MamaCare Summit 2017: Self-Care for Moms

MamaCare Summit 2017: Self-Care for Moms

When I was pregnant with my first child 15 years ago, I could never have imagined the power of the internet as it is today. The MamaCare Summit, happening November 11 & 12, 2017, brings together leading experts in perinatal health and wellness. That means moms-to-be and new moms have a single access point for quality information.

But this isn’t a talky, talk medical conference. MamaCare Summit was created because so many new moms get so caught up in your baby’s arrival that you forget to take care of yourselves.

And you know that I believe self-care is one of the potential pitfalls of early parenthood. If you can learn to prioritize your well-being from the beginning, you’ll be a better balanced mama.

Even with a nourishing self-care practice, having questions and feeling anxious can be part and parcel of pregnancy.

Wouldn’t it be great to know that your complaints are normal? Wouldn’t it be even better to know this without spending 10 hours reading a book or surfing the internet’s questionable authorities?

The experts of MamaCare Summit have come to the rescue! And they’re addressing some of the most common questions women have during pregnancy.

Prenatal Nutrition

There is a lot of conflicting (and confusing) information about what to eat while pregnant. Is peanut butter safe? How do I eat enough fiber without, ummmm, getting all backed up? Am I going to ruin my baby’s life if I eat too much ice cream while pregnant?

I’m sure each woman has her own versions of these food-and-pregnancy questions. Hearing from an expert about nutritional guidelines may help allay some of your fears.

Pelvic Floor Care

No one wants to talk about it. But more often than not, new moms experience trauma to the pelvic floor. As someone who has worked with postnatal women for years, I know the lasting effects of pregnancy on the pelvic floor. I’m thrilled that Christina McGee was interviewed for MamaCare, because she’s been at my go-to pelvic PT practice for all of my Balance clients. Come hear from one of the best about what’s normal down there and when to seek treatment from a qualified professional.

Having a Doula

Not sure what a doula is? Partner not sure why you’d want to splash out the cash to have a stranger in the birthing room? Get up to speed about what a doula is (and isn’t) and how doulas support positive outcomes for both mom and baby.

There are other fantastic sessions, too. I’m keen to hear the ones about massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. I took advantage of all of these modalities at different points in my pregnancies, so I know they’re beneficial. I want to learn more about the specifics of how they work to support the mama-to-be.

I’m also partial to the session about prenatal exercise for selfish reasons. I love sharing my experience of working as a perinatal fitness specialist for the last 9+ years. In addition to a “do’s and don’ts” conversation, there’s a handy printable about prenatal fitness available ONLY to MamaCare attendees.

pregnancy exercise expert

Click HERE to register for MamaCare Summit 2017 today!

PLEASE pass this on to a pregnant friend or new mom that you know. We women are at our best when we lift each other up.

3 Pitfalls of Early Parenting

3 Pitfalls of Early Parenting

Being a parent is hard. While we hear a lot about babies and cuddles, there are big challenges in the early months and years of parenting. Even though my babies are all in school now, I work with clients who are still in the trenches of early parenting. It’s hard work, y’all.

There are three pitfalls of early parenting that I experienced myself and I see my clients struggle with all the time.

Lack of sleep

Y’all, my three babies have so many gifts. They are all very healthy, intellectually capable, and display relatively age-appropriate understanding of caring for others. But, oh my goodness, they are terrible sleepers. All of them.

My oldest just flat out doesn’t require much sleep. I had a baby with a serious case of FOMO. He was an information junkie. It was as if his brain could not shut down; he wanted to collect every bit of data out there and store it away for future reference. This meant sleeping was not really on his radar.

But enough about him. Let’s talk about ME. While my baby was perfectly happy on his not-sleeping-much schedule, I was a WRECK. It was also emotionally exhausting worrying about how much my baby wasn’t sleeping.

I read sleep books. Tons of them. But my kid didn’t seem to care what the experts said. Gah! I was trying everything, and still he never slept. (And neither did I.)

In the end, despite my exhaustion, I decided to follow the advice: parent the child you have.

(Guess what? At 14, my baby is still this way. He is an information collecting machine. Even after two nights of being up past midnight for marching band events, he “slept in” all the way till 8am.)

All that to say, new moms with your so-tired-you-shouldn’t-be-allowed-to-drive-a-car fatigue, I FEEL YOU….

But, really, that old advice to sleep when the baby sleeps? It’s truly the golden nugget of surviving early parenting.

Isolation

Social isolation that accompanies the early months (and sometimes years) of motherhood often strikes unexpectedly. While we have visions of people clamoring to come adore our new baby, the reality is that people are busy. And while having a new baby has absolutely rocked your world, life moves on around you for everyone else.

Being aware that this tendency to social isolation exists can help moms-to-be brainstorm ideas before the baby as to how they’re going to cope when baby arrives.

I hit the jackpot with my first baby. Although I was living a continent away from my friends and family, I was fortunate to fall into a friends-group of women also becoming mothers for the first time. We met in our childbirth class. That was nearly 14 years ago, and I count several of them as good friends to this day.

At our final childbirth class, our instructor passed out a calendar with weekly hostess duties on it for the next six months. We were to meet weekly as an ongoing support group as we transitioned into motherhood.

Most of our outings included sitting in local parks and drinking tea and eating cakes. We admired each other’s babies. We listened to each other kvetch. We supported each other through the challenges of breastfeeding.

Of course, living in London where my friends could take a full year of maternity leave was a key part of keeping our community strong. When I returned to the US and my second child was born, I had a much harder time seeking out a similar community. (I never found it.) It made me realize just how special my girlfriend buoys were in my transition to motherhood.

I urge you to seek out a new moms group. Yes, it can be awkward to go at first. But I guarantee you every other woman there is also nervous about going. Be support for each other.

We women are at our best when we lift each other up.

Guilt for self-care time

Shifting priorities once women become mothers often means less time (FAAARRRR less time!) for self-care. Furthermore, many women feel guilty when they do commit to self-care, thinking that their main priority at all times should be their child.

And maybe it should, but self-care is an integral part of being the best parent you can be. Like the old saying goes: you can’t pour from an empty cup.

So whether your self-care involves a regular exercise habit, taking time to read a juicy novel, or just enjoying your morning cup of coffee in peace, know that honoring your own needs is vital.

Have a conversation with your partner about the support you need in order to keep self-care on your schedule. The more communication you have about this, the more likely you’ll be to keep it up. If both of you understand that things may (read: WILL) change, you will in a good place to have a realistic approach to self-care in the early days of parenthood.

Guilt-free!

Support for new moms is essential to finding contentment in early parenting.

I urge you to seek out support for the physical and emotional demands of motherhood. I know your time and sanity are limited right now, but you’re worth it!

If you don’t know where to start, drop a comment below. I’ll help you find some groups or resources in your area.

Self Care For New Mothers
Running & Pregnancy: How to Be Well Balanced

Running & Pregnancy: How to Be Well Balanced

 

pregnancy running

 

Running & pregnancy is a topic near and dear to my heart, as it was the time in my life when I was pregnant with my first child (in 2002!!) that the seeds for what is now Balance Personal Fitness Training were planted.

Once Balance blossomed, Running on Balance came to be. (It lived it’s first iteration as simply “on Balance”– the name change should indicate to you that a) running is important to me, and b) I like puns.)

A few years later, Well Balanced Women came into life. (Again with the puns.)

It’s all quite fitting, actually. Pregnancy and gestation of a human aren’t all that different from building a business.

They both start with knowing absolutely nothing, requiring tremendous faith, and then developing and changing over time.

So I was thrilled when the guys Chris & Steve from Rogue Running— a big-time running coaching outfit here in Austin– invited me to come on their podcast and talk about Running & Pregnancy.

Chis & Steve know running. They coach some of the best runners in the US. They help regular, recreational runners reach serious goals. Most of all, they want each person to know how running can contribute to a happy, healthy, well-balanced life.

And as someone who has run through three pregnancies (to varying degrees) and worked as a perinatal fitness specialist for nearly ten years, I have ideas that are a blend of experience and research to help women keep running while pregnant…and get back to running postpartum, too.

As you’ll hear in the podcast,  I learned (the hard way) that just because one pregnancy and recovery is super simple all of them will be.

This should be good news to those of you who have been through pregnancy and childbirth and are reluctantly contemplating a second….

The possibility of having a more positive experience exists!

I firmly believe (and science supports) the importance of exercise during pregnancy. The benefits for both mom and baby are notable and long-lasting.

As always, each woman’s experience of pregnancy is unique. Listen to your care provider, and listen to your body.

But I hope you’ll find some guidelines and things to look for as you work hard to keep you and your baby fit during pregnancy– and beyond.

Check out the episode HERE!

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Ideas offered on the Running Rogue podcast do not constitute medical advice. Each woman should speak frankly with her health care provider regarding her specific needs during pregnancy. 

Running and Pregnancy
The Incontinence Myth

The Incontinence Myth

 

Picture a group of women sitting around a table, drinking wine or coffee, chatting and laughing.  One women gasps and says, “Oops!  I think I just peed myself a bit!”  Her friends chime in, one by one, and say, “Oh, that happens to me, too, when I (choose one) laugh/run/cough/sneeze.”

The Incontinence Myth

While stress incontinence is rather common, it is not normal.  The incontinence myth perpetuates due to ignorance– we believe stress incontinence is an inescapable side effect of pregnancy or menopause.  This just is not true.  It is not simply part of being a woman that we have to deal with and move on.

Not surprisingly, the manufacturers of feminine hygiene products have found a new market thanks to the incontinence myth.  Their products and advertising approach the issue, normalize it, and offer what seems to be a solution.  It is, however, merely addressing the symptom of leaking.  While these products certainly give women a way to hide their incontinence and carry on with their lives, they do nothing to fix the problem.

Unbelievably, there is a whole market of women’s t-shirts, mugs, and greeting cards to capitalize on the incontinence myth. (Don’t believe me?  Check out etsy.) These products want women to buy in to the belief that stress incontinence is normal, permanent, and somehow something we should find funny.  While I applaud the designers of the items for their creativity, I find it a misguided empowerment technique.  Sure, own your problem.  But why would you want to tell the world about it rather than fix it?

Who can help with stress incontinence?

Pelvic physical therapists have special training and are the top choice for severe stress incontinence cases.  Their education about internal anatomy and their access to the best biofeedback tools and devices will laser in on the root cause of your issues.

In severe cases of incontinence, surgery may be required.  A good pelvic physical therapist will do everything to help you avoid surgery.  Your best chances of not requiring surgery– which has fairly low success rates in terms of patient satisfaction– is to do the exercises your pelvic PT sets out for you.

Your body will not heal itself!  To break free of the incontinence myth requires your active and dedicated participation.  I freely admit these exercises are not exciting, and no one but you (and perhaps your partner) will ever notice the results of your work.  But aren’t you worth it?

If your stress incontinence issues are not severe, you might be a good candidate to work with a personal trainer who is highly educated (and certified) to work with women with stress incontinence.  A perinatal personal trainer has the training to know which exercises to avoid, as many common exercises exacerbate stress incontinence.  Moreover, a perinatal personal trainer will develop a modified and progressive workout series to help train your muscles to work together again.

While stress incontinence develops due to pelvic floor pressure and weakened abdominal integrity (as in pregnancy) or decreased pelvic floor tension (due to lowering estrogen in menopause), it does not have to be permanent.  Seek out the help you need to break free of the incontinence myth and live a leak-free life!

 

 

The truth about Incontinence.
When Can I Start Working Out Again After Giving Birth?

When Can I Start Working Out Again After Giving Birth?

when-can-i-start-working-out-after-giving-birth

After the work of labor and the glorious falling-in-love of the babymoon days—but before the cumulative fatigue of months (and years) of broken sleep erodes the psyche—emerges the question: “When can I start working out after giving birth?”

It seems like a simple question, but everybody and everybody’s body is different. The answer, therefore, requires a little more thought.

So many women, eager to recapture their fitness or physique, do long-term (and sometimes irreparable) damage because of their enthusiasm.  While I admit it isn’t exciting in our Magic Bullet-seeking society, the work required postpartum is deliberate and slow.  It is, however, effective.  For women willing to focus on the basics, they’ll find themselves where they want to be far sooner (and more sustainably) than women who jump right back in to their old routine.

This is definitely a time to remember the tortoise and the hare.

When Can I Start Working Out After Giving Birth?

It is essential that you do not do any exercises that you have not discussed with your care provider.  Asking them, “When can I start working out after giving birth?” opens the topic to clear communication.

Did you have a no- or low-intervention vaginal delivery with no sign of prolapse?  Great!  Simple breath and body exercises can begin almost immediately.  Note, however, that “simple exercises” do not mean things like squats and crunches!

Rather, simple means basic.  But it does not mean unimportant.  Simple exercises focus on coordinating the breath and the body to reconnect neuromuscular communication patterns.

Your first point of attention should go to posture.  So much of your postpartum days are spent with inward curling of the shoulders due to baby holding and feeding.  Finding a supported counterstretch feels fantastic.  More importantly, the opening of the front side of the body creates space for the shifting internal organs.  Think about lying in a supported savasana (corpse pose) for a few minutes a day.

work out after giving birth

Image by Kelsey Tucker/www.describethefauna.com

Aligning the pelvis and spine are critical to regaining core strength.  Bringing your awareness to the low back and pelvis may inspire more rounds of hip circles and cat/cow, just as your body craved in late pregnancy.

If there is one thing to remember, both for the immediate postpartum period and the rest of your life is EXHALE ON EXERTION.  By exhaling whenever you stand, lift, push, or move any force, you decrease intra-abdominal pressure.  Key to maintaining the integrity of the pelvic floor, exhale on exertion should be the battle cry for all postpartum women.

As such, lifting and bending (usually with “load” in the form of baby) must be mindful.  Avoid torqueing the back or knees as you lift and twist, even in a transition as mundane as from the bed to standing.  Break this movement pattern down into multiple parts (roll to your side, swing feet off of bed as you sit up, stand) so that you can breathe intentionally as you move.

Know also that the timing of exercise vis-à-vis feeding schedule may change taste of breastmilk.  I exclusively nursed all three of my kids, but it did take a little extra thought as to the timing of when I would work out.  It was worth the extra effort—for all of us.

If you experience an increase of lochia flow or change from pink/brown to bright red, this is a clear indication that exercise intensity is too high.  Back off!  And inform your care provider for more specific direction.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be walking you through week-by-week the exercises that are safe for the postpartum period.  Sign up for our email delivery to make sure these helpful exercises reach your in-box. ——>

Good health and great happiness to you.

When Can I workout after birth
The ABCs of Pre/Postnatal Exercise

The ABCs of Pre/Postnatal Exercise

As a personal trainer with a specialty certification in pre-/postnatal fitness, I’m often asked about basic guidelines for exercise during the childbearing year.  Incorporating information from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and my certifying body The Cooper Institute, here’s a handy reference list:

  • Aerobic exercise benefits everyone—including your growing baby—so long as you are having a healthy pregnancy.
  • Keeping your balance and maintaining good form are key to pre/postnatal exercise.
  • Be consistent with regular exercise—3 to 5 times per week—during pregnancy.
  • Drink extra fluids.  Water is best.
  • Don’t exercise to exhaustion, and avoid becoming overheated.
  • Stop when fatigued; get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Resume previous exercise level gradually following delivery.
  • Hold off on beginning a completely new type of exercise program during pregnancy and in the first three months postpartum.
  • Reduce the level of intensity and duration of exercise as the pregnancy progresses, as indicated by your body’s cues.
  • Become familiar with normal changes in the body—such as joint laxity, swelling in the lower extremities, spinal alignment, and weight distribution.
  • Kegel, kegel, kegel!
  • Know your limits—when exercising and when stretching—and listen to your body!
  • Modify exercises to fit your level of development as the pregnancy progresses.  Individualize your exercise program to your fitness and energy levels.
  • Proper nutrition is healthy for you and baby.  Be aware of the need for approximately 300 extra calories/day when pregnant and 500 extra calories/day while breastfeeding.
  • Be aware of decreased oxygen available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy.
  • Pelvic tilts can help relieve the lower back stress felt as the uterus grows and your center of gravity changes.
  • Look for qualified, knowledgeable instructors and classes that are scientifically based.
  • Participate in breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Supine (on the back) exercises should be avoided in the second & third trimesters.
  • Avoid all types of exercises that have increased risk of trauma to the abdominal area, such as basketball, skiing, or horseback riding.
  • Be aware of unusual changes in your body such as severe nausea, vomiting, swelling, or inadequate weight gain.
  • Visit your prenatal care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy.  Keep her/him apprised of your exercise program.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down periods of 10-15 minutes each help your body safely transition to/from exercise.
  • Regular eXercise can energize you while pregnant and give you positive eXpectations of life with baby.
  • Pre/postnatal yoga is great for muscle tone as well as breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Now is not the time to be a zealot.  Good sense and moderation are important for fit mamas!

If you’re looking for group exercise classes just for perinatal women, come join me on Monday nights!