Are you planning to be a mom someday, counting down on the calendar to your due date or have kids or grandkids already? No matter what stage of motherhood you are in, there are important considerations for you as an athlete, both in and out of the gym. Every woman in this continuum of motherhood has different abilities, symptoms, comfort levels and goals. If you are not planning to have a baby or if you have a partner who is going to have a baby – this is still important to understand because the numbers of post-partum women is always growing and you can serve as a valuable support system for women in any stage of this process!
This Three Part series is brought to you by new mom, Coach Christy, and soon to be mom, Coach Tina. They are both pre and post partum athleticism certified coaches and they’re launching Moms in Motion at the end of March!
Get your mind right
First, it’s worth discussing our mindset in our approach to fitness as a pregnant or post-partum athlete. Where you are after you have a baby will likely look different than where you were before the baby – both mentally, emotionally and physically. Let’s be clear – there is no ‘getting your body back’ after a baby. You never lost it. Instead, you now have a stronger, more adaptable body that another human being is dependent on.
We encourage you to approach your fitness with your goals in mind. What are you training for? What do you want your fitness experience after having a baby to look like immediately after you are cleared for working out again? How about 2 years post-baby, 5 years, 10 years? After you have your goals solidified, ask yourself: “Just because I can do this exercise, should I? Does it serve me in my goals?” This will look different for every woman, and may change for yourself over time, too!
Understanding your body
To help you answer if the risk is worth the reward, it’s helpful to understand some anatomy and how your body physically changes throughout this process. It’s important to remember, that your doctor is ALWAYS your #1 resource for symptoms, physical exams and questions related to your pregnancy and aftercare. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists are also important members of the healthcare team that can help you navigate some changes post-baby.
So what is your pelvic floor anyway? Everyone’s got one and no matter if you’ve had a baby or not, or if you are a male or female, you could have pelvic floor dysfunction. For this article, we will focus on the female pelvic floor anatomy. The pelvic floor is one component of your core that is the muscular base of the pelvis that supports the uterus, bladder and bowel. Other important anatomical structures to understand are the inner core (diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominus and multifitus) and outer core (rectus abdominus, obliques, lats, glutes and erector spinae).
To allow the baby to grow, parts of a woman’s body need to move to allow for the physical space of the baby – not only the organs, but also muscles and connective tissue, as well. One common change from pregnancy that may still be present after the baby is born is diastasis recti. This happens when hormones direct the tension of connective tissue to loosen. This diastasis may persist after the baby is born and the healing process is different for every woman and every pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that your core is essentially a “closed pressure system.” When there is a baby in that system, it can change how your body’s pressure adjusts and distributes. Your diaphragm expands and contracts with each breath, which is essential to different strategies for movement for pregnancy and post-partum women.
Is this normal?
Certain movements or exercises may exacerbate or worsen some symptoms related to pregnancy and post-partum training. Certain symptoms are expected (for example, diastasis recti during pregnancy) but some are not ‘normal.’ Please don’t google these symptoms if you have any or are worried about any. Your OB/GYN and pelvic floor physical therapist are your best allies to make sure your symptoms are expected or require management and monitoring. Your coach is there to help modify movements to allow you to achieve your goals no matter what stage of motherhood you are in!
In our next articles, we’ll talk a little bit more about particular modifications for pregnant and post-partum athletes, stay tuned!
Do you want to work with an expert coach to navigate this part of your journey in motherhood? sign up for Moms in Motion below, starting March 31st!
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