"Just listen to your body" Why this advice isn't good enough
"Just listen to your body”. Many pregnant or postpartum women who are exercising are told this by a medical provider or fitness instructor at some point. This generally is good advice, but it isn't always enough. First of all, some women who are used to doing higher intensity exercise, distance running, etc have actually trained themselves to NOT listen to their bodies and train through the pain in the past. They may be very challenged to shift their mindset when pregnant or returning postpartum and often need a little more support and guidance. Secondly, many times women don’t actually even know what to listen for and then what to do when they “hear” something! Here are some common symptoms to listen for and what to do about it: for the next time you exercise as well as for the longer term.
1. Leaking. Peeing a bit every time you do a jumping jack (or run or laugh or sneeze) is not simply a “normal” thing you have to deal with just because you had a baby. What to do about it: Modify to lower impact exercises- take out the jump or hop and/or keep your legs closer together (eg step jacks or scissor jacks vs traditional jacks).
2. Seeing doming or coning along the midline of your abdomen, most often at or above your belly button, or not feeling like you are “connected” to your core. This is a sign of diastasis recti and often occurs during situp or crunch type movements or front loading positions such as planks or push ups. What to do about it: Things like bridges, heel slides on your back, wall planks/pushups can be good modifications for now.
3. Feeling pressure or bulging in your vagina. This can be a sign or prolapse or general weakness in your pelvic floor muscles. What to do about it: check in to see if you feel yourself bearing down during any exercise. Make sure you aren’t holding your breath, decrease the resistance, and take more breaks.
4. Pain. Muscle soreness/fatigue with exercise is ok; pain is not. If you feel pain in your back, hips, SI joints, or anywhere in your body during or after an exercise, your body is telling you something. What to do about it: Slow down and check in with your form. If you still have pain after correcting technique, you may not be quite ready for that exercise and may need to modify.
All of these suggestions are short term solutions. Your core and pelvic floor may continue to strengthen with time and you may find you are able to slowly progress with less modifications while remaining symptom-free. If you are continuing to deal with symptoms and/or want to be proactive, there are options! Check out my in-person workshops or virtual online consults. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 847-440-4301, or follow @beyondthebumpwellness on Facebook and Instagram. If you are interested in one on one Physical Therapy, I see patients at Chicago Physical Therapists: 4721 N Clark St. 773-770-3682.