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BIRTH: The most athletic thing a woman’s body will ever do

By Dr. Breanne Coates

The way a woman moves her body has the potential to enhance or hinder her experience of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. At BIRTHFIT, we think of the motherhood transition as a season of life. Pregnancy is a temporary state. During this time, we adopt the mindset of “training for birth”. Birth is arguably the most athletic thing a woman’s body will ever do. It requires strength, endurance, determination and surrender. During pregnancy, we do not shy away from fitness. Instead, we direct our athletic efforts to prepare our bodies and minds for birth. We think of training during pregnancy as “in-season training”- not the time to be doing things that cause pain, injury or dysfunction. The mantra of “just listen to your body” or “do what feels right” misses the boat and women deserve better guidance and support. 

There are certain exercises that “feel fine” but may no longer be appropriate as our bodies change during pregnancy. Just because we can, doesn’t always mean we should. Exercises that should generally be avoided during pregnancy and the entire first year postpartum include: crunches, sit-ups, extended time in plank (appropriate time is individual), side-plank, mountain climbers, toes to bar, any kipping movements, V-ups, and L-sits. Exercises that may be okay in early pregnancy but should be modified or eliminated around the 2nd trimester and for at least the first 4 months postpartum include: burpees, jump rope, running, box jumps, and any other dynamic or plyometric movements. Exercises that cause doming of the abdomen, pain, or leaking of any amount urine should be avoided. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I can support you in figuring out the cause, finding a way to train without exacerbating the problem and help you fix the problem so you can do the things you want to do symptom-free.

BIRTHFIT Boulder’s Prenatal Foundations classes will include a safe and effective workout with individual modifications as needed, education on how to use the concepts taught in other workouts and aspects of life, as well as mindset work and take-home exercises to prepare mentally and emotionally for birth.

While pregnancy is temporary, postpartum is forever. The postpartum period does not end 6 weeks after birth, or even 6 months. Our bodies are in a constant state of healing for the entire first year postpartum and the way we choose to support our healing during this time has great influence on our health, susceptibility to injury, overall bodily functioning and our fitness potential for the rest of our lives. There can be enormous pressure to “get your pre-baby body back” and that can be difficult to ignore. Adopting the mindset of “slow is fast” allows us to respect our healing bodies, honor them for all of the amazing things they have done to create new life, and allow ourselves the time to rebuild a solid physical foundation. When we train from a “slow is fast” mindset, we take time in the early postpartum period to recover, to guide our cores to heal in an optimal way, and slowly progress ourselves to greater intensity and more complex movements. Doing too much too soon negatively affects the healing process and can create injury and dysfunction which usually leads to setbacks and makes our goals that much further out of reach. Joining a BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series can be a great way to begin to heal intentionally and reintroduce fitness, all while being surrounded by a community of women who are choosing to approach their postpartum journey from a similar mindset. Even if you have older children, this can be enormously helpful in giving your core the attention it needed in those early years.

If you have not yet had children but you are thinking about becoming pregnant, it can be very helpful to the conception process to start adapting your training and thinking about all of this ahead of time. Taking the time to prepare our bodies physically, mentally, emotionally and nutritionally can lead to more positive pregnancy and postpartum experiences.

Pregnancy and birth are some of life’s greatest unknowns and this requires that we are deeply connected to ourselves, our bodies and that we are respectful of our bodies’ changing needs. There are certain methods of training that are particularly important during pregnancy and postpartum. These are: neutral spinal positioning, diaphragmatic breathing, and intra-abdominal pressure. These help to create or maintain ideal positioning and functioning of the core which can help prevent injuries and discomfort during pregnancy, allow baby to get into a good position for birth, allow the diaphragm and uterus to be more effective during labor and birth, allow for an easier recovery postpartum, and can help heal core and pelvic floor problems, even if it has been multiple years since giving birth. Around 30% of women experience pelvic floor dysfunction and/or diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). While there are many factors that go into the development of these conditions, the way we train during pregnancy and the way we recover and rehab postpartum have enormous impacts on preventing or significantly improving these conditions. 

As a chiropractor and as the BIRTHFIT Boulder Regional Director, I work one on one with women to provide education, chiropractic care for the whole family, core and pelvic floor rehabilitation and on-going support throughout the motherhood transition. As part of our Community Partner program, all Mecha clients will receive a 25% discount on chiropractic and rehab services at my office, Alpine Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Center. This is work that I find deeply fulfilling and I am so excited to bring BIRTHFIT Boulder’s classes to Mecha! 

Read more about and sign up for BIRTHFIT Boulder’s Prenatal and Postpartum classes at Mecha.

Dr. Breanne Coates

BIRTHFIT Boulder Regional Director

Performance, perinatal & pediatric chiropractor