Guest Blog: Why your six week GP check isn’t enough! by Clare Rutherford
As new mums, we often see the six week postnatal check with our GP as the point at which we can get signed off and the green light to start exercising again postnatally. That said, I’ve lost count of the number of mums I’ve seen who feel none the wiser after their six week check! In reality, it’s often ‘brief’ to say the least with just a couple of questions about your mental health and contraception (the latter often being so far from the top of your agenda!), and the rest of the focus being on the baby. In fairness to GP’s, they don’t have the time or the training to assess women appropriately postnatally but where does that leave you? So the saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup is really apt here. A wise lady once told me that the best thing you can do for your children is take care of your health because in essence – you are their lifeline. This is something that has really helped me to reframe the way I view things when it comes to doing stuff for me since having babies - whether that’s an investment in my physical or mental health.
If you look at the statistics, 85% of women who deliver vaginally will have some degree of perineal tear. Regardless of whether you had a sun roof delivery (c section) or a down and out (vaginal delivery), your pelvic floor muscles have been affected by the hormone relaxin in pregnancy, they’ve been subjected to a lot of stretch and a huge amount of extra weight throughout those nine months of growing a baby. These muscles will have weakened and are often less well co-ordinated as a result. That means they are not as effective in providing pelvic organ support and stopping you from leaking during certain types of activities. They need some attention regardless of whether you feel tip top or far from it.
We also know that 50% of women will have a separation in their six pack muscle (rectus diastasis) at eight weeks postnatal and as much as 40% will remain at six months postnatally. It’s important to ensure how wide, long and deep this gap in your muscle is as it can have the potential to increase your risk of developing a prolapse, leaking or back pain. That said, it can be pretty overwhelming when looking online at how to rectify this as there are so many different programs and varying advice out there. The truth is that there really isn’t a one size fits all approach. What is right for one person won’t necessarily be right for the next because we’re all different. Different in our genetics, our fitness levels, our deliveries, our diets, our sleep, in the help we get , whether we’re breastfeeding etc. In order to keep making progress with any tummy separation the exercises you do, the positions in which you do them all have a bearing and they need to be progressive.
If things feel great, you’re symptom free, itching to get back to exercise and your pregnancy or birth was uncomplicated don’t make the mistake of not getting properly assessed postnatally. You have still grown and birthed a baby. The menopause is often when the after effects of having a baby 20 years before start to happen with pelvic floor dysfunction, prolapse and leaking and that can be avoided by getting appropriately checked post birth. Don’t wait until things go wrong. And if you do feel pain, odd sensations down below or in your tummy or you leak don’t ignore it and/or put it down to a natural consequence of giving birth. Know that these symptoms are incredibly common but they are NOT normal and there is plenty that can be done to help sort the problems.
Have you ever heard of a Women’s Health physio? “A what?” I hear you say. So Women’s Health physios are experts in pelvic health and we can provide you with that detailed assessment postnatally. Enter the Mummy MOT - the six week check you dreamed of! We talk about you and what you want to achieve, we talk about any symptoms you might have, your birth story, your goals. Then we talk anatomy because knowledge is power and understanding how you function makes for far more successful rehabilitation. Then we assess your pelvic floor, your tummy muscles, the strength of other muscles, your breathing, your posture, how you move, how you lift and any scar tissue. You leave armed with the right knowledge and appropriate exercise specific to you. We listen to YOU, we advise YOU and we guide YOU to help you achieve your health and fitness goals. It’s never too late to get assessed. Once postnatal always postnatal!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Your Bio: I'm a women's health physiotherapist and founder of La Femme Physio. I offer women's health physiotherapy to women in their own homes in South West London and Surrey and also work in a clinic in Barnes. I love all aspects of my job but what I'm particularly passionate about is supporting women back to health and fitness postnatally.