Top 5 pre and post natal blog posts

Hello,

This year is proving to be pretty awesome and as part of the fun I’ve been nominated for the What’s on 4 Little Ones Awards, in best Pre and Post Natal Activity Category. I’m so chuffed.

I love what I do, from seeing new mums through pregnancy to getting them back on the other side for some well earned re-hab. My post natal classes with babies are always full of smiles and baby coos.

I also love being able to share what I know and am continuing to learn with a wider audience through my blog posts. It’s great to see them read and shared across the world.

So in honour of this week’s voting I’m sharing my top 5 pre and post natal blog posts. Please share and if you like what you read please don’t forget to vote.

In fact do it now, before you read, in case you forget! http://www.whatson4littleones.co.uk/awards.asp

The voting closes this Friday.

Top 5 pre and post natal posts from alittlefitter.com

1. My timeline to post natal recovery. From early days to up to two years. How long does it really take your body to recover after pregnancy: The Princess, the bump, your body.

2. How to look after your tummy after pregnancy and why you need to avoid crunches or situps. Situps. The fastest way to a flat tummy.

3. On the ever popular subject of pelvic floor health, how about how your muscle can affect your sex life. Pelvic floor: The key to great orgasms for life.

4. Still on pelvic floor. How to actually do your exercises. To squeeze or not to squeeze.

5. And last but not least, my newest pre and post natal post all about nutrition post baby. The New Mummy Diet. What women really need to eat after pregnancy, labour and birth.

Enjoy and please share with your friends.

Look after yourselves ladies. You’re unique, special and really pretty awesome.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs www.fit-school.co.uk with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

When can I start running again after having a baby?

It is a question I get asked a lot by my post natal clients. When can I start running again?

It’s a toughie. On one hand, I completely understand the need and want to get out running again. If you love being active, pregnancy can feel like a life sentence of inactivity and then some miserable person (like me) suggests you wait a little bit.

If you use running to boost your mood, then surely when your new mummy hormones are running riot, a run is a great idea. Right? Hmmnn… (puzzled emoticon).

I’ll be honest with you. The day after my 6 week check after having Isaac I put on my trainers and ran like a crazy person. It felt sooooo good. But subsequent training for a 10k left me pretty sore. I ignored my painful pelvis and had weird stuff going on in my hips until I stopped running completely when I got pregnant with Naomi. I wish I had listened to my body.

I’m going to give you the facts and leave you to make your own choice based on your body.

There are four things to consider about running and the post natal body.

1. Your pelvic floor

C-section or vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor will have been under pressure throughout your pregnancy due to the changes in your posture and the way your full uterus will have put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles and a pelvis that would have already been weakened by the hormone relaxin.

Excess weight, the size of your baby, the age at which you delivered your first baby, intervention like forceps/ventouse or for some, a sensitivity to pregnancy hormones can all put extra strain on your pelvic floor.

Running on an already weakened pelvic floor is a really bad move. It’s just likely to put extra strain on the area and could increase pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence or prolapse.

Not convinced?

One of the reasons I became so fascinated with the post natal pelvic floor was my surprise at the number of fit women in their late 30s and early 40s who came to me, having starting running/getting active after their babies were born and realised they had a minor prolapse. It’s really common.

2. Your posture

Your posture inevitably changes during pregnancy. There’s all that baby weight pulling your spine forwards and tipping your pelvis. Running on a wonky skeleton will only exacerbate any issues and probably lead to the physiotherapist’s table. Your body is different post baby to pre baby, it won’t feel the same.

3. Relaxin

It’s estimated that relaxin, the hormone that makes your joints/muscles/blood vessels lax remains in your body for up to four months after you give birth or stop breast feeding. High impact exercise is not nice on joints which are already under strain and could lead to inflammation.

4. Your energy/tiredness

Running takes a lot of energy, both calorific and get up and go energy. If you are breast feeding, it’s important to re-stock any lost calories fast after you exercise. If you don’t you’ll feel shattered and probably reach for the chocolate box. If you aren’t getting much sleep and start running regularly, it could add to the exhaustion.

I don’t want to be the miserly running police but I do want to ensure you get the best advice out there. Running is awesome. Exercise is awesome. But do give yourself time to recover before you get back to it.

Check out the New Mummy Diet for more help on getting back into shape after having a baby.

For information on classes check out Karen’s About page.

Pilates isn’t an abs workout

PILATES IS NOT JUST ABOUT TRAINING YOUR ABS. YES THEY ARE PART OF THE PROCESS AND AN INTEGRAL PART OF MANY EXERCISES BUT THERE IS A LOT MORE TO PILATES THAN YOUR TUMMY.

There are some exercises which look or feel similar to abdominal crunches and there is a place for abdominal strength and control when it comes to a healthy body but no amount of Pilates style ab work will send your six pack pinging out of your torso if you have flab on it. Myself included.

Conversely, abs don’t have to be strong to be seen. I’ve seen six packs on lean mean who can perform fewer exercises than the average post natal mum returning to the mat. And let’s not forget the best sprinters in the world who have abs you could dry your clothes on but who I very much doubt do the numbers of crunches I’ve seen performed in the average gym abs blast class.

Aside from whether or not you choose to attend or deliver a class comprised entirely of abdominal work, let’s consider the issues associated with some abdominal work. Yes, those pesky pelvic floor muscles. Any pelvic floor weakness or prolapse, or an abdominal separation (diastasis recti) will not appreciate (understatement) crunches. If want to know more about this have a read of my post on how NOT to get a flat tummy by doing sit ups. That’s not to say you can never do them again – but a post natal specific programme is essential before rolling headlong into a ‘one size fits all’ Pilates session.

Pilates is about balance. Your body is designed to move across many planes. Forwards and backwards, side to side and twisting. Think about a gymnast on a beam or on a pommel horse. Consider how they move their bodies. Come to my classes and you’ll know that we work through a variety of exercises as if your body was being spun around. Why? Because we are ‘multi-planar’ beings and things go wrong/start hurting/get expensive when we STOP MOVING, not necessarily when we get weak (I’ll talk about this more in my next post about core strength).

 

Now of course if training your abs lights your fire and makes you feel good, by all means do it but equally don’t misunderstand Pilates as an abs workout and then leave feeling a bit disappointed. Enjoy the way your back works and your glutes work. Enjoy the way your body moves. Go with the Pilates flow.

See you on the mat!

Next time … Pilates isn’t about core strength.

 

Pilates isn’t about sculpting body beautiful

I’VE been teaching Pilates for at least 10 years now and I confess, I look back at my early days and cringe a little at how I taught or what I focused on. Of course at the time, my theory and practical knowledge was up to date but modern science combined with Joseph Pilates’ original exercises, my own experiences and education (most recently from the brilliant JPilates) have created a very different ‘Karen’s Pilates’ from what I taught 10 years ago. I was also much more likely then to be swayed by the more vocal participants in my classes!

As in all professions, experience and training influences and shapes you. I believe that where I’m at now would hopefully let Joe P rest easy under his daisies. It’s true to me and to the participants I work with.

Of course as my experience evolves I get a bit ‘fussy’ about what other forms of ‘Pilates’ are out there. I don’t believe in one size fits all but I am in this profession to improve lives and health. Wellbeing.

So I’m penning a series of articles about what Pilates isn’t. That doesn’t mean if you enjoy your chosen class it’s wrong – it just might not be Pilates. And there is a brilliant magic and flow in the process of Pilates, which you, your body and your wellbeing might just be missing out on.

PILATES IS NOT ABOUT SCULPTING BODY BEAUTIFUL. PILATES ISN’T AESTHETIC LIKE A FIGURE MODEL’S GYM PROGRAMME. PILATES COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT. PILATES WON’T MAKE YOU THIN AND IT WON’T WHITTLE YOUR WAISTLINE.

  1. THE FAT THING.

Fat is fat. No amount of roll ups, teasers or gym crunches will drop belly fat. Fat loss starts in the kitchen, continues in the gym (with weights or interval training), is massively complemented by Pilates and graduates with a happy symbiosis of all of the above.

  1. PILATES IS INSIDE OUT

If we focus first on the outside, we are likely to neglect the inside. By inside I mean back and joint health, muscle imbalances, pelvic floor health, hips, shoulders, breathing, stress and TENSION. In fact years of experience have shown me that the Pilates participant who comes from the physiotherapist, where pain has motivated them is generally much better at Pilates (if there is such a thing) and progresses quicker than the gym bunny who wants to get thin.

  1. PILATES ISN’T ABOUT BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

You know what I mean. All those stock photos of models looking serene and just occasionally doing a bit of Pilates in a well lit studio without a squidge of fat or under-eye baggage in sight. Now I’m not anti-pretty (I should say I consider all my participants beautiful) but I am anti putting anyone off exercise. In my classes we have fat rolls, we have ‘retro’ workout gear and the occasional hairy leg (sometimes a little parp too) but we are all doing it. Striving to look after our bodies, not just to show them off.

Of course, I’m not ignorant to the fact that how we look is a driving factor behind exercise but let’s not lose sight of wellbeing and let’s not lose sight of Pilates.

Focusing on toned tummies to the detriment of our backs will not serve us long term. And when your motivation is looks over health you are far less likely to stick to exercise.

If you DO want to change the way you look, then yes do Pilates but do HIIT training, eat clean, cut out alcohol and processed sugars, sleep more, unwind, train with weights and have fun.

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/04/sit-ups-the-fastest-way-to-a-flat-tummy-after-having-a-baby-i-lied/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/10/22/want-a-flat-tummy-my-top-5-dos-and-donts/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/07/10-golden-rules-for-a-flat-holiday-ready-tummy/

Next up … Pilates is’t an ab workout.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex

FACEBOOK: ccfitschool

WEBSITE: http://www.fit-school.co.uk

Pelvic Floor. To squeeze or not to squeeze. Pre/post natal essentials

Do I need to train my pelvic floor when I’m pregnant?

YES.

During pregnancy there is a lot of downwards pressure from your growing baby and uterus. Add to this a pregnant posture where your pelvis tips and adds more downwards pressure and lots of pregnancy hormones which can do funny things to your lady parts. Training your pelvic floor is a pregnancy essential.

Will pelvic floor muscles help with delivery?

YES.

Your pelvic floor muscles will help to push baby out, the healthier they are, the better equipped you’ll be to get baby out under your own steam. A well trained pelvic floor BEFORE delivery will also pay dividends when it comes to birth recovery.

What about C-sections – do I still need to bother?

YES.

You might not get to the pushing out part but you’ll still have had the same pregnancy hormones and downwards pressure throughout your pregnancy.

Have I left it too late?

NO.

It is never too late. Don’t forget that you don’t just have to squeeze to train your pelvic floor muscles. The more active you are, the more they’ll be working anyway. But it’s always good to put in some dedicated pregnancy practice.

So I just have to squeeze once a day?

NO.

Squeeze as often as you can. And don’t forget to squat, walk, lift, relax and pulse too. All those other ways to ensure your bits are in the best shape for pregnancy, labour and recovery that we learn in class.

So what do I actually have to do to train them?

Squeeze, lift, squat, pulse, slowly lift, slowly relax – there are so many ways. Your pelvic floor works constantly but also at an intense level when you sneeze (or orgasm). Think of it like sprinting and endurance. The best place to start is on a hard chair. Lift up and you’ll get feedback from something hard underneath you.

Why is it so important?

According to a 2000 study published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at least one in three women is affected by pelvic floor disorders (PFD) and these are just reported cases. The University of Adelaide study found urinary incontinence affects 17% to 45% of adult women – with age being a big factor. Surgery is an absolute last resort. Pelvic floor exercises are THE BEST WAY to keep your pelvic floor healthy and functional.

I pee a little when I laugh or cough – isn’t that just normal?

NO.

A little problem when you are young could be a much bigger problem when you hit the menopause/get older and lose a lot of muscle tone.

What increases my risk of pelvic floor problems?

  • Big babies;
  • Hysterectomy;
  • Being overweight;
  • Being inactive;
  • Forceps or other birth intervention;
  • A chronic cough;
  • Menopause; and
  • Age at which you deliver your first baby.

What about once I’ve had the baby – how long will it be until I can feel them again?

Everyone is different but even if you can’t feel them straight away you need to start doing your exercises to help healing and recovery.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.fit-school.co.uk

 

Pilates Foundations

Pilates Foundations is a new course designed for those new to Pilates, returning after injury or illness or pregnancy. The classes follow a similar programme to the Monday Pilates classes and you can still expect to progress, learn and move your body – this class focuses more on technique and adaptations where necessary. 

Book Online

 

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Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Naomi’s birth story

AS a pre and post natal exercise specialist, NCT volunteer and mum of young children, I’m often surrounded by birth stories. Good, bad and ugly. I had polar opposite experiences with the births of my children, so before the memories fade, I thought the time was ripe to pen my experiences.

Just over 3 years ago I gave birth to my first child, Isaac. I had read all the stuff, done the courses, trained appropriately throughout my pregnancy, eaten well and continued with my Pilates until one month before his due date. Sadly, his birth didn’t go according to my plan and whilst I knew after the event that I was pretty traumatised, it wasn’t until I had a euphoric birth with Naomi that I realised just how much his birth had affected me and our initial bonding.

His was a typical back to back labour. My waters broke prematurely and my labour made slow (virtually no) progress. The contractions I had did little to bring on Isaac’s arrival, instead they just hurt like hell. By the time I gave birth I hadn’t slept for three nights and no matter how I tried, I could eat very little to sustain my energy. When your digestive system shuts down, it shuts down! I ended up being induced. First with gels, then with a drip and although I was given an epidural, it didn’t do anything. The final 3cms to fully dilated part of my labour happened in just under two hours and then I was pushing for another two. I won’t go into detail but the swelling was heinous and I had to push him out from a very peculiar angle. He came out hand first causing additional damage which took a while and lots of stitches to recover from (and inspired my fascination with all things pelvic floor and keeping women’s bits intact). BUT … I did push him out on my own, with no episiotomy or forceps.

It took me around six weeks to process his birth and to finally acknowledge I was proud of myself. Whilst it affected our initial bonding, once I’d accepted his birth the love hormones kicked in and I’m still falling in love with him a little more every day.

So when it came to Naomi’s birth – you can understand I was a little anxious! I didn’t really know what real labour felt like and was frightened of having a similar experience.

I went into labour naturally on the evening of 21st January. I’d been having practise contractions since before Christmas but was aware things felt more intense and the queasiness I’d felt throughout my pregnancy was back in earnest. I nibbled on my dinner in stages, drank lots and went to bed.

At around 11pm the contractions were every ten minutes. Rather than panic I took some paracetemol and decided to sleep through it (ha ha). This wasn’t really happening so I pottered downstairs so as not to disturb my husband or son and closed my eyes on the sofa. As the night progressed I read, sewed, nibbled on a banana (I’d learned from Isaac’s birth to eat what I could) and made sure all our bags were packed!

By 2am the contractions were hard to handle. We got the Tens machine going and with that and lots of positive mind talk I got through to around 6.30am on my own. At this point we called the birthing unit and my mum and dad who were going to have Isaac for us.

After a challenging but blissful shower, we made it into the car and promptly got stuck in rush hour traffic. It was a very silent, tense car journey!

At 8.50 we made it to the birthing unit. Still not sure if we’d be staying! The contractions had slowed down in the car but I was told this was very normal. I had a little cry on arrival (the fear) and then they left us to recover.

After around half an hour we were back in business. I still hadn’t timed anything so when our midwife came in and told me the contractions were lasting a minute each I was amazed! Again, she left me to labour on rather than intervene which helped me to relax and made me feel more confident. All the time I was literally nibbling crumbs of a biscuit and sipping water to try to stay strong.

By 10.15 the midwife examined me. I was 5cms dilated and ‘ripe’. I was elated to have made it this far on my own. She ran the pool and offered me gas and air (I accepted) and at this point I was suddenly aware of the contractions going through the roof. Although strangely it was as if they were happening in another room (that’s drugs for you).

My husband called my mum to let her know we were in business!

To cut a fairly short story short, within what felt like minutes the contractions escalated and felt pretty effective. I’m sure it was as a result of relaxing because of the gas and air. When I got into the birthing pool it felt heavenly. Yes I was in pain but the combination of gas and air and warm water was incredible. Again – I relaxed and again, I felt the contractions intensify. This time I felt like I couldn’t help but push.

At some point the midwife left the room (I assume to get another midwife given I’d mentioned the urge to push) and on the next contraction I felt my waters pop and immediately after a head crowned. My baby’s head (we didn’t know the sex). Aware of this and high on gas and air it was a challenge to communicate to my husband what was going on. ‘PUSH THE BUTTON’ I kept saying.

When the midwife returned (quickly) she said, ‘ooh, there are the waters,’ and then, ‘Oh and there’s a head.’ Much to my relief.

On the next contraction I didn’t have to do anything. Baby’s head slowly came out. I instinctively sat back and felt her head (truth be told I actually starting pulling but was quickly told to stop that). Then on the next contraction she came out and I held her in my arms. I’m welling up writing this now. The moment was intense. Tears. Elation. Relief. And a thank you God!

We had a little girl. Naomi Mae Akua Laing.

NaomiHospital

I tried to deliver the placenta naturally but sustained a pretty bad bleed so needed some assistance at this point. I lost around a litre of blood so had to stay in over night but had just a couple of grazes other than that.

The difference I felt between Isaac and Naomi’s birth was instant. I was euphoric and totally in love with my baby girl. But I also know that I learned from Isaac’s birth and he also paved the way. From just over 48 hours of labour with Isaac and 2 hours of pushing. I had 12 hours with Naomi and 4 minutes of ‘pushing’ (I officially went from 5cms to crowning in 40 minutes).

I don’t plan any more children. My body has had enough and I’m beyond grumpy when I’m pregnant but I’ll never forget that euphoria. Now I’m absolutely content and blessed with my beautiful family.

naomiisaacbed

Ante Natal Pilates

Saturday, 26th October, 10.15am.

It’s our last full course before Christmas and your best opportunity to relax and prepare your body to be in the best shape ever for pregnancy, birth and beyond.

AnteNatalFlyer£67 for the six week course.

For more information on the class check out these links:

Exercise During Pregnancy

About Fit School’s Ante Natal Pilates

Top 10 things you can do for an easier birth

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Top 10 things you can do for an easier birth

WHEN it comes to labour and birth, there is no shortage of information out there. But with highs and lows, great labours and horrific stories all up for consumption wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple guide to the best ways to prepare yourself for birth?

Of course, no matter how much you prepare, you can’t out-do nature and sometimes stuff  just goes awry but I hope my guide, derived from experience and research can give you the best chance of your best birth:

 

1. BE AS FIT AS YOU CAN BE

You are preparing your body for the biggest sporting challenge of your life. If your labour is long and drawn out or swift and shocking, being as fit as you can possibly be will help you and your body to cope.

2. STAY HYDRATED

Before, during and after labour, keep drinking. It can be hard if you feel queasy so consider drinks you can stomach when you feel sick.

3. STAY NOURISHED

Food may be the last thing on your mind and many women find their digestive systems shut down during labour, so eat what you can, when you can and nibble on high calorie, easy to digest foods.

4. KNOW YOUR BODY

This may sound vague but those who train or exercise regularly tend to have a greater awareness of their body than those that don’t. Understanding your body may help you to be able to ask for the right support from your medical professional or birthing partner.

5. HELP BABY TO GET IN THE RIGHT POSITION FOR BIRTH

The easiest way a baby can exit through the birth canal is if it’s in the LOA (left occiput anterior) position. This means baby’s head is down, back is out and bottom to the left. Classes like Pilates or specialist active birthing classes can help with this.

6. PERINEAL MASSAGE

Self massage or with help from a partner, perineal massage can help soften the perineum and reduce your risk of tears.

7. PELVIS MOBILITY

As baby moves through the birth canal, his head moulds as your pelvis moves. If you don’t suffer from SPD (pelvis pain) gentle pelvis mobility taught in some Pilates classes or yoga can help prepare it for birth.

8. BREATHE – FIND YOUR RELAXATION ZONE

Your body will labour best when calm and relaxed. Learning relaxation techniques such as those taught in hypno-birthing can help prepare you to cope with stress or anxiety and ease your labouring.

9. TRAIN YOUR PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES LIKE AN OLYMPIAN

Your pelvic floor muscles will be vital for pushing out your baby. A strong, well conditioned pelvic floor can withstand stretching and help get baby out without medical intervention. PELVIC FLOOR

10. STAY ACTIVE DURING LABOUR

Research shows than an active labour is a quicker labour. So walk, squat, laugh or moan your way through it but stay positive and stay active.

Pilates for Pregnancy classes in Epping

To receive the Fit School Women’s Health newsletter email Karen at karenlisalaing@gmail.com

The Princess. The bump. Your body. How long does it really take to recover after pregnancy and birth?

THERE has been much furore surrounding Princess Kate and her post baby body since she emerged, glowing, from the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital last week. In fact perhaps more media attention has focused on Kate’s body than on beautiful baby Prince George.

So newsflash, the female body takes time to recover after 9 months of growing a person and squeezing it out of a very small hole, or even out of the sun roof. But just how long? Weeks, months or years?

The doctor can sign you off as soon as six weeks post birth when initial recovery has taken place but a study published last year by Salford University, suggested it could take up to a year for women to recover both physically and mentally. Some experts suggest this may even be two years, since it takes this long for your abdominal muscles to fully return to their pre-pregnancy state. And then there’s breastfeeding – pregnancy hormones remain in your system for up to four months after you stop nursing your child.

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So here’s a little guidance on how long it really takes for beautiful female bodies to recover after birth:

Early days

In the early days after giving birth your body is in full recovery mode. You may have lost a lot of blood and fluids and you’ll definitely be short on sleep and energy. You’ll most likely be sore and swollen so now is the time to enjoy some confinement and TLC.

0-6 weeks

There’s a lot going on during the first six weeks of post natal recovery. Whilst your uterus is contracting (cause of the painful, cramping sensations you’ll be getting) the rest of your internal organs, which got squidged out of the way during pregnancy are returning to their rightful place. Your pelvis will be recovering and returning to it’s pre-labour state and your urethra, vagina and anus, which again will have moved slightly during pregnancy will be returning to their original homes. Any intense activity during this stage could hinder the healing process. Walking and gentle stretching is fine but definitely nothing bouncy.

You’ll also be bleeding heavily and may also be anaemic, so plenty of iron-rich foods and dark green vegetable to aid iron absorption are critical during this time.

You’ll be quite inflamed and possibly held together by stitches for a few weeks. You’ll need to keep them as clean as possible with salt baths and lavender or calendula compresses and drink plenty of fluids for breast milk and to flush out any nasties and minimize your risk of infection.

Some women get haemorrhoids, mastitis, back ache or other complications and all women will suffer with some degree of sleep deprivation so rest, recuperation and realism are the order of the day for the early weeks.

Up to 4 months post breastfeeding

Your pregnancy hormones, most noticeably relaxin stay in your body until up to four months after you finish breast feeding. This means any associated symptoms, such as reduced stability in your pelvis and joints, also linger for this amount of time. So high impact activities are best enjoyed with caution until you feel ready to go – experts disagree on this point but you know your body best and if you are at all at risk of or unsure of your pelvic floor stability, focus on this side of your training through Pilates or resistance training before you hit the tennis court.

You may also find that the extra ‘insurance’ fat that your body gained in the early days of pregnancy also sticks around until baby is weaned, this is because your clever body is still holding on fat stores vital for hormone and milk production. Fat is not just stubborn lumpy stuff with no purpose, it’s an organ in its own right, storing and generating hormones and of course energy.

Up to a year post birth

The University of Salford study, conducted by Dr Julie Wray, interviewed women during their first year post birth and concluded that women need a year to recover both physically and emotionally after child-birth. Her study found that women felt unsupported by medical services and very much left to get on with it. This is where social networks made through local health clinics or organisations such as the NCT offering Bumps and Babies groups can be a vital part of the healing process. Relationships, personal self-worth, finances and health are all put through the mill in the first 12 months. It takes time to re-find your feet with a new member of your family.

Up to two years post birth

When you are pregnant, your growing baby forces your abdominal wall to stretch. The body responds by creating new muscle cells, or sarcomeres, literally lengthening your abdominals. According to health practitioner Paul Chek (author of How to Eat, Move and be Healthy) it can take up to two years for your abdominals to fully recover. Three big factors that can prevent this recovery, causing an abdominal distention are: Having two babies within two years (or falling pregnant within two years of the last pregnancy); gaining a large amount of weight during pregnancy; or a C-section (C-sections can cause internal scarring or adhesions which can add to abdominal distention).

Two years and beyond

Complications such as diastasis recti (split in the abdominal wall), adhesions, post stitches pain or pelvic floor dysfunction (such as prolapse) can cause problems well beyond two years.

So mummies, let’s lay off the ‘lose weight now,’ or, ‘get fit quick’ resolutions. You’ll know when you’re ready to get in shape or just get more energy, your local gym’s marketing team don’t. This post isn’t intended to be a license to eat cake and ice cream forever, that won’t do much for your body either but do wear your physical changes like a badge of honour, enjoy the early years with your baby and be like the clever tortoise, not the media hungry hare.

If you liked this post, check out The New Mummy Diet.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

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