My post-natal body & I – an ABSOLUTE account

I decided to do it…..! I have contemplated long and hard about whether to put myself out there like this, out there into the unknown of the social media realm. However the constant subjection to unrealistic expectations that women face from social media platforms has influenced my decision. On a daily basis we are tortured with false expectations of what we should look and feel like after having a baby. Instaprofiles of new mummy’s having their perfect 10 body as soon as the baby is delivered…with perfect hair…..perfect nails…not to mention lots of time to update their social media accounts.

This is echoed by the real women I meet in my clinic for postpartum physiotherapy. They vocalise their disappointment that they still have a “mummy tummy” or “leaky bladder” and often apologise for the way they are turning up in a rush with pulled back greasy hair, wearing tracksuit pants and a top that has the residue of regurgitated milk over the shoulder. Eh HELLO!!!!! Reality check! We have just had a baby. Life is wonderful but somewhat crazy. We hardly get a minute to ourselves between the chaos of adjusting to family life with a new member of the team as well as the constant presence of visitors. This is before we consider that we may still be walking like John Wayne, bleeding like never before and experiencing the threat of breasts that could virtually combust at any time. 

It takes 10 months to make a baby. During that time our body adapts and develops throughout the pregnancy. Our ribs and hips widen to facilitate our growing baby, our abdomen gradually expands creating our “baby bump” meaning that our abdominal muscles and connective tissue stretch, our breasts get larger, our centre of gravity adapts with our changing shape, and we have an overall increase in hair and nail growth due to higher levels of oestrogen. For some of us this can include being coated in a subtle layer of fluff on our face, breasts, back and abdomen that would give Fr Ted’s fluffy bottom a run for his money! It therefore shouldn’t take much convincing to appreciate that following delivery it will take time to adjust back towards your pre-pregnancy body again.

The purpose of this blog series is to give a true, authentic insight into well-being during and recovery after pregnancy. No airbrushing, no filters, no misconceptions. Just a real life story of a small town girl after her 3rd pregnancy. An article published by Liechty et al in 2017 discusses women’s views of post-partum social media and their desire for changes in media messages to reflect more realistic insights and depict a ‘more complex portrayal of the life stage‘.

My particular passion behind the blog is to highlight the importance of exercise and healthy lifestyle in both pre-natal preparation and post-natal recovery. We live in an era where maternal obesity is at an all time high. Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre demonstrated 20% of pregnant women in England in 2015, who attended their first appointment, were classed as obese.  Lack of understanding about the importance of safe exercise DURING pregnancy plays a part. In general our society is one of a more sedentary lifestyle. Similarly, awareness of safe and appropriate exercise following pregnancy is lacking.

People either do not exercise; do not want to be seen exercising as they don’t have the automatic gym runway bod after their 23 hour labour; or they are the other extreme….jumping head first into exercise classes and bootcamps that their body simply isn’t ready for. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of all forms of exercise, but we need to be sensible and informed to choose the right type of exercise at the right stages of our lives, working towards goals to return to more demanding, challenging exercise forms as required. 

For anyone wondering how to exercise safely in pregnancy or for health professionals looking guidance to pass on to their patients there are several sources to familiarise yourself with:

– The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published “Recreational exercise and pregnancy: information for you” in September 2006. Click here to view.

– The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period” in 2015. Click here to access.

– In 2017 the UK Chief Medical Officers issued new guidance on physical activity in pregnancy, which has been developed by a collaborative group involving researchers and the design team at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit. The infographic below is created to give an overview of the guidance. Click here to access the full release ‘Physical activity in pregnancy infographic: guidance‘. 

My pre-natal body:

I did my best to follow the guidelines and keep relatively active during my pregnancy. I tried to walk regularly or work out in our clinic rehab gym. I have created a short video giving an insight into how I went about keeping fit and active, including what I am sure any mummies out there will appreciate to be their most demanding form of cardio…..everything that comes with being a mummy!!!!!!!!! 

Please note, that as per the guidelines, exercise in pregnancy has to be tailored to each individual, i.e. it depends on your level of fitness and physical activity coming up to the pregnancy. If you are unsure about what is safe for you please contact a suitable health professional for guidance such as a physiotherapist specialising in Women’s Health, a midwife, your GP/Obstetrician or a personal trainer who specialises in antenatal and postnatal populations.

My post-natal body:

And to finish….here it is…my true account of a full term baby bump followed by my day one mummy tummy. No sucking in, no airbrushing, no gimmicks! That’s right ladies, we do not bounce back to having wash board abs straight away! Embrace it! Cherish it! Focus on the tremendous journey you have undertaken providing a safe and nurturing environment for your baby over the past 10 months. And what about the unbelievable achievement of labour and delivery. No matter how you delivered, it really is fascinating what women and their bodies are capable of!

Stay tuned for follow up blogs about my post-natal recovery and progress. These will be posted on an “as and when” basis on our social media platforms: (facebook – @Absolute.PhysioNI; Instagram – @Absolute.Physio; twitter – @ABSPhysio

The man himself:

p.s. I would like to introduce our 3rd and newest member of the team, Mr Noah Seamus Donnelly….I know I am biased but….how cute eh?!?:

References

  1. “It’s Just Not Very Realistic”: Perceptions of Media Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women – Toni Liechty, Sarah M. Coyne, Kevin M. Collier & Aubrey D. Sharp – Health Communication Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0
  2. “Maternity Services Monthly Statistics, England – September and October 2015, Experimental statistics”, Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2016, http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB20144
  3. “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period”, American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 2015 – https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Physical-Activity-and-Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period
  4. “Recreational exercise and pregnancy: information for you”; Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, September 2006; https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/recreational-exercise-and-pregnancy.pdf
  5. “Physical activity in pregnancy infographic: guidance”, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) June 2017; https://npeu.ox.ac.uk/npeu-news/1385-new-physical-activity-and-pregnancy-guidelines

antenatal, diastasis recti, exercise is medicine, graded exercise, maternal obesity, mummy tummy, new mummy, no filter, post-natal, postnatal, pregnancy, real life, realistic expectations, safe exercise

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