Ante Natal Pilates: What’s all the fuss about?

alittlefitter

So you’re pregnant. Yay!  Congratulations. How are you feeling?

Nauseous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Relieved?

It’s a time of your life when there are so many expectations on you and of how it will feel to be pregnant but when it actually happens, and your body is invaded by a beautiful, yet essentially parasitic baby who is draining all your resources, it can leave you feeling, well, confused.

This is where someone like me steps in. A fitness professional with a passion for all things women’s health, which basically means I care about you being as comfortable and happy as possible during your pregnancy. I also care about ensuring your experience of labour and birth is the best it can be for you and perhaps most importantly, I care about you, as a woman, recovering after birth and getting back to being you!

Yes, ostensibly I’m a Pilates teacher, but given my…

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Green lentil and root vegetable soup

This is a super speedy, family friendly soup, suitable for even the most novice of domestic goddesses. The only appliance you’ll need (in addition to a hob) is some kind of blender. I use a stick blender for soups to save on washing up but a standard blender or food processor would work fine too.

I’ll be honest, this is a complete leftovers soup based on bits and bobs I had left in my fridge and inspired by the half a tin of green lentils I had leftover from the quinoa salad I’d made on Wednesday!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Half a tin of pre-cooked green lentils (no doubt it would work fine with a whole tin or cooked dried lentils too)
  • Half a swede, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Stick of celery (optional – I used this since I only had one small onion left in the bowl)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 litre water
  • 4 tsp vegetable bouillon or other stock (chicken would be nice too)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

Start by roasting the parsnips and garlic, this is an optional step but takes little effort and adds a flavour punch. Just pop the chopped parsnips (I chopped mine into 1/2 cm rounds to make them cook quicker) in a roasting tin with some olive oil. Then crush the garlic cloves, skin on, with the back of a knife or wooden spoon and add to the parsnips. Pop them in the oven at 200C/GM6 whilst you do the rest.

Now pop some oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion and celery, let them cook over a medium heat until they soften and the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

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Then add the rest of the ingredients. The swede, carrots, lentils, water, stock and cumin (if you don’t have pre-cooked lentils I’d suggest you cook them with the onions, celery and water for ten minutes before adding the remaining ingredients). Bring them all to the boil and let them simmer for around 15 minutes or until the swede and carrots are soft enough to blend.

Finally add the roasted parsnip pieces and remove the skins from the garlic before popping them in to the mixture too. Give it a final taste and season then blend it and serve.

I served mine with a swirl of chilli oil, salt and pepper but left Isaac’s plain. This soup got a big yes vote from Isaac too because of all the sweet vegetable ingredients, he lapped the soup up without stopping for the toast and butter soldiers!

Here he is giving it the vote of approval: “Mmmmmm … nice!”

 

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Is your pelvic floor ready for high impact exercise?

So you’ve had the baby, the stitches have healed, you’ve done a few pelvic floor exercises and you’ve attempted ‘relations’ with daddy. All seems good so far … then one day you get onto a trampoline with your tot or perhaps even attempt jump jacks at the local circuit class and suddenly it hits you. Things just aren’t the same anymore!

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If you don’t know what I’m referring to then you’ve either had a C-section or you’re one of the lucky ones. Exceptionally fast or very slow pushing phases of labour, high reactivity to hormones during pregnancy, big or multiple babies, age at which first baby was delivered vaginally, intervention such as ventouse or forceps and occasionally even a baby coming out at an awkward angle can all damage you up there. And I say up there because that’s the point, it’s just so hard to know what’s going on up there because we can’t see it and until you try to do something energetic you might think all is well!

So is there anyway of screening pelvic floor health to know if you’re safe to start energetic exercise again? The simple answer is no, it’s all very individual and unless you have an ultra-scound scan it can be difficult to get any conclusive, measurable evidence. But all is not lost. There are some good places to start!

How is it all supposed to work?

Think of your trunk or your core like a box of Pringles. The sides of the box are, for the sake of simplicity, your deep abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. The top is your diaphragm and the bottom, is your pelvic floor. If you were to stamp on the packet (not that you would do this) and the bottom was not completely secure, it would pop off, expelling crushed Pringles all over the floor and making a nasty mess.

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The same is true of your pelvic floor. Think of it like a hammock, or a trampoline, it has more give than a Pringle pot’s bottom to allow for some pressure build up but still needs to be able to clamp shut and secure the pressure within. If there’s a little bit of damage, an over stretch or similar then when put under extreme or continuous pressure, like a set of ten jump jacks, it might not hold up to the intensity.

How do I know if mine is damaged?

Again, you don’t know until you try. When it comes to high impact exercise we need to consider how your fast twitch pelvic floor muscles are working. Here are a few key pointers:

  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze?
  • Do you leak a little when you sneeze in a squatting position?
  • Can you bounce on a trampoline with confidence?
  • Can you do a squat jump, jump jack or series of jump jacks without leaking?

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Now I’m all for exercise. It makes you feel great, helps manage weight and fat stores, can be sociable etc etc but too much high impact exercise when your pelvic floor isn’t competent could lead to further, avoidable problems, such as pelvic organ prolapse. I should also mention at this point that it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I spoke with a top level physiotherapist/Pilates expert who experience a vaginal prolapse following the birth of her second child due to running too soon. It doesn’t mean you’re unfit, it just means you’ve been injured. You wouldn’t try running with a torn hamstring.

What to do now?

In my next post I’ll be going into more detail on specific exercises you can do to build strength and competence in your core and pelvic floor. But in the mean time, get familiar with what’s ‘up there’. Do do your pelvic floor exercises and whenever you’re exercising remember to engage your core, from your floor. So literally pull up from your tail and your tummy to make sure everything is tucked in! Remember to do slow wave like exercises first, followed by the quick squeeze all the way up and all the way back down AND do exercise to fatigue. A quick squeeze isn’t going to cut the mustard if you’re injured.