Many new Mums fail to appreciate the physical & mental toll pregnancy and childbirth puts on their bodies. Much effort goes into preparing for the new arrival - preparing the nursery, buying a pram, a cot etc. They may research and discuss labour and delivery options but very few mums give a moment’s thought into what happens to their body during pregnancy & in the months afterwards.
To many what happens next can be a bit of a surprise.
We see pictures on social media of celebrity new mums just days after giving birth looking at their slimmest best or embarking on the newest fad in exercising. The reality is often vastly different. The act of giving birth is an extremely physical act that may result in perineal trauma such as severe bruising, tears in the tissues, nerves and muscles of the perineum or a cut through those tissues (episiotomy). Problems in these areas can result in incontinence and prolapse which may come to a head immediately following the birth or several years afterwards.
A caesarean delivery is not without its risks. It is major surgery, and it should not be considered a ‘get out of jail free card’ to avoid the pelvic floor problems mentioned above. Pregnancy rather than mode of delivery has been shown to be the main risk factor for pelvic floor problems.
The effect of pregnancy on the muscles and joints of our bodies should not be underestimated either. The abdominal muscles stretch as the body adapts to a growing bump our posture changes, By the third trimester most women will have a separation in these muscles which is known as diastasis rectus abdominis muscle (DRAM). In many women this gap will resolve naturally by 8 weeks post-delivery, but up to 36% of women continue to have this DRAM after that time. Again, the long-term effects of not dealing with this can be significant. A DRAM makes us more prone to back and pelvic pain, incontinence, bloating & constipation. We develop compensatory habits and postural changes that continue long after the postnatal period. These shape our movement patterns going forwards and can lead to dysfunction and injury.
Childbirth can also have a significant effect on sexual relations – 1 in 5 women report pain during sex after childbirth which can have a knock-on effect to personal relationships. There are things you can do about all these things – you don’t just need to sit back and accept them.
If you fell & sprained your ankle or tore your calf muscle you might consider visiting a physiotherapist or embark on a rehabilitation programme, but at the very least you would rest the affected muscle or joint and allow time for that injury to heal and recover. What is different with the pelvic floor after you’ve had a baby? We should rest and gradually start rehabilitating it taking into account the daily demands it will face. Yes, we do our pelvic floor exercises when we remember, or while we are feeding our new arrival and then, within a few weeks or months, we resume our ‘normal’ lives expecting everything to be instantly back to how it used to be! Unfortunately, this is rarely the case and no matter how fit and strong you were before or during your pregnancy, whether you’re experiencing any new symptoms or not, you need to spend time rebuilding your body’s strength and fitness.
Before you start any strength or ballistic exercises you should address your core or cylinder of support (of which the pelvic floor is a pivotal muscle) and then build on this through a graded return to your usual activities or planned exercise. Research has shown that this approach can help reduce your chances of urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse later in life as well as reduce potential injuries by undertaking a targeted rehabilitation programme prior to resuming exercise.
The Mummy MOT is an excellent way to kick start this process.
The Mummy MOT was developed by Maria Elliott, a highly respected & experienced physio in London who worked in France for many years and noticed how the French system looked after their postnatal mums so much better than the UK. She developed the Mummy MOT as a specialist post-natal assessment which is aimed at all women following delivery, no matter if it was a vaginal or caesarean delivery or whether it is 6 weeks or many years after that.
What does the Mummy MOT include?
1-hour post-natal assessment which includes a full postural screen and assessment of any musculoskeletal problems arising from your pregnancy and the birth of your baby.
Comprehensive external and internal (if you wish) examination of your pelvic floor muscles alongside assessment of your abdominal muscles and measurement of any tummy gap.
Screening for bladder, bowel, or sexual dysfunction.
Advice on scar management if required.
Education and advice on safe activities such as lifting your baby or pushing a buggy.
A bespoke post-natal recovery programme devised especially for you, your lifestyle and fitness goals. This includes specific and safe exercises to improve posture and core strength.
A written report detailing the findings of the assessment and any recommendations.
Our Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Vanessa is a Certified Mummy MOT physiotherapist and is experienced in carrying out Mummy MOTs and helping you reach you goals.
To find out more about the Mummy MOT send us an email or give us a call.