Updated: Mar 28, 2020
"Keep doing what you've always done!"
"Listen to your body!"
Who else has been given this advice?? I’m guessing if you’ve been pregnant, and you’ve sought any kind of advice about exercise, you’re raising your hand. However, I find that most people have never actually been taught what it means to listen to their body and without that lesson, this advice isn't so helpful. Sometimes, people can be so driven by athletic performance goals or aesthetic goals that they ignore signs and symptoms that their body is on the verge of injury. In fact, we’re encouraged do so (“No pain, no gain”, right?). We are effectively trained to follow the exact opposite advice (“Just ignore what your body is trying to tell you!”). During pregnancy and postpartum, we HAVE to un-train that tendency in order to keep our bodies functioning well for the long-haul. So what does it mean to “listen to your body”? You listen to your body by paying attention to (sometimes subtle, sometimes sharp) signs and symptoms that you might be overtaxing your core and pelvic floor. Specifically, be on the lookout for the ‘4 Ps’:
Peeing, or leaking of anything else, during exercise
Pain in your pelvic floor or elsewhere (tailbone, lower back, etc)
Pressure through your pelvic floor
Peaking, doming or coning through your abdominal midline. For images of doming and coning during pregnancy (applicable postpartum as well!) visit this post: The Real Deal With Diastasis Recti: What It Is, Why It's a Problem and What You Can Do About It
If you experience any of the above symptoms it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your strategies for managing pressure in your abdomen. In particular, if you feel like something is falling out of your vagina or you see coning or bulging of your abdomen along your midline, that is a red flag that you need to pause that particular lift or exercise and troubleshoot. To begin troubleshooting, start by examining how you are breathing and applying your breath to support your movement patterns. Click here to read a post on breathing strategies to control intra-abdominal pressure during pregnancy and postpartum. I also urge you to consult with a qualified coach or pelvic floor physical therapist for professional guidance and evaluation of your breathing and movement strategies.
Brianna Battles offers a stellar piece of advice to athletes in this perinatal chapter: “Listen to the voice you’ve been trained to ignore.” If you are second-guessing a movement or exercise during this chapter, listen to that instinct. That instinct is trying to protect your body during this time. With a little bit of awareness, we can make sure we come through pregnancy prepped and primed for a strong postpartum recovery!