Postnatal Physio – You owe it to yourself!

Having just spent the weekend in the company of 200 women’s health and fitness professionals, I am inspired… or compelled (!)… to at last write the ‘you owe it to yourself’ post that has literally been trying to make its way to the keyboard for over 6 months!

Isn’t it crazy how you (me) take so long to get round to the things we know will help us, help those around us? I know how good writing the things in my head down is for me, you know how necessary the things you need to do just for yourself are, but still… We put them off. Often indefinitely. The things for our families, houses, pets, work, all get in the way. When do we stop and say, ‘this is for me’? ‘I matter, I need this.’

I don’t even know what reading that last sentence has made you think of, but trust me, do it. You will be able to support everyone around you so much better as a result. You cannot give from an empty bucket. And let me know if you need that analogy explained. I’ve heard it so many times that I imagine you know what I mean.

The first workshop I went to this weekend was with Rachel Holmes, BrainFit. And boy, do we ever need physical fitness to boost brain function. We were echoing positive affirmations back to her. Now this may appear in your classes, but I think I may be just too Scottish and reserved to get anyone in my classes to shout out ‘my vibe is high,’ but in my own wee way, I loved it! She was telling us about the ‘five second rule’ book by Mel Robbins. Now I know what I thought the 5 second rule was before this weekend. Unfortunately, we can’t follow that one in my house… Dog hair… Shudder!

No, this 5 second rule is about not thinking so much about how long you can get away with leaving dropped food on your floor. It’s when you are wanting to do the difficult thing, or the thing you’ve been putting off, and you just say to yourself: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! And you just do it, don’t think about it so much.

So what is it for you? Picking up the phone and catching up with the friend that ‘gets you’? Having a hot bath? Doing your yoga stretches? I’ll wait, I’ll be here when you get back, but on you go… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!

There… Doesn’t that feel better?

OK, so maybe you didn’t do it right now, but remember it and do it immediately after this. I very much doubt the thing you’ve been putting off is scrolling through your phone…

I know for women self-care is such an emotive subject. And tied in with guilt, and perhaps postnatally a little grief for the things your body used to be able to do without thinking. These things can be regained, with care, and support from the right professionals. I have had women break down in tears the minute they’ve sat down in my clinic because it has been such a complex bargaining process to get themselves there.

I heard this weekend that some trusts have stopped offering 6 week postnatal checks to women. I remember going to mine and expecting to get, well… checked. You know. They were very concerned with finding out how many testicles my son had, assessing for a condition which affects one in 25 boys. There was no mention of checking me for a prolapse, a condition which affects 50% of postnatal women.

Undescended testicles usually resolve themselves within the first year of life and fewer than 1 in 100 boys will require any intervention to prevent problems in later life.

Compare this to a postnatal prolapse. Left untreated it could cause the woman to have no symptoms, if she’s lucky, until menopause. But then, or sooner, it can have massive impacts on quality of life and long term health problems. If you feel like your insides are going to fall out with most activities, you are hardly likely to engage in exercise, which has mental health benefits as well as reducing isolation. Cardiac, brain and bone health all decline following menopause and exercise becomes even more important. But that’s hardly the point… With proper treatment, supervised pelvic floor physio and pessaries if appropriate, a postnatal prolapse can reverse within 2 years, or at least be on the way to being managed life-long.

So why aren’t women being screened for something which can be simply and cheaply treated right now, to prevent a huge health and lifestyle impact down the line? Which will invariably cost more.

In France, all postnatal women are routinely sent for women’s health Physio. I have heard that this is a cynical move by elderly male politicians to retain sexual pleasure for their fellow man. Whatever. If that’s what it takes to persuade this to be policy, so be it. The women benefit most of all.

I have had knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb dropped into my tiny brain all weekend by leaders in the field, including Jenny Burrell and Michelle Lyons. I have so much gratitude for how generously they share their own learning and expertise and can’t wait to pay it forward in clinic.

What are you wanting to achieve with your body postnatally? You might be totally confused as to where to start with your rehab, and be more frustrated by conflicting and poor advice out there in good old google land. Seeing a women’s health physio is a fantastic way to get up-to-date evidence based treatment that is absolutely personalised to your needs and where you want to get to.

I think we all need to be kinder to ourselves postnatally, you can’t do it all. Accept all the help, ask for help if the offers aren’t coming in. Pay someone to help you if you can and there’s no one to ask. You are in recovery and need all the R and R you can get. We instinctively know this looking at our friends, but somehow fail to apply this to ourselves. Stress hormones are known to disrupt healing. You can’t do it all. Early days you can probably only tick off one thing in the day – I am fed, my baby is fed, we are taking it one breath at a time. And that’s fantastic.

A lot of women are put off by the potential cost of treatment, often not knowing what they’ll be expected to lay out. Our goal is to help you manage your condition yourself, and while we are delighted to get the business, it is important to us to help you get results. This can happen within a single session, or if you are a long way from where you want to be, it may take several appointments. But if money’s tight, let us know and we’ll give you more to work on at home and longer between sessions. We can only support you, offer specific therapies and advise you; you will most likely do the work. But you will be so grateful to yourself that you did.

We’re not in it for the quick fixes, you might find that we need to break things down to build them back up again, but this is to help you get the best out of treatment. Everyone knows someone who returned to running weeks after giving birth, only to confide in you a year down the line that they are leaking urine with every step or cough.

Your body has gone through huge changes, respect it and work with the rate that your tissues heal and remodel and you will get fantastic long term outcomes. You might step back to the way you breathe which is so affected by pregnancy and childbirth. You may have scars you can’t look at, let alone touch. We will slowly, at your pace, help you rebuild your relationship with your body and get the best outcomes for your tissues. Then look at the way that you move before applying these principles to exercise. You will learn so much about yourself and achieve so much more than you could have thought possible.

I have chosen to talk about prolapse here, but it could just as easily be about incontinence, diastasis recti, ongoing pelvic girdle pain or all the niggles that build up looking after a baby. All of these things are so common, but they are not normal!! You do not have to put up with this nonsense.

I’m sitting in the airport eating my noodles and Arethra Franklin is on the CD player, jumping: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.R.E.S.P.E.C.T.R.E.S.P.E.C.T. YOURSELF.