I’m very excited to be sharing with you the second part of my interview with Beth Learn, founder of Fit2B Studios. Today Beth is sharing her insight into how our bodies can be prepared for and healed from the demands of pregnancy and birth. We don’t have to consider our bellies and bodies ruined because we’ve had a baby!
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To continue where we left off from part one of my Q & A with Beth Learn of Fit2B, today we are covering some important aspects of pre-pregnancy, prenatal, and postpartum fitness. I’ve spent the last nine and a half years of my life pregnant or trying to rebuild my core muscles from the previous pregnancy. I don’t want to resign myself to a permanent mommy tummy of stretched out core muscles if I don’t have to!
Thankfully, Beth offers hope for all of us who have had our bellies stretched by pregnancy and birth and wisdom for those who want to prepare for a pregnancy to come.
Smithspirations: What can someone do to prepare her body to one day deal with the many drastic changes that take place during pregnancy, even if it is years down the road?
Beth Learn: Ah, if only more parents understood how vital of a role the attitudes and alignments taught during children will have during pregnancy and birth. Sadly, it often isn’t until a young lady finds herself pregnant with her first that she is motivated to learn how to be healthy and have a good delivery, and by then, it could be too late to undo much of what’s been done.
If a young girl is taught good alignment, her body will position the baby better for birth and recovery. If she is encouraged to walk and carry heavy things, her pelvic floor and lower body will be naturally strong for the burden of bearing babies. If she is educated on basic nutrition, and is surrounded by positive influences who teach her to respect and honor her body, she will WANT to care for herself and will be unashamed of the processes and postures of pregnancy, birth and beyond.
Even in the year leading up to a planned pregnancy, a woman can do several things to lessen the physical toll that will be exacted on her body.
First off, she should begin practicing a sustainable form of delightful exercises. She should find things she enjoys that do not wear down her body or encourage malpositioning of the baby within her. Ideally, she will be able to sustain whatever she has done for 6 months prior to pregnancy. Really, the only activities that women are discouraged from doing are downhill skiing and riding horses for obvious reasons, and crunches and situps. Those two modes of abdominal training disrupt the pressure of the core and pelvic floor and lead to more trauma than necessary. In my experience, women who simply walk, lift weights, or do basic aerobic classes such as step, zumba or dance have smaller diastasis recti after their pregnancies – which means a shorter recovery phase – than those who do crazy insane routines with nutsy core work that involves lots of crunches and situps.
S: I love that “crazy insane routines with nutsy core work” needn’t be part of my fitness routine! But here’s a question prompted by a visit I had with a nurse-midwife during this past pregnancy. She asked if I was exercising, and I tried to explain Fit2B, and she told me there was no point to try to strengthen my core since it would just get all stretched out with the pregnancy. What do you say to that? What are the benefits to core exercises during pregnancy?
B.L.: Yes, the muscles do stretch (which is what they’re designed to do) but there are exercises that help minimize that stretch from becoming disastrous while still allowing the baby to grow properly. In fact, having a strong core is essential to proper fetal positioning, shorter labors and stronger pushing phases.
Many modern fitness routines in a box are over-focused on the rectus abdominus or six-pack, but overworking that muscle can cause a wider diastasis recti. Plus, the main focus during pregnancy ought to be on the the four muscle sections of the deep core: the transverse abdominus (a.k.a. nature’s corset), the diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor muscles.
Knowing how to “breathe your baby out” with the assistance of your strong core makes every push more efficient while minimizing your risk of tearing down below. I have a girlfriend who has been implementing the techniques that Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team and I teach, and she just had her fifth baby: first time ever that she hasn’t torn, and she went from a 4-finger diastasis to a 3-finger in her 3rd trimester! Wow! She said she’s never felt this good after having a baby! And – I hate to brag – but I hear that all the time.
S: Well, you can add me to the list! I’ll be sharing more later, but even my midwife commented on my strength while “breathing out my baby”, and I know much of that was because of using Fit2B!
But when it comes to the postpartum period, what is the best thing a woman can do to get her tummy back in shape? What if it’s been years since having the last baby; can the core still be healed, even with diastasis recti?
B.L.: Rest. Yes, you heard me right. I’m sure you didn’t think a “fitness chick” would say that. But so many new mamas think they need to beat their bodies back into submission right away after having a baby while others wait for 6 weeks and then start the insanity. The truth is that there are some simple, easy, so-small-no-one-knows-you’re-doing-them moves that you can and should do just 3 days after vaginal birth or 10 days after cesarean section. But it has nothing to do with burning calories or working up a sweat and everything to do with the same 4 deep core muscle sections I mentioned earlier.
What’s awesome is that the same exercises can help no matter how much time has passed since your last baby came. It’s the same with wrapping, or splinting, your tummy. Belly splinting depends on how wide your DR is after your baby comes. Some women’s closes right up, especially if it’s just their first babe. Others may feel like their organs will fall on the floor if they bend over or sneeze suddenly.
A muscle is a muscle no matter how old, how small, how weak, how tall. If you put it in the right position, nourish it and stimulate it nicely (emphasis on nice vs. mean) , it will get stronger and more flexible. The same programs that help prenatal women can help post-partum women or anyone dealing with diastasis and pelvic floor issues. They really are tied together, and there is HOPE for you. I’m also happy to share with you all the choices you have for healing and learning that branch out from Fit2B.