Those days after baby arrives are a blur. Even when you’re in them, it can be hard to remember what just happened, what’s coming next, and ALL the things you told yourself you were going to do. We don’t want to add to that list, really, but this one is import:
Mama, don’t forget about yourself. Your health. Your needs. Don’t diminish what you’re experiencing – and what your body just went through for the last several months. No matter what type of delivery you experienced, what amount of support you have, and what emotions you’re dealing with, your body just underwent a major event and there’s a very good chance it needs a little help, too.
That’s why physiotherapists – and moms – Katie Kelly and Eryn Matheson are creating a brand-new-to-Moncton group called Mama [Re]Connect. This eight-week personalized group session is meant to help moms safely return to exercise after pregnancy.
“There’s a lot of fear in the postnatal world,” says Katie, who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation. “I have so many clients that will come in and say, ‘I’m just too scared to go back to running.’ And that’s heartbreaking for me because as physios we know the benefit of having your cardiovascular exercise. We want to find a way to get them back to the activity that they want to do and sometimes they just need stepping stones to do that.”
“I actually saw Katie after my first pregnancy,” says Eryn, an orthopedic physiotherapist on maternity leave, now with her second child. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that there are a lot of different specialized areas of physiotherapy, but because I wasn’t practicing in that area at that time, I didn’t know how to help myself. I learned a ton from Katie! So we started to talk about how we could create something for women after they’ve had kids.”
Katie says programming like this represents a shift in how physiotherapists are approaching women’s post-natal health. “In the past you would hear some physios be very strict; ‘if you leak, then you can’t do this activity’. And I think we’re starting to see us soften in that because we’re really trying to embrace the mental health component. If what Mom needs to stay sane after delivery is going for a run, we’re going to make that happen.”
Eryn and Katie both point out that pelvic strain can be present after a seemingly uncomplicated pregnancy or a c-section, as well as a vaginal birth.
“It’s actually from the effects of pregnancy,” Eryn says. “I think sometimes people are questioning ‘Why am I having this heaviness in my vagina?’ or ‘Why am I not able to run without urinating myself?’ I think we don’t even realize this isn’t normal and it is fixable.”
Mama [Re]Connect pays attention to the fact that each pregnancy and each recovery is different. To participate, women must receive a clearance from their physician that it’s okay to resume exercise (which generally happens by six weeks post-partum). Then there is a personal consultation with Katie and Eryn. The group program is tweaked based on the participants, with each session being tailored to the needs of the group.
Katie points out that this group, and her services as a pelvic floor physiotherapist, is not just for those women who have recently given birth. “I tend to call anyone who hasn’t rehabilitated well post-natal. You might be 54 years old and I’ll call you postnatal, but traditionally it’s in the first two years after delivery.”
“I’ll see women that maybe knew something was going on, they’ve recovered reasonably well, but now when they try to do a squat, they leak. If they go for a 5km run, they’ll feel vaginal heaviness,” she explains. “They might not need an hour long private session, but they need some guidance. You might not be leaking when you cough or sneeze, but you can’t get back to that sport that you love to do. And as moms we already have so little time, so when we DO have time to do a sport, can we just not pee our pants?”
“I think a little bit of leaking has been normalized in society, and I’m hoping that this will help adjust the mindset,” says Katie. “So many women think that’s normal and they’re just going to deal with it. But you shouldn’t have to deal with it, you can rehabilitate it.”
Eryn says many women don’t recognize their own symptoms because there has been a lack of education.
“I practice primarily in orthopedics and I see women who are having low back pain and then a little bit of talk and sometimes we uncover these other issues. ‘Can you jump on a trampoline? No. What happens when you sneeze? Oh.’ We’ve learned so much recently about all those things that women didn’t even realize were related to pelvic health and women’s health,” she explains. “I’ve been really passionate about educating myself more about how women’s health issues impact orthopedic issues, and I’m really passionate about sharing that education. We know that movement is so, so important for everything and I want to help people get moving again and not be fearful of movement.”
“I also think there’s something to be said about the community of coming together and exercising too,” adds Katie. “I find we really are isolated a lot as new moms now. Families are moving away, you don’t have people coming over and checking on you, someone has to get the laundry done, someone has to do the groceries, and so we just do it.”
The first eight-week Mama [Re]Connect program begins September 10, 2018. Classes will be on a weekly basis, lasting 45 minutes (babies welcome!). Initial individual assessments must be completed before the program begins. As this is a rehabilitation program, some insurance providers will offer coverage. Direct billing is not available; please contact your provider to determine coverage availability and requirements. The cost of the initial assessment and the classes is $330. You can call 506-830-6600 or email email@example.com for more information. Details are also available online.
For more on pelvic floor health and how far behind we are in accessing this resource in Canada (compared to France, where 10 free, post-natal pelvic floor physio sessions are now the norm), check out this awesome article from Today’s Parent.