, active and healthy to cope with the demands. So although it may feel like a time to sit back, eat tubs of icecream and attend antenatal exercise classes where you only breath and then eat cake, come on ladies, invest in yourself! Strong and supple legs, back, core and pelvic floor are the order of the day so let’s keep active moving forward in our pregnancy… more on that later in our 2nd Trimester blog.
The stages of a baby
What exercises are good for the 1st Trimester?

Natural alignment of the pelvis– important for facilitating a correct birth position and so you know a benchmark of the “norm” when later it naturally starts tilting forward.

Extension of the thoracic spine– you want to work on extension of the (mid-upper) thoracic spine for later prevention of the inevitable roundness that occurs, to support the weight of the growing breasts, to maintain a good upper body alignment and to help with lower back support. This area becomes increasingly stiff as the lower back becomes more mobile.

Flexion of the lumbar spine and oblique strengthening– gain mobility of the lower lumbar spine to strengthen and stretch the back muscles. It’s important to learn how to activate, strengthen and stabilize with the deep abdominals known as the Transvere Abdominisius, along with the Obliques, which helps prevent the destablisation of the rectus abdominus which may cause abdominal separation known as Diastasis Recti, and to help stablise the pelvis and aid with lower back ache.

Focus on pelvic floor toning and stretching– the pelvic floor muscles need toning and stretching to work naturally as a support system against the weight of a growing baby bearing down on them. This is important during pregnancy, to assist and guide baby out in delivery and to regain their control after, helping to avoid those little “leaks” that can be common. Pelvic floor muscles should be worked with breathing exercises and functional movement so it’s not about just squeezing your bits aka Kegel, but making them work during normal movements like a squat.

Breathing– breathing is great as a relaxation tool  and will not only help you engage your deep ab muscles and pelvic floor, but help you relieve stress and stretch tight mid back muscles. As baby gets bigger inside you, your organs get squashed, and the added hormones too, make breathing a little bit harder to do, so focusing on your breath is a great way to bring back some focus to this area.

Finally, it’s often nice to get out and meet other mums to be. Doing a specialist prenatal Pilates or yoga class during your pregnancy will get you to meet other like minded women, who can share support with how you are feeling and in our classes, the ladies make friends and often have babies around the same time so you’ve got an instant network of new mummy friends! Please note we only recommend continuing with Pilates in your 1st Trimester if you have been doing so before you became pregnant. Otherwise, wait for your 1st scan, check all is ok with the baby and with your pregnancy and join in from 12-13 weeks.

Oh, it’s ok to eat the occasional tub of icecream too! (mine’s the salted caramel one!)

Look out for part 2- The 2nd Trimester…….coming soon!

Written by Michelle Smith
Owner, The Pilates Pod and mum of 1 (and a bit!) kids!
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Do your ironing to lose your mummy tummy

When I was around 20 years old, a man came up to me in a nightclub and asked me how I got such a flat belly, his wife didn’t have one anymore!

At the time I was rather proudly sporting a flat tummy and slight six pack, neatly presented in a figure hugging hot pink dress that would have shown all lumps and bumps. Of course, disregarding the obvious retort  of “you shouldn’t be so cheeky about your wife, you’re not looking so hot yourself you know!” I promptly replied about my gym loving, ab crunching lifestyle.

Course what I now realise is the secret to my flat tummy was youth!
Despite binge drinking, take away loving and late night partying, I could still rock up to the gym and do a few gym ball exercises and a spot on the treadmill and my metabolism would forgive me.

Fast forward another decade and I had my son.  I think I put on about 2.5 stone (though never actually been a fan of the scales so didn’t really weigh this properly) I expect the sudden love for mars bars didn’t help the weight gain but I kind of expected my pre child days to spring my body back.

I’d been doing Pilates by then for about 8 years and it was a life saver when it came to back pain through my pregnancy and got me delivering Dylan with some impressive pelvic floor pushing.  8 weeks after I had him I thought it was time to get serious about getting into shape again so the food plans started, the exercise was upped and the workout at home with baby Pilates happened. I was really excited at the thought of my flat belly returning.

mummytummy
One day when getting dressed, I noticed a line on my tummy that hadn’t been there before. Shock horror it was my “mummy tummy.” The leftovers from the sagging skin, dropping belly that once so hugely held my son inside. This now rather depressing sight drooped over my lower belly like some sad reminder of my old days passed!

Now I know some of you will be thinking that these lines, stretch marks and flabby bits are a love reminders of the wonder that is pregnancy and the memento of your child arriving into this world. But me, I just wanted my old flat belly back! I love my child, but going from luscious locks, perky boobs, healthy skin and a flat toned body, into a sad sack tummy, spotty flaky sallow skin, empty booby sacks and hair that refused to grow except in random  places  making me look like a devil. This was not good.

It took about a year before I started feeling like me again properly. The boobs changed so many times I couldn’t keep up with repeat bra changes, the stretch marks faded (annoyingly I forgot to use Bio Oil on my boobs so this was the only place i got them) the hair grew back, my skin perked up but my tummy has never quite been the same.

A more desperate woman  would have gone crazy with the ab crunches in a quest to squash the mummy tummy, and probably would have choked on her tea reading this when I say it was a year before I started feeling myself again. I know these celeb mags are always proudly pointing out the ladies back into the bikini after 3 weeks from giving birth, but it’s unrealistic for most of us.

iron your tummy

My secret weapon to feeling me again in the tummy department are the pelvic floor muscles. When you activate your pelvic floor, you co-connect with your deep abdominals called your transversus, or what I like to call your “super iron”. This is a wrapping muscle that goes around from front to back, giving you pelvic and lower back stability but the really great news for us mummy tummy phobics, it’s wraps and flattens your tum! Doing proper Pilates exercises with mindful awareness to this pelvic floor/transversus connection makes a podgy saggy mummy tummy, lift and flatten away like the best flattest, crinkle free ironing service.

No matter how hard you try to “crunch” away your belly, you will only make it worse and possible lead to abdominal separation if you do that too soon without building a good foundation inside.

Have I got the perfect belly? No not by a long shot. Since having a child, it’s never ever been the same. BUT I am never going to be wearing a crop top in public again, I prefer tankinis over bikinis and the only people who see me naked are me, my husband and my child. So I’ve learnt to live with that accept it. But after trying a pair of ‘hold me in belly’ Spanx and finding that I can hold my mummy tummy better myself AND more comfortably without feeling like my insides have been choked.

I am now ditching the Spanx for more “ironing!”

P.S- Guys if you’re reading this over her shoulder, the same secret goes to you. get “ironing” if you want to improve your beer belly!

man belly

 

Written by Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod. Mummy to Dylan age 4yrs old.
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying fit for bump, baby and beyond

bump
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Having a baby can be a difficult and demanding time, even before the little one comes along. Carrying a baby is physically (and emotionally) tough on your body.

Let’s first get a bit geeky and look at the anatomy of your body, bear with me ok?!
Your pelvis consists of 3 bones and 3 joints, one at the front and two at the back. The bones form a protective basin for your bladder, womb and bowel. The joints of the pelvis and spine are supported by ligaments and muscle.

So then you find out your pregnant, and those lovely hormones start kicking in. Regardless of the frequent trips to the loo and the bursts into tears, these hormone changes during pregnancy soften these ligaments and the joints become less stable. As your baby grows there is a change in your centre of gravity and posture. It’s these combined changes that can lead to low back pain and/or pelvic girdle pain.

What are our choices?
Well, of course it’s a bit too late to go back on the baby front but you can do things to help reduce  the strain and discomfort you may be experiencing.

Here’s my top tips:

  • Sit correctly, and when possible sit rather than stand when performing daily activities such as ironing
  •  Ensure your work surface is at the correct height
  • Use correct technique for lifting and avoid heavy loads
  • Find a comfortable sleeping position -try using a pillow between your knees and ensure you get in and out of bed keeping your knees together and rolling onto your side.
  • Gentle exercise during pregnancy is good for you and your developing baby. Work within your own limits. You must listen to your body and stop if you feel unwell.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration

mum and baby

Fast forward 9 months and baby’s here- congratulations! The ante natal classes have stopped, the midwife has gone and you’re struggling with sleepless nights, working out what the baby cries mean and trying to work out how to drink a cup of coffee without it going cold. But what about your body? I’m not talking baby weight here but your insides, the bits you can’t see and probably after having baby, can’t feel either! You’ve just carried a baby for 9 months, then delivered it. It’s an amazing thing our bodies are designed to do isn’t it?!

Time to get anatomy geeky again….

pelvic floorWhat is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor are a sling of muscles that lie at the base of your pelvis between your pubic bone and coccyx and can be likened to the shape of a hammock. Strong pelvic floor muscles help you to control the bladder and bowel. The increasing weight of your baby during pregnancy, followed by delivery, may weaken your pelvic floor muscles. This may cause you to leak urine when you exert yourself, especially after delivery. We all know those stories of laughing or coughing, or running for the bus and feeling that little accident. It happens, but we can prevent it by exercising your pelvic floor every day, both during pregnancy and after baby is born.

What is the ‘core’?

The core consists of this pelvic floor, along with the diaphragm, transversus abdominis muscles and deep spinal muscles. They work together to form an ‘internal cylinder of support’ for your spine.

Exercises like Pilates can help you get re-acquainted with your core muscles again and get them working properly.

So you’ve had baby, now what?
In the early post natal period you need to be gentle and kind to yourself. Good habits here can serve you well. So remember to:
• Give yourself time to rest, recover and bond with your baby
• Take care moving in and out of bed, especially if you have had a caesarean section
• Sit well back in the chair for feeding. A pillow or folded towel behind your back will support you and may prevent backache. Supporting your arm on the armrest or on a pillow will prevent tension building up in the neck and shoulders from holding the baby for long periods of time. Alternatively a pillow on your lap will bring the baby up to the level of the breast for easier feeding
• When changing the baby it is easier for your back if the surface is at waist height, it will prevent bending and will be easier to lift the baby from this height.
• Avoid bending forward and straining the back when bathing the baby by kneeling by the side of the bath.
• You may experience leakage of urine if you cough or sneeze as a result of vaginal delivery weakening the pelvic floor muscles, this should resolve by your 6 week check up. If it continues you may need to seek professional help from a women’s health physiotherapist.
• Avoid constipation to prevent straining against your pelvic floor muscles and prevent piles or haemorrhoids worsening. Ensure you eat a varied diet and drink plenty of fluids.
• Start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you are able (see below for info)
• Low impact exercises such as walking are recommended.

How do we switch on the pelvic floor?
Breathing with the correct technique enables you to switch on your pelvic floor. It’s important to learn to breathe deep and wide to the bottom of your rib cage. This allows your diaphragm to work correctly and therefore your pelvic floor.

  • As you breathe out gently lift the area between your pubic bone and coccyx, the hammock. As you do this you should feel a small amount of tension in your lower abdomen as discussed above.
  • Although you may feel a gentle tensioning around your back passage, you must not tighten your buttock muscles.
  • Try and ‘close your openings’ first then imagine an escalator lifting from your bottom to your belly button.
  • Similarly, you must let your upper tummy muscles completely relax, do not pull in your upper abdomen.
  • Hold for 5 seconds then relax and let go. Repeat several times

As you get stronger you should build up the hold time up to ten seconds, and repeat ten times, several times a day

Returning to Exercise
The first 5 months following the birth of your baby is considered the ‘post natal period’.
• During this time it is best to refrain from any high impact exercise. This is to give your body and pelvic floor time to recover from child birth.
• If you are breast feeding you should take extra care in returning to any high impact exercise as the hormones produced during pregnancy may still be circulating in your system.
• There are always exceptions to the rules and if you’ve been running throughout your pregnancy and your pelvic floor is in extremely good condition then you may be able to return sooner.
• Never exercise at a level that your pelvic floor cannot cope with. If you start leaking when you are doing activities then stop immediately. This may not just be high impact activities but may also be lifting or abdominal exercises.
• All exercise should be done with a good posture as this enhances the pelvic floor contraction.

Look out for Rectus Diastasis
Diastasis
Rectus Diastasis is the separation of the Rectus Abdominis muscles due to excessive pressure during pregnancy. There are 4 layers to the abdominals and these are the most superficial. There are also Transversus Abdominis, Internal and External Obliques. When the tummy stretches, so does the connective tissue between the Rectus Abdominis muscles- this is normal. The muscles should recover and the gap lessen within the first 6 weeks post natally however some women do take longer to recover. Exercises that will help your diastasis to recover are ‘core stability’ exercises for your Transversus Abdominis that you do in the post natal Pilates classes.

Exercises that should be avoided are crunches, sit-ups, twists combined with crunches or anything that ‘jack-knifes’ the body, by pivoting at the hip & placing strain on the abdominals such as straight leg lifts.

Having a baby is a special time, but it’s also very demanding.  Don’t forget to take time for yourself as well as looking after baby, whether your little ‘un is still in the bump, just arrived as baby or the months beyond.

Enjoy your mummy time!

Bally Lidder

Chartered Physiotherapist and Acupuncture Practitioner

Lidder Therapies

07951 490214,
bally@liddertherapies.co.uk
www.liddertherapies.co.uk

lidder therapies