Friday, November 22, 2013

Anatomy for Mamas 101 - Postpartum Healing meeting a huge success

Women really care about their bodies! And as well they should! We had a wonderful turnout for our Postpartum Healing meeting. Many thanks to physical therapists and pelvic floor specialists Ann Udofia and Marisa Alonso of Body Connect Health Wellness.

We learned a ton! We'll be sharing the handouts and detailed notes with members and with guests who requested them and can share with others as well upon request.

The big takeaway of the night was to be mindful in all exercise during and after pregnancy. Strengthen your transverse abdominal muscles throughout by pulling up and in but not doing crunches. Repeat gently immediately postpartum and increase as you heal, but take a full  6 weeks before even considering any strenuous activity. The pelvis is all over the place and the muscles and ligaments take a while to relearn where to go.

Braces and binders of various kinds can be effective at providing support during and after pregnancy. Our bodies do need support through these tremendous changes, but they also need stretching and lengthening, so don't forget stretches and yoga.

Women who are already runners may continue running when they get pregnant but should stop with ANY kind of pain and get an evaluation from a therapist. Walking is great for anyone, including women who were sedentary before getting pregnant.

Avoid running postpartum until/unless you know your core integrity to be strong (without a significant abdominal separation) and your pelvis to not be rotated or asymmetrical. An evaluation by a physical therapist trained to work with pregnant and postpartum women and with pelvic floor training can assess your body, release tightness through myofascial work and give you appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises.

Marisa used 38-weeks-pregnant Ann as a model -- along with a plastic pelvis -- and demonstrated how she does an evaluation and what she's looking for.

Once you do start running, if you choose to and think you have the abdominal integrity to do so safely, go slowly with a run/walk routine until you know what your body is able to handle. Listen to any pain and get yourself evaluated by someone trained in postpartum healing, even if your doctor or midwife has told you just to wait and everything will all go back to normal. It probably will not without support, and there are lots of things you can do to improve your body's recovery.

Strength-training without rest is not good, and impact training when there is scar tissue, tightness, a weak core, an abdominal separation (diastasis recti) can cause life-changing prolapse and also lead to back and hip pain. Abdominal separation can be reduced with time and with appropriate exercise, but for some women it will never go away completely.

We learned some self-care techniques, including lying on a Franklin ball to help loosen scar tissue from c-sections and to loosen other tissue as well. Marisa and Ann even brought some Franklin balls for our members and visitors to take home!

They also taught us how to use a scarf to approximate abdominus rectus closure when doing mini-crunches when you have abdominal separation. Pull the sides of a scarf or sheet in across your body to pull the sides of your abs together. Then raise your head just a little being mindful to engage the corset-like transverse abdominal muscles between your belly button and pubis. Any kind of crunches or sit-ups done without proper suppor for a separation can potentially lead to a worsening of the separation and to a whole host of problems, including with digestion and elimination.

Overall, we learned a lot about how abdominal and pelvic health can relate to whole body health and to vibrant, pain-free and prolapse-free living!

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