It’s been over a decade now since I first decided to turn my fitness business into one that specialised in working with mums.
Ten years ago there were very few pre and postnatal courses, and very few trainers actually realised that they needed further education in order to properly work with mums. Times definitely feel like they are changing – for the better, but there is still so much we can and we need to do. We get to choose to acknowledge that we need to understand more when we work with what I call a very specialised yet general population OR we get to bury our heads in the sand and just keep doing what we have always been doing.
I know there is a better way and I know that if we all choose that way great and positive change can occur.
Statistics tell us that 85% of women will become a mother. So if you are sitting back thinking this doesn’t apply to you, that all of your clients are younger women think again – in a few short years they may transition into motherhood. And if you work with older women, who no longer have babies and you no-longer view as ‘postnatal’ I’d encourage you to also continue reading. Consider the phrase “once post-natal, always postnatal” and the fact that many older women are living with contraindications, such as incontinence and prolapse, that were a bi-product of carrying a child and giving birth yet no one is talking to them any more because ‘their baby has grown so they must be okay’ – not so. These women, even more so, are suffering in silence. This needs to change.
What I do know from many years of experience is that:
Her six-week check up does not clear her to go back to the exercise she was doing prior to falling pregnant – as a profession we need to understand this and choose whether we educate ourselves further to look after her OR we stick within our scope of practice and recommend a trusted colleague who we know can look after her.
She may or may not fully understand what happened to her during her birth process and may not be completely aware of potential birth injuries – this is not within our scope of practice but if a woman is telling you about a long or traumatic birth it is absolutely a warning flag that she may need more care than we are qualified to offer.
It is not standard for her pelvic floor or abdominals to be assessed post-natal – not all 6-week checkups are the same. Her pelvic floor is an internal muscle, which as fitness professionals we cannot see or feel. We need to educate and support our women to seek out further information about where their body is at right now. I believe seeing a Women’s Health Physiotherapist should be standard in our postpartum care.
Just because she looks fit on the outside or can perform higher level exercises it does not mean they are suitable for her right now – I hope I am wrong but I do feel we could be heading for a situation in years to come where women that look super fit on the outside in their later years are falling apart on the inside. We are one of the first generations where women are exercising to a higher level and intensity as the ‘norm’; CrossFit, power lifting etc.
Could we see huge amounts of these women in ten years time that are suffering prolapse that we could have prevented had we spent more time re-building from the inside out in the early post-natal phase?
So what CAN we do and why is it so important?1 Be brave enough to start the conversations
Whether you are pre/postnatal trained or not if your client becomes pregnant or you are asked to train a postnatal client you must be brave enough to begin conversations that talk to them about their pregnancy, conception, delivery and early motherhood experiences. This includes talking about pelvic floor and potential tearing.2 Know your own scope of practice
As Fitness Professionals we are often the very first port of call for a woman wanting to exercise after having her baby. That’s great as we can make a huge impact moving forward but we must be aware that we need other health and medical professionals on our team to look after mums to the best of our ability.3 Understand ‘training to the weakest link’
No matter what we ‘think’ a client is capable of from the outside we must respect what is going on the inside. For example her legs may be able to squat 60kg BUT if her pelvic floor cannot cope with that weight then we simple don’t do it.4 Understand that once a woman has a baby she is ALWAYS postnatal
Ask her about her birth experience, no matter how long ago it was and check in to see if there are any potentially postnatal contraindications that she could still be experiencing that we could help.
The short and exciting story is that as fitness professionals we have a huge opportunity to look after women in the way that they deserve to and should be looked after once they become mothers. If we all make a commitment to ensuring we are educated, have the knowledge that we need and pass on this knowledge and guidance to the women that we work with together we can create great change.
There are eight (8) remaining Safe Return to Exercise dates across Australia and New Zealand for 2019. Go to bodybeyondbaby.com.au for more information.
How to Love your Body as much as your Baby is a book for every mum. Click here to order your copy now.
Jen’s mission is to ensure that every fitness professional has a sound general knowledge in working with ‘mums’ and she would love to support you in making sure you are a valuable part of this mission.
Article written by Jen Dugard for the What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Autumn 2019 Edition.