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Mind The Gap!

1
My mum recently told me that when she was pregnant with me, my Gran offered to make her ‘a lying in jacket’. Apparently it was a pretty jacket designed for a new mother to wear over her pyjamas when visitors came to meet the baby – because new mums were expected to stay in bed for 6 weeks to recover. Naturally, my mum (politely) declined. 6 weeks in bed is pretty extreme but I’m starting to wonder now if my Grandma’s generation weren’t onto something.

Millennial women are go-getters, used to juggling careers with a social life and exercise.

SelfishMother.com
2
The media perpetuates the myth that after having children you can ‘get your body back’, as if it’s gone somewhere and hasn’t instead done the most amazing thing of growing an actual human. And don’t get me started on the deeply unhelpful headlines such as the Sun’s recent one about Khloe Kardashian fitting into size 4 jeans just 7 weeks after giving birth. This does not reflect most women’s experience. I wore maternity jeans for months after my babies were born. And lets be honest here, maternity jeans are the most comfortable type of jeans
SelfishMother.com
3
known to (wo)man.

Many women, myself included, love exercise and are keen to get back to it. So you wait for your 6 week check where the Doctor basically ask you about contraception and clears you for exercise, and then what do you do next? Running? Hit the gym maybe? Believe me, I get the need to want to do something for yourself or just blow off some steam (assuming you have the time/energy) but this is where I think my Gran’s generation had it right. They had more respect for the huge undertaking our bodies had gone through in pregnancy and

SelfishMother.com
4
delivery and allowed them more time to heal. Us millennials are taught we can achieve anything but sometimes our postnatal bodies may not keep pace as quickly as we’d like them too.

I remember being in a mum and baby group about 6 months after my first son was born and another women talking about her gap closing. She was talking about diastasis recti, the gap that can occur when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. Turns out it’s pretty common even though I’d never heard of it. Guess what I discovered once I was showed how to check

SelfishMother.com
5
for it? Yup, I was the proud owner of diastasis recti too. My midwife, health visitor and NCT teacher all told me to do kegals but no one mentioned anything else. There was no information about diastasis recti or the whole host of other factors that can affect your pelvic floor such as forceps deliveries, poor posture, long labours, episiotomies and not breathing properly (yes really). Nothing about how hormones, including breastfeeding ones, affect your postnatal body. More importantly, there was no information about any of the ways you can help your
SelfishMother.com
6
body heal; massaging c-section scar tissue, strengthening your pelvic floor beyond kegals or doing exercises that encourage your stomach muscles back together. Crucially there was also nothing about what you should avoid doing e.g. sit-ups, so you don’t inadvertently make anything worse.

In France all women are given a course of physio classes after having a baby to re-educate their pelvic floors. In contrast I recently read that in the UK 1 in 3 women suffers from incontinence and that women suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction (including

SelfishMother.com
7
incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse) are 50% more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. That is a lot of women. There is a group called the Pelvic Floor Patrol who are campaigning for better postnatal care for women in the UK, so that the gap in information and treatment can begin to be closed.

I don’t really think women should stay in bed for 6 weeks after having a baby but I do think we need to have more respect for what our body has done and how long it will take to heal. Mostly I think women just need as much information about how to

SelfishMother.com
8
look after yourself after your baby is born, as there is available when you’re pregnant. About how to start exercising slowly and safely, in a way that builds up gradually and doesn’t cause any long-term damage. Postnatal Pilates or yoga, MUTU, Dr Sarah Duvall, Femfusion Fitness and Hab-it are good places to start, so is paying for a Mummy MOT if you can afford it. I’m hopeful that by the time I have Grandchildren, the gap in postnatal care and women’s expectations will have closed completely. As for my literal gap, it’s almost gone – all
SelfishMother.com
9
thanks to some simple exercises from a woman’s health physio.
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- 2 Aug 18

My mum recently told me that when she was pregnant with me, my Gran offered to make her ‘a lying in jacket’. Apparently it was a pretty jacket designed for a new mother to wear over her pyjamas when visitors came to meet the baby – because new mums were expected to stay in bed for 6 weeks to recover. Naturally, my mum (politely) declined. 6 weeks in bed is pretty extreme but I’m starting to wonder now if my Grandma’s generation weren’t onto something.

Millennial women are go-getters, used to juggling careers with a social life and exercise. The media perpetuates the myth that after having children you can ‘get your body back’, as if it’s gone somewhere and hasn’t instead done the most amazing thing of growing an actual human. And don’t get me started on the deeply unhelpful headlines such as the Sun’s recent one about Khloe Kardashian fitting into size 4 jeans just 7 weeks after giving birth. This does not reflect most women’s experience. I wore maternity jeans for months after my babies were born. And lets be honest here, maternity jeans are the most comfortable type of jeans known to (wo)man.

Many women, myself included, love exercise and are keen to get back to it. So you wait for your 6 week check where the Doctor basically ask you about contraception and clears you for exercise, and then what do you do next? Running? Hit the gym maybe? Believe me, I get the need to want to do something for yourself or just blow off some steam (assuming you have the time/energy) but this is where I think my Gran’s generation had it right. They had more respect for the huge undertaking our bodies had gone through in pregnancy and delivery and allowed them more time to heal. Us millennials are taught we can achieve anything but sometimes our postnatal bodies may not keep pace as quickly as we’d like them too.

I remember being in a mum and baby group about 6 months after my first son was born and another women talking about her gap closing. She was talking about diastasis recti, the gap that can occur when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. Turns out it’s pretty common even though I’d never heard of it. Guess what I discovered once I was showed how to check for it? Yup, I was the proud owner of diastasis recti too. My midwife, health visitor and NCT teacher all told me to do kegals but no one mentioned anything else. There was no information about diastasis recti or the whole host of other factors that can affect your pelvic floor such as forceps deliveries, poor posture, long labours, episiotomies and not breathing properly (yes really). Nothing about how hormones, including breastfeeding ones, affect your postnatal body. More importantly, there was no information about any of the ways you can help your body heal; massaging c-section scar tissue, strengthening your pelvic floor beyond kegals or doing exercises that encourage your stomach muscles back together. Crucially there was also nothing about what you should avoid doing e.g. sit-ups, so you don’t inadvertently make anything worse.

In France all women are given a course of physio classes after having a baby to re-educate their pelvic floors. In contrast I recently read that in the UK 1 in 3 women suffers from incontinence and that women suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction (including incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse) are 50% more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. That is a lot of women. There is a group called the Pelvic Floor Patrol who are campaigning for better postnatal care for women in the UK, so that the gap in information and treatment can begin to be closed.

I don’t really think women should stay in bed for 6 weeks after having a baby but I do think we need to have more respect for what our body has done and how long it will take to heal. Mostly I think women just need as much information about how to look after yourself after your baby is born, as there is available when you’re pregnant. About how to start exercising slowly and safely, in a way that builds up gradually and doesn’t cause any long-term damage. Postnatal Pilates or yoga, MUTU, Dr Sarah Duvall, Femfusion Fitness and Hab-it are good places to start, so is paying for a Mummy MOT if you can afford it. I’m hopeful that by the time I have Grandchildren, the gap in postnatal care and women’s expectations will have closed completely. As for my literal gap, it’s almost gone – all thanks to some simple exercises from a woman’s health physio.

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Proud mum to two small boys, children's author and book reviewer. My debut picture book The Perfect Fit publishes in March 2021. I live in Cornwall with my husband, two boys and a very springy springer spaniel. @NaomiJones_1

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