- Sami Cattach
When a Women's Health Physio Finds Out She's Pregnant!
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
When a Women’s Health Physio finds out that she’s Pregnant..!
OHMYGLUB I’M WHAT?!?! was my initial reaction, mixed with disbelief, complete fear of having to become an actual adult, and the flutterings of excitement as the new adventure of being a Mama approaches. Fear you can see personified (jokingly) by my husband in the image above.
Honestly, I was taken by surprise and had a bit of a minor (or major) freak out about the financial logistics of having a new bub and me not being able to work for an extended period of time. Having just taken on a significant multi-year lease for our growing business (!) it became very real very quickly. Talk about timing... Yes we were actively ‘trying’ for a baby, but were well aware that conceiving can often take 6-12 months. So when my boobs started hurting and I realised my period was a few days late after less than two months, we were pretty shocked!
For a bit of background - my husband, Garrett, received 6 months of chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 2011. He is now fully in the clear (:D) but one of the potential side effects of his treatment was infertility. We had stored some of his sperm pre-chemo for just-in-case, and had discussions together about the possibility of IVF and adopting if life lead us in that direction. When that pregnancy test (all three of them) displayed the positive two lines result, we were very surprised and feeling incredibly lucky and grateful. Amazing!!
As a Women’s Health and Pregnancy Physio...
I’ve been working in the field of women’s health physiotherapy, pregnancy, and postpartum care since I was 22 and so for the last 6 years, I’ve lived and breathed pregnancy thanks to my patients and the fellow ladies who work in women's health. I would often consider birthing options, pelvic floor health, abdominal separation, exercise programs and which practitioners I’d love to work with during and after my own pregnancy. And I’m SO grateful to have been able to chat with so many women during this time and hear tons of their experiences. Now that it’s my turn to enter this life-changing journey alongside a lot of my patients, I’m feeling pretty excited but confident in knowing some positive things I can do for my body, and where I can turn for guidance and support as I go along.
Though I realise, not many women have this same opportunity going into the first pregnancy. Just like me - some of those Mamas-to-be may not have had many close friends or family members go through a pregnancy and those beautiful but challenging early stages of motherhood to be able to ask for their advice and learn from their experiences.
This is one of the reasons we created our Prenatal BABEs program! Teaching Mamas-to-be how to look after their pelvic floor and core muscles (before, during and after pregnancy) through good education of basic anatomy, alignment, good movement habits, what to look out for when things aren’t feeling right, recommended exercises, tips for labour and delivery and preparing the perineum and early postnatal care. You can check it out here and I highly recommend it as its packed with info every mama-to-be should know.
I’m so thrilled to be able to share my own experiences and what I've learned here with you now, but please note that this is just ONE person’s experience, and certainly not exhaustive of all the things that you might want to do for yourself. No need to worry if your journey, choices or beliefs differ from mine - If there’s one thing I’ve learned as pregnancy physio, every mama, every bub, and every pregnancy is unique and you have to do whatever feels best and right for YOU. I’m just hoping to provide some insight from somebody who works with pregnancy, new mamas, and women’s health practitioners on a daily basis and what informed decisions I make and plan to make along my pregnancy journey.
I’ll also share some of the services and resources both online and local to Brisbane that I trust and recommend, as well as why I choose to see them and what I did - if you have some of your own please I would love to hear about them in the comments below!
Where do we start? 5 PREconception Tips!
1. Pelvic Floor/Women’s Health Physiotherapy
I have quite a few wonderful patients who have come to see me prior to starting to try for a baby which I think is fantastic! Such a proactive approach and one that can help you feel more confident as you go through the next phases. Some of these future Mamas were experiencing some pelvic floor concerns - like a bit of sneeze-pee, urinary urgency, leaking when running, and sometimes uncomfortable or painful intercourse. Some didn’t have any concerns at all and just wanted to get a good baseline assessment and some good information (because it’s not all just doing your Kegels or pelvic floor exercises, its so much more)!
We know that pregnancy (not just childbirth) does create extra loads on your body, especially throughout the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles which can exacerbate or bring on symptoms from previously minor dysfunction. Therefore, learning how these muscles work within the whole system of your amazing body is a great step to keeping them as healthy and strong as possible.
I’m in a unique position in that I have a very good awareness of my pelvic floor and any symptoms, but I have to be honest - it’s not always easy to assess yourself! I have previously had an assessment from other pelvic floor physios which helped me identify and treat my own tailbone pain (thank you snowboarding injuries) and pelvic ligament laxity (which means that even pre-pregnancy, my pelvis already has a bit of extra movement - a combination of my genetics/collagen type, and falling out of trees more than once as a kid).
Getting on top of any niggling injuries or issues (like back or hip pain, but even knee, ankle, shoulder or neck problems) is also a great idea prior to conceiving - again, your body is going to have to adapt to a lot of hormonal and physical changes which can highlight old injuries or areas of less stability. Not to mention, when you do have a new baby - there is a LOT of repetitive lifting, holding, carrying and new tasks that use your body in a very unique way. If you're in the Brisbane area and want to check in on your pelvic floor health prior to pregnancy come check us out at our Paddington Studio - Our ladies are passionate and bring with them almost 20 years combined experience in women's health and pregnancy!
2. General health check up, vaccinations and blood work
In my line of work where I get to see lots of new Mamas and their little babies, I’m pretty careful to maintain my own immunisations for whooping cough and measles, mumps, and rubella so as to not put myself or anyone else at risk. It’s a great idea to check with your health practitioner as to how up-to-date your immunisations are, because some of these are recommended to be given outside of a certain window of time BEFORE conceiving.
I also visited my GP to get some baseline blood tests done - there are some key things that your medical professional may test for - including your iron levels, thyroid function and iodine. If there is anything that gets flagged, then it gives you some time to rebalance your levels for best health prior and during pregnancy. Definitely worth looking into prior to, or early days in your pregnancy.
3. Gut health and nutrition
I’m sure this isn’t news to many Mamas, but pregnancy can really do a number on your digestive system! Especially when in combination with your prenatal vitamins or any iron supplements. The hormones that your body produces to start getting ready for baby’s growth and delivery do tend to slow down gut motility and contribute to bloating, some extra wind and often constipation. Which is not only uncomfortable, but ongoing straining and constipation can also contribute to haemorrhoids, and pelvic floor issues long term.
I tried a few different prenatal vitamins and found that some of the well known brands contained a TON of iron which really upset my guts. Thankfully I found some alternatives that suited my body much better, and received some great advice from my Naturopath Marianne Harold (pre-pregnancy), and my friend and Nutritional Physiotherapist Sissy Taufika (Such an amazing therapist, check her out if you get the chance!)
My advice - if you have any troubles with constipation or gut issues, best to sort things out prior to pregnancy, and learn what foods works for your body to help keep things moving smoothly! Also make sure to have proper pooping alignment for your pelvic floor health (check out our ebook here to learn more about this).
4. Exercise or movement routine
It is never too early or too late to create a good exercise or movement routine for yourself, and there is SO much research that shows how beneficial exercise can be for both Mama and growing baby. It helps to have a bit of a routine going before falling pregnant, because once those hormones kick in and nausea and fatigue starts to show up, it can be really hard to motivate yourself to start some good habits. One easy and FREE option that I highly recommend is walking! Its amazing for you, anyone can do it, and its a great way to connect with friends if you have a walking buddy.
Having said that, Mamas please don’t feel bad if your first trimester symptoms totally knock you out of the ring for a good few months. Everybody has different experiences during pregnancy and some have a much harder time with be able to stay active throughout for a whole range of reasons. Be kind to yourself and do what works best for you.
More in depth info on recommended exercise in pregnancy to come in a later post!
5. Know your options
Choosing a obstetric care provider is something that is good to start thinking about before you actually become pregnant - particularly if you would like to have the option of choosing a private midwife or obstetrician to work with throughout your pregnancy journey. We’ll go into more detail about the different options available to Australian Mamas, but in short - most Private Health Insurance requires you to have Top Hospital Cover (including Obstetric Cover) for 12 months prior to baby’s due date. Other options include paying out-of-pocket and receiving some Medicare rebates for your appointments, or going through the public system which also has some wonderful options for expecting Mamas.
I do not have obstetric private health insurance and have chosen to go with the wonderful My Midwives of Brisbane North and I couldn’t be happier so far :) but I will elaborate further as to why this option suited me best in a future post!
This post is a quick introduction into what I’ve done and what I recommend, however it is only the intro to our upcoming pregnancy series so stay tuned!
Have some awesome stories, ideas, or practitioners you've connected with? Please mention them in the comments below!
To be continued…