Episode 1 Live Q&A: Your Pelvic Floor and Exercise

Lauren Gabriel & Michelle Gray are directors of Preggi Bellies. Both are physiotherapists and focus on pre and postnatal exercise using exercise balls, especially the unspoken issue of incontinence. Read their answers to the questions asked by our Huggies Club members.

The following questions have been answered by Lauren and Michelle as part of our Mums & Bubs Live Q&A session. If you have any further questions please contact Lauren and Michelle via the Preggi Bellies website.

When is the right time to return to exercise after giving birth? I heard 6 weeks for a natural birth and longer for a ceasar? – Kelly

We always recommend you have seen your Doctor prior to returning to exercise. A delivery with no tears or cuts usually means you can return sooner than one where you needed a ceaser or an episiotomy.

What are the best exercises to do to try and firm up that belly again? – Anon

This is a question we get asked a lot! There are two parts to returning your belly to good shape. IN the first instance you must ensure you have done all the right exercises when pregnant. Women who exercise correctly when pregnant will return to shape faster and more effectively than those who do not. Secondly you must remember a lot of the baby belly is loose skin that takes sometimes up to a year to firm up. Most women will not ever entirely lose this as skin – once stretched- cannot return back fully to it’s prepregnancy form. Tummy muscles that are stretched will return to normal with the right exercises and diet.

The right exercises are a combination of the one’s we use in classes and on the DVD- deep core strengthening as well as working the rectus and oblique muscles. Cardio exercise is also vital to burn fat .

How long will I have my baby belly for?- Margie

Realistically a baby belly will never fully disappear. However pre pregnancy exercise and a good diet definitely help. Remember it takes 9 months to get the belly so it will not disappear over night.

Can I do pilates and yoga during pregnancy? – Jen

Yoga and Pilates are exercises that are not developed for pregnancy but modified for pregnancy. You may definitely do modified forms of the Pilates and yoga as long (as with any forms of exercise) you are under the supervision of instructors who have studied pregnancy and are specialists in this field. I you choose these forms of exercise you must also make sure you are doing additional forms of cardiovascular work so that you are improving your fitness and endurance keeping your heart fit.

My mother told me not to do abdominal exercises when pregnant is this true?

That is an old wives tale. Abdominal exercises are essential for back and pelvic support and to help retain shape of the tummy. We specialize in the right abdominal exercises for pregnancy as conventional sit ups cannot be done.

I like to power walk is this ok when I am pregnant?

Walking is actually not the best exercise for pregnancy. Women who walk a lot in pregnancy are at a higher risk for pelvic and back pain.

Are the exercises on the ball high impact and if so isn’t this bad for me?

The reason the exercises on the ball are so good is because they are not high impact at all. The shape of the ball offers pelvic floor support and stimulates core abdominal muscles. The ball actually has no impact at all.

I live in Brisbane do you have classes there?

Yes, you can call 1300 72 71 71 to find out more information.

What are the key areas I need to work on in pregnancy?

Cardiovascular work is very important to improve fitness- Preggi Bellies classes include these always. Leg and tummy work as well as arms and stretches are also essential.

Can your classes help with delivery?

Research has shown that the right exercise can certainly shorten the second stage of labour and improve recovery. Women who are fitter and have gained less weight cope better and are more likely to avoid a ceaser and episiotomy in labour.

Will exercise reduce my weight gain?

Yes exercise in pregnancy definitely reduces the amount of weight you gain. After birth you will also lose the weigh faster.

Can you please tell me if you can get your pelvic floor muscles back to pre-children strength, or are they gone for good? I have a 3 1/2 yr old child and 12 month old twins. I probably didn’t do my pelvic floor exercises as often as I should have and am now paying for it. All deliveries were caesarian section. Regards, Glenda.

Glenda you will need to visit your doctor as a start. Specialist physiotherapists can certainly help you with the right exercises and advice. You can definitely improve the strength of the pelvic floor post pregnancy.

Hi Lauren and Michelle! Is it necessary to do the additional exercises, using the ball, if I am trying to go on gentle walks for 30min at least every second day? How much exercise do I need???

Gentle walking is not classified as exercise as it does not improve fitness or strength. Women who walk are also at a higher risk of back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. The ball exercises work on all muscle groups and strengthen arms, legs and abdominal muscles as well as improving your fitness. The guidelines are exercise at least 30minutes of cardiovascular exercise (must be sweating and increase your heart rate) every day so at present you are also below the guidelines.

Where can I purchase a Preggie Bellies DVD?

Rebel sports stores, the Huggies website as well as on line at
www.preggibellies.com (other stockists are on the website)

How common is the separation of abdo muscles and how can I tell if I have it – My baby was born 4 months ago.

All women need their abdominal muscles to move apart to accommodate a growing baby. It is best that you see a physiotherapist who can assess you and tell you if you have a separation. This is very normal and can be reduced with special exercises as seen in our classes or on the DVD.

I bought the Preggie Bellies DVD when i was pregnant and found it great. i was just wondering whether it’s a suitable exercise program for after birth to get back into shape or should i be trying to get into more aerobic exercises now that i’ve had my child?

The DVD is perfect for post natal work and you can also join Preggi Bellies classes for a more advanced type of exercise. For at least three months after your return to exercise you will need to do modified exercise before increasing intensity.

Hi Lauren and Michelle, a quick question Is it possible for incontinence symptoms to go away on their own without treatment of any kind?

If you are pregnant you will need to see a Doctor or physiotherapist. Once you have seen your Dr you may be able to join Preggi bellies classes which will help with recovery Once you have had your baby these symptoms must have disappeared by 12 weeks post delivery. If not it is unlikely this will fix on it’s own and you should seek help. In this case you can also attend classes to help improve your pelvic floor muscles- and we certainly have had feedback from women who attend our classes and have had great results whether pregnant or postnatal.

Pelvic floor exercises – have been doing heaps, have no incontinence but vaginal flactulance when doing yoga stretches (air from middle passage). Have had two active natural births. Any ideas?

That is normal but if you are concerned in any way or experience any pain you should see your doctor. You should avoid inversions or stretches until you are at least 12 weeks post natal because those muscles are still healing from being stretched during labour.

Hi, I am 10 weeks pregnant and have been advised by my GP to stop going to the gym however I am really feeling miserable by not excercising. The reason for the sudden stop was because I miscarried in Jan this year and she told me to take it easy. What excercise can I do I am going crazy?

If you are a high risk pregnancy and have experienced multiple miscarriages- she is correct and usually by the second trimester you can return to exercise in a specialised form (Preggi Bellies) unless you have a medical reason you cannot exercise. You should know that exercise is not linked to miscarriage and we do screen clients individually to establish their suitability to exercise. We understand your frustration and to give you hope you should know that most women who have experienced miscarriages (1 in 3pregancies) and then come to us to exercise never have any problems. However you should call our head office to chat to us for more advice as there are a lot of issues to consider.

What exercise can u do after having a baby?

Preggi Bellies specialises in exercises for women after pregnancy and you can buy our DVD and Ball- but once you have had your Dr check up and all is ok you can pretty much return to any exercise that is comfortable and not causing you any pain.

Hi, my son is 11 months old and i stil havent been able to lose my stomach…i look like im about 4months pregnant….what can I do???

You are not alone! Make the decision to exercise and to exercise correctly. You need a good amount of cardiovascular exercise such as the ones we do in classes or on the DVD or jogging, Remember that it is a great thing to be able to exercise with other mothers who are feeling the same as you. There is no other way around it but to exercise at a level that works your heart and makes you sweat. If our classes are not available in your area, you could join a spinning class or any other aerobic training. Also make sure that your diet supports your exercise regime and does not sabotage your efforts. Just remember that loose skin is hard to get rid of but you can certainly tone the underlying muscles. There is no reason that you cannot aim to have a better body than you did before you were pregnant!

After having my 4th baby I am experiencing abdominal separation. It separated more than a fist size. 8 months later it is about 2.5 finger size. Will it ever come back to normal?

It may not, however 2.5 cms is a far cry from what it was and small enough to have little or no impact whatsoever on you cosmetically or functionally.

Does it effect you physically?

There will likely be no adverse physical effect on you that you can sense other than when you stick your fingers in to feel it.

What happens if I have another baby? Is it true stomach crunches cause the separation to heal slower?

If you have another pregnancy the muscles will likely separate again as they have done and there is good reason for this.
Supported and controlled abdominal crunches are the recommended exercise to help reduce the size of a rectus separation by shortening the muscle however they must be done whilst bracing the other deeper abdominal muscles and you will need to be shown how to do this effectively.

Hey, Just wanted to actually say thanks for a fantastic fitness DVD. I was heavily into the gym before falling pregnant but it’s now a bit too difficult. I love that i really feel i’ve actually done something when i’ve finished the workout unlike other dvd’s that are ok but i don’t feel i’ve done a proper workout. So thanks heaps! Nerralea

Thanks for your feedback and this is exactly what we were hoping to achieve when we produced it. Good for you that you are still making the effort.

Hi Lauren and Michelle, Do you have any advise on how to strengthen the abs without aggravating an existing prolapse? I have tried pilates under the guidance of a physio but found this would often make it worse. Thanks

It is very difficult to exercise abdominals without aggravating a bladder prolapse. Gentle bracing exercises on all fours can definitely help but any exercise where you are increasing pressure downwards in the abdomen will aggravate the prolapse. There is so much core stability in pilates so I can understand why this made your problem worse. During exercise you would need to use your hand to support your pelvic floor and sitting on a ball doing gentle prescribed exercise can help. You should definitely see your Dr as a repair may be necessary and specialist physiotherapists can help reduce the prolapse.

How do you find an hour everyday to exercise? I feel so sleep deprived!!!! Can you help??

We are all mothers with many children between us- we have found that exercise will definitely increase you energy levels and deal better the tiredness and exhaustion even when you have had no sleep. Make time for yourself first- a conscious decision to take care of yourself then everything follows. I get up at 5:30am and exercise then- alternate with your partner so that you both have time to exercise. Get out with the baby and if you do not want to get out of the house do home exercise DVD’s. Get help with your baby so that you can have some time- also if you are fitter you cope better with less sleep.

Before I was pregnant I really enjoyed Pilates. Is it okay to continue with Pilates throughout my pregnancy?

Specialist Pilates classes with pregnancy experts are available and those are the ones you can do. Remember that you need to have a good cardiovascular workout as well and should consider another form of exercise as well.

Hi Preggi Bellies, My third stage of labour lasted 2 hours and my pelvic floor muscles are ruined. Ten months latter I’m still having incontinence issues. With exercise will this ever be resolved. I have a ball but it’s not as big as the one I saw on the show. Would it be too low to use, like the couch? Thanks Kerrie

Please see your doctor immediately as you need to get this sorted out. If you do not get treatment the problem will not go away by itself. Exercises done with a continence physiotherapist will definitely help.The ball needs to be the right height and yes if it is too low it is not suitable. The right height ball can be bought off our website or at any Rebel Sports store

I saw on the show that you recommend the exercise ball, what should I look for when I buy one? How do I get the right height for me?

Please visit our website www.preggibellies.com – The ball that we recommend can be purchased on our website . We will only allow the use of the AOK mediBall in our classes as it is the best and safest on the market.

HI Lauren and Michelle, i was just wondering where i could purchase your preggie bellies dvd from?

On line at www.preggibellies.com or at any of our stockists listed on line. Huggies website and Rebel sports stores too.

Hello, I just watched the program and was a bit disappointed with the exercises. As a person with a disability and a busy mum. I would like to know some exercises that are free! No equiptment, cost or clutter. Just good stretches and things to do for toning and strength without the gear. Is there any?

Before offering any advice, we would need to know the exact nature of your disability to help. You can call us on 1300 72 71 71and we’ll be happy to chat.

I am pregnant with my fourth child and rather sick (always have difficult pregnancies) what are the exercises you would suggest for more energy with least effort. M

If you are referring to morning sickness it is ok to exercise with us under these circumstances. To get energy you do need to expend it and minimal energy in exercise will not get the results you want. I know how hard it is but women in our classes have reported feeling so much better when they exercise with us.

I managed to fit back into my pre-preg pants but its hard to hide the ‘love handles’ hanging over each side. Are the ‘love handles’ that creat ‘muffin top’ purely fat stores that act as resevoirs for breastfeeding and will they every go away. What exercises are best for this particular area?

Unfortunately breast feeding fat is stored in the upper back not in the tummy! The only way to get rid of this is good high intensity cardio exercise . Good diet and tummy exercises too!

Hi Lauren and Michelle. My son is 8 months old. Since he was born by natural birth I have been trying to do my pelvic floor exercises, but have little to no sensation. Have I lost my chance to get back to normal"? I cannot even stop the flow of urine. Will your DVD give me any exercises that will help me regain my pelvic floor?" I will admit to being guilty of not doing the exercises while pregnant as I was expecting to have a csection again (I didn’t have a problem with my pelvic floor after the c-section). I am interested in purchasing your DVD – where can I get it and the ball from?? Thanks. L

You definitely need to see your doctor as what you are experiencing is not normal. It is not too late if you do something now. Please do so- once you have done this and you are on your way to solving these issues you can visit our website www.preggibellies.com. The longer you leave this problem the less chance there is of rectifying it.
Most women do not realize that incontinence is not normal and should not be left alone.
Good luck

For more information see Episode 1 Being a mum or Parenting .