How to relieve constipation in pregnancy

Recently I went on a bit of a search for blog posts on constipation in pregnancy.

A client in my Pregnancy Exercise class wanted tips on how to relieve constipation and there wasn’t a lot of time to go through the advice in  class. I had a good search in google and on YouTube and even reached out to the Women’s Health Physiotherapy community for advice on where to find good resources online.

But I came up empty!!

So rather than get annoyed, I thought I’d just jump on a call with the amazing Jessica Drummond and see if she would share her tips with us.

For those that don’t know Jessica, she is an incredible physical therapist based in Connecticut, who combines nutrition and lifestyle advice with more traditional physical therapy treatment modalities.

In the interview, we discuss her clinical role with patients as well as how she is now an educator of health and fitness professionals around the globe through the Integrative Women’s Health Institute. You can see her passion for these topics coming through in our conversation around hormonal imbalances!

 

What did we talk about?

0 mins –  In the introduction, we learn more about Jessica’s story – how her own experiences with adrenal fatigue took her on a journey that not only changed her health but also her career. We hear about how Jessica used nutrition and lifestyle modifications to heal her body and leave her feeling better than she had every felt before!

16 mins – We discuss the response of clients and other health professionals to applying a more holistic approach to dealing with conditions such as pelvic pain.

20 minsWhat is constipation? What is normal in terms of how often we empty our bowels? We learn more about the technical definition of constipation versus what might be considered more optimal bowel habits.

23 mins – Why do women suffer from constipation in pregnancy? Here Jessica discusses some of the reasons why women get constipated – and it isn’t just the hormones!

26 minsHow can you relieve or prevent constipation in pregnancy? Here we dive into the treatment options which include things like self massage, nutritional advice and lifestyle strategies. Yes, we discuss iron supplementation too!

33 minsWhat is the best way to poop? We talk about tips for positioning and relaxing the pelvic floor so you can have an easier poop!

37 minsWhat if you have an acute episode of constipation? Here I have a TMI moment and talk about my episode of painful acute constipation in early pregnancy and ask Jessica what she recommends for clients.

40 mins – rounding up the interview, we talk about how to find Jessica and we discuss all the amazing online programs that she has created – from relieving pelvic pain to balancing hormones. We also have a chat about the importance of appropriate nutrient stores and base fitness levels prior to pregnancy. Honestly we probably could have chatted for another hour or two on this, but it was getting late in the evening for me and Jessica needed to go see clients!

 

To learn more about Jessica, head to her website and sign up for her email list NOW!

Integrative Women’s Health Institute

 

Finding purpose with prolapse (interview with Kylianne Farrell)

I’ve got to admit …this was one of my favourite interviews.

(and yes…I was a little misty-eyed at the end. I could lie and say that I had been cutting onions, but I must admit that I got a little emotional).

Why did I love this interview so much?

In part it was just because Kylianne is just a lovely person to talk to – we could have chatted for hours and hours. But also I just loved hearing about her journey in living with pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and how she has created an incredible business helping other women.

When I talk to Kylianne I am reminded of how POP is influenced by so many things – not just the muscles and connective tissue (something I discussed in this recent video), but also things like stress, support networks (or lack thereof), sleep and general health.

I feel like women do need more emotional support when dealing with a diagnosis like POP, but this doesn’t always seem to be possible within the health care system. We need to get better at finding ways to support women …

So, hope you enjoy the video and definitely go and check out her website and FB page below!

Some classic statements from KA:

“You have prolapse, you are NOT prolapse”

“Don’t pin your happiness on the healing of your prolapse”

 

 


To learn more about Kylianne, you can follow her on FB and learn more through her website.

The Movement Room website

Facebook page

If you want to learn more about Robin Kerr and Ian O’Dwyer, you can head to their websites.

Robin Kerr – Alchemy in Motion

Ian O’Dwyer – OD on Movement

Do we need supplements in pregnancy?

I have mixed feelings about supplementation.

On the one hand, I think that they are super important for people who are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, I think that there are some brands that are of such poor quality that they probably aren’t worth taking.

But what do I know about supplements? …I’m just a physio.

So, I asked my nutrition guru buddy Lily Nichols. I reckon what she doesn’t know about nutrition and pregnancy could probably fit on a postage stamp. This lady loves to read the science (she’s even nerdier than me!) and had over 900 (!!) references in her new book on Real Food for Pregnancy.

I also asked her to give some tips on how to make eating real food easier…cos let’s face it, it’s so much easier to order a pizza (mmm…pizza!).

 

If you would like to get Lily’s book, it is available on Amazon.

 

What you need to know about the early days post C-section…

C-section recovery advice is often pretty rubbish. It just amazes me that my clients get given a couple of token exercises and then are told

  • don’t lift anything for 6 weeks (ummm…what about my baby?)
  • don’t drive for 4-6 weeks
  • after 6 weeks, just “gradually get back into doing what you did before”

 

Now, as someone who has worked with literally hundreds of new mums, I get that it is difficult to give more specific guidelines. Some women find that they have minimal pain after a c-section and are up and about quite quickly. Others have a lot of pain and find that their day-to-day activities are a real struggle. There is no one answer.

But I reckon we can do better.

Let’s just think a little bit about tissue recovery first.

So let’s go through the first 6 weeks

But first, let’s just take into account the actual surgery itself. We’ve got some superficial skin cuts to heal, but also the deeper layers of the abdominal wall. The linea alba (the connective tissue between your 6-pack muscles) is separated, but often not stitched back together. Now mother nature does do a wonderful job at scarring this tissue back up again, but I’m fairly certain that that tissue isn’t back to normal strength by 6 weeks!

In these early stages we want:

  • lots of rest. I don’t want to get all preachy here ladies, but you’ve GOT to rest in the early weeks wherever possible. Listen to your body and don’t feel guilty about lying down and putting your feet up (literally!). Pregnancy, labour (some will labour prior to having c-section), surgery, general anaesthetic, sleep deprivation, feeding your baby, hormones ….woah, that is a LOT for someone to go through. So please please please…give yourself the time and space to rest and heal. I find that women actually recover FASTER by starting out SLOWER!
  • optimal breathing patterns. I find that many women have altered breathing patterns postnatally (well – at any stage of life, but definitely postnatally!). I do think part of this is due to the changes that occur during pregnancy – the rib cage lifts and separates, and the diaphragm is pushed up by the baby, placenta, extra fluid etc! After birth, it can take a little while for the rib cage to settle back down again. Also, postnatally many new mums like to suck their tummies in! Yes, yes I get it – we all look a little pregnant after giving birth and the temptation is to pull your belly in. But you’ve gotta let it go, mamas! Tensing your abdominal wall makes it very difficult to breathe naturally and may put more pressure down through the pelvic floor. Discomfort after abdominal surgery can also make people nervous about taking deep breaths, but these are super important for our lungs and should definitely be encouraged! So try taking different types of breaths – feel your tummy move, feel your rib cage move, take shallow breaths and take deeper breaths. Try them all!
  • some effort on posture. Now I don’t mean “sit up straight and pull your shoulders back”. Those that know me know that I am not rigid when it comes to posture. I believe that there are many different variations of posture that are suitable and I don’t prescribe to there being a “perfect posture”. However… post abdominal surgery, the temptation can be to curl up into a ball on the couch in an effort to “protect” the scar. Grow tall through your spine when you are sitting and standing. Change postures frequently. Slumping from time to time is a-okay! Just don’t do in 24/7!
  • some pelvic floor muscle activation. I can hear you thinking, “but I didn’t have a vaginal delivery!” But guess what? You’ve had the weight of the baby sitting on your pelvic floor for 9 months. New mums also have to contend with a pretty physical new role in life – lifting and carrying for the new few years! We need and want good pelvic floor muscle control. In the early few weeks you can try and get some connection happening between your brain and the pelvic floor muscles and work on the endurance of these muscles. Please note that many women have pelvic floor muscles that are too active though, so if you can’t feel a difference between “on” and “off” then go see your friendly Women’s Health Physio!
  • to start some gentle walking…as able.  Many women will find that ten minutes is the maximum that they can handle in one bout when they first start walking. Start with a small walk in your neighbourhood and then gradually increase this as your energy allows. You may find it easier to do two lots of short walks rather than a long walk. If you can get out and about sometimes without your pram, that is a bonus. Get the arm swing happening and feel that beautiful rotation through your spine as you walk.
  • look after your bowels. It is really important that you avoid constipation and adopt good pooping habits early on. Have you seen the Squatty Potty unicorn video? Get yourself a stool (I use the ikea kids stool) to get those knees up high. Make sure that you stay well hydrated (esp if you are breastfeeding). If your poop starts to get hard and cracked, go see your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Do NOT strain to empty your bowels!

  • get moving…gently! Our bodies like to move, so adding some basic movements and stretches will probably make you feel better. This might mean some pelvic tilts and shoulder rolls when you’re sitting down. It might be some of your pregnancy pilates/yoga stretches in standing. Try moving your body gently in all directions and see how you feel.

Once you crack that six week mark, then yes you are probably more likely to be ready for a structured exercise program. But this doesn’t mean that you are ready to jump straight back into boot camp or running!

Want to learn more about creating your exercise program, then contact [email protected]

 

 

Some of my favourites…