As a pelvic floor physiotherapist AND a mother of 2 small children, I get asked about return to activity post baby all the time. Most often, this question comes after a friend or client has been to their first postnatal checkup, their Dr or midwife has given them the green light to exercise again and they want to pick my brain on where to start.
Please keep in mind, we are all so very different, we have different bodies, we had different pregnancies, different deliveries AND different activities we liked to do before and during pregnancy. Therefore, there is no easy answer.
I believe the most important thing is to become familiar with your own body. Get to know it well so that you can recognize when it’s ok to progress and when to back off because you are experiencing symptoms that just don’t seem right.
During pregnancy, everyone asked you all the time “ How are you doing?” “ How are you feeling?” and now, the focus has been shifted onto your baby and completely away from you. Make sure you continue to take care of yourself mentally and physically and don’t ignore symptoms that don’t feel right. Advocate for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help!!
Most often at your 6-8 week postnatal checkup, your doctor or midwife will ask you about how you are recovering emotionally and physically from your delivery but this doesn’t always involve a physical exam. Usually at this appointment, women are given clearance to resume previous activities, but for many, this is very scary given the drastic changes that have happened during pregnancy and delivery.
I have put together some questions that I recommend talking to your doctor or midwife about. If they don’t plan to do an internal exam, ask them kindly if they will.
-Can you please perform an internal exam? I would like to know how my pelvic floor is functioning
-Is it strong? Do I seem to be able to relax it?
-How is my tear/episiotomy looking? ( if you had one)
-Do I have any signs of prolapse? What are the signs I should be aware of?
-Can you check my abdominal separation? What activities or exercises should I avoid initially to make sure this doesn’t worsen?
-What are other symptoms should I be aware of or watch out for?
I realize it is hard to ask extra questions when we know our care providers are busy, but please keep in mind that the first few weeks and months are SO IMPORTANT for healing and setting the groundwork for your body to move forward.
If for some reason, your doctor is not able to answer your questions, I urge you to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist who is also qualified to assess this.
Melissa Dessaulles is a Physiotherapist at Wave Physiotherapy in Kelowna whose area of practice focuses on pelvic health. She has post graduate education in pelvic floor rehabilitation and pregnancy related issues.