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Founder’s Perspective: From Diapers to Dumbbells – Balancing Motherhood and Pelvic Health Exercises

Founder’s Perspective: From Diapers to Dumbbells – Balancing Motherhood and Pelvic Health Exercises

Welcome to a space where the joys of motherhood meet the honest challenges of pelvic health. At Hem Support Wear, we understand that the journey into motherhood brings unique experiences, and we're here to support you. In this blog post, we delve into the often unspoken struggles faced by new moms in consistently prioritizing pelvic health exercises. 

Beyond just acknowledging the difficulties, we aim to offer insights, solutions, and a touch of genuine camaraderie. Whether you're a first-time mom or a seasoned pro, our goal is to create a conversation that resonates with the realities of your journey. So, grab a cup of tea, get comfortable, and let's explore how we can navigate the beautiful chaos of motherhood while nurturing your pelvic well-being.

Embarking on the incredible journey of motherhood is a transformative experience, but it often brings with it uncharted territories, particularly in the realm of postpartum pelvic health. As statistics and experiences show, the challenges faced by new moms in maintaining pelvic well-being are both common and significant. 

We need to shed light on the realities of postpartum life, where the joy of a new addition is accompanied by the adjustments and physical changes that impact pelvic health. Drawing from personal experience, I'll explore the initial struggles after having my first and second child, highlighting the unexpected hurdles that can catch new moms off guard.

Woman shows her bicep muscles

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and Exercise 

When someone has pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and sees a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT), they are often given a set of personalized exercises and movements that are usually completed at home. A lot of times the goal is to increase muscle tone and coordination as well as learn breathing and relaxation techniques. At each appointment, the person will check in with their pelvic floor PT, report how the exercises are going, along with how their symptoms are doing, and then usually progress to the next level of movement. 

This was my experience when I saw a pelvic floor PT. However, there was one aspect of it that I did not anticipate and that was the challenge of consistently doing the seemingly simple set of exercises that my pelvic PT recommended. I would leave her office with a 10-30 minute set of exercises and daily movement and I would inevitably go back to the next appointment not having completed the exercises to the extent I would have liked to and feeling disappointed because it made me feel like I was inadequate. 

I have never been someone who found it easy to have an ongoing, consistent exercise routine, especially an at-home exercise routine. I have done well going to group fitness classes but that is about the extent of it. And it is not for lack of desire or trying. I just always seemed to veer off from my plan. All of this was brought to the forefront after I learned that I had pelvic organ prolapse and was given an at-home exercise program to follow to help heal my body and regain strength. This was not a time consuming or strenuous program. However, there were a few hurdles that I was up against after having both babies and I was unable to consistently complete the exercises given to me by my pelvic floor PT. 

Hurdle #1 - Life as I knew it was completely thrown out the window. 

As a self-described planner with a "type A" personality, I thrive on predictability. However, my newborn had different plans. Overnight, my life transformed from a well-organized schedule to a continuous cycle of newborn cries, dirty diapers, breastfeeding concerns, and brief moments of sleep. Just as I began to find my rhythm, I returned to work from maternity leave, introducing a whole new normal to navigate.

Hurdle #2 - I had a new responsibility that someone’s life literally depended on.

Let’s just let that sink in for a minute. I am sure many of you can relate to the overwhelming feeling of not being able to afford being sick or away for too long due to the responsibilities of caring for a newborn. As a mother who breastfed both of my girls, the challenge was intensified with the need to juggle appointments and incorporate physical activity into my day. Fortunately my PT was so welcoming of kids, allowing me to bring them along.  However, it is hard to juggle trying to focus on yourself during the appointment and having your baby with you that is likely hungry, has a dirty diaper, needs a nap, or all three at the same time. 

Hurdle #3 - My body was newly postpartum, sleep deprived and experiencing symptoms that I had never felt before. 

The postpartum experience deserves more open discussion. Fortunately, we felt reasonably prepared with essentials like padsicles ready to go (using Mama Natural’s Recipe #2 with lavender essential oil instead of lavender tea). However, there are aspects that often go unmentioned, such as the four to six weeks of post-birth bleeding and the healing process after a c-section, marked by an incision across the lower abdomen. Personally, dealing with prolapse presented unexpected challenges, making activities like holding my baby or taking a simple walk around the block difficult due to the pronounced heaviness and pressure in my vagina. This was a completely unforeseen aspect of the postpartum journey. 

Hurdle #4 - I was on the emotional roller coaster that so many experience after a pelvic organ prolapse diagnosis. 

I was taken by surprise when I experienced symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and received the diagnosis. Despite thorough preparation for pregnancy and childbirth, including classes, extensive reading, a doula, and an expecting parent package with a pelvic floor physical therapist, the revelation of prolapse left me feeling betrayed by my own body. A sidenote: I have a phobia of blood, injury, and injections, which motivated me to learn about pregnancy and childbirth early on. Even with these precautions, discovering I had prolapse made me question what I could have done differently for a better outcome. This experience tainted the positivity of my birth journey. Dealing with a prolapse diagnosis is mentally challenging as much as it is physically. Progress in movement and exercise can be a prolonged process, making it difficult to focus on end goals amid the day-to-day fluctuations of prolapse.

Hurdle #5 - I did not identify as someone who effectively does at-home workouts. 

As mentioned earlier, maintaining consistency in a workout routine, particularly at home, has been a personal challenge for me. I believe this resonates with many individuals. Creating time and space at home becomes difficult when faced with a cluttered house, an extensive to-do list, and kids who consistently look to you for their needs.

Home of family with a newborn, with labels pointing out dirty laundry and crumbs on the floor

Hurdle #6 - Perception of how long it takes your body to heal and level out postpartum. 

Postpartum discussions should extend beyond weeks to encompass months and even years. According to Dr. Rebecca Maidansky, PT, DPT, a realistic recovery timeframe is 6-18 months, challenging the common misconception of being "cleared" for sex and exercise at the 6-week mark. This unofficial expectation often leaves postpartum individuals confused and disappointed when they don't feel themselves by this point.

Navigating an exercise routine that takes months or years to show full results can be challenging, especially when there's a perception that you should be 'back to yourself' around six weeks postpartum. Normalizing a realistic postpartum recovery timeframe is crucial.


How to bring exercise into your postpartum daily life

Considering the obstacles in your way, maintaining a consistent exercise routine might seem daunting. The honest truth is that a consistent daily routine may not be achievable, but there are key strategies to foster consistency over time.

Tip #1 - Habit stacking can be a game-changer for incorporating exercises into daily life.

One game-changing strategy that significantly impacted my consistency is Habit Stacking, a concept I discovered in 2023 through James Clear's book "Atomic Habits." If you haven't read or listened to this book, I highly recommend it. Imagine seamlessly incorporating pelvic health exercises into your daily routine, making it as natural as your morning coffee or evening wind-down. While it's not a magic bullet, this concept has truly shifted my mindset and habits, enabling me to stay consistent for an extended period.

Clear introduces the concept of habit stacking, emphasizing the power of small, incremental changes for long-term success. Applied to pelvic health, this means redefining exercises from daunting tasks to seamlessly integrated habits within daily life. Personally, I've implemented this by starting my daily exercise routine the moment my family leaves for work and school. To set myself up for success, I put on my workout clothes right upon waking up and head straight to my designated workout spot as soon as they're out the door. I avoid distractions and focus solely on completing the workout. A crucial element for me was starting small—just a few minutes per day—because, as Clear advises, it should be so easy that there's no way you won't do it. Over time, as you build consistency, you can gradually increase the duration. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear 

"Atomic Habits" encourages us to focus on the identity we want to cultivate. In the realm of pelvic health, this means embracing the identity of someone who prioritizes and seamlessly incorporates exercises into their routine. The book's principles underscore that by making small adjustments and stacking habits onto existing ones, achieving pelvic wellness becomes not only attainable but a natural part of one's lifestyle.

In the journey of motherhood and pelvic health, "Atomic Habits" becomes a valuable companion, providing a roadmap to break down seemingly insurmountable tasks into manageable, sustainable practices. It's about recognizing the power of consistent, small actions and, in the context of pelvic health, creating a foundation for lasting well-being.

Tip #2 - Remember the mantra “Progress over Perfection” 

In the midst of unpredictable schedules and days that seldom go as planned, it's crucial to embrace the mantra "progress over perfection." If your intended 30-minute workout dwindles to just 5 minutes, those 5 minutes still matter—do it. When circumstances steer you away from a home weight workout to the playground, focus on exercises like squats or other movements that make sense for where you are in your journey. Flexibility is key in incorporating movement, and even small increments will accumulate over time, making a significant difference. Grant yourself grace; on days when you need to prioritize being close to your kids and skip formal exercise, that's okay. Once again, prioritize progress over perfection.

Tip #3 - Keep an Open Dialogue with your Friends, Family, and Healthcare Team 

Often, our friends and family may struggle to ask the right questions or relate to our unique experiences. Unfortunately, this often puts the onus on you to bring up challenging topics and share the difficulties you're facing. Typically, conversations revolve around the baby's well-being, sidelining the parents. Expressing your priorities and challenges can pave the way for your loved ones to provide meaningful support.

Maintain open communication with your healthcare team about the progress of your movements and symptoms. (If you’re not sure how to communicate what you’re experiencing, our Pelvic Health Symptom Tracker can help.) While you may feel shame or anxiety about not adhering to your exercises, an honest dialogue can help you realize that you're not alone, and they can modify your program to better suit your needs. Keeping notes on your challenges, how your symptoms feel during and after exercises, and other relevant details is valuable information to share with your healthcare team. Your voice matters. 

Tip #4 - Build a Supportive Community 

I realize this is way more challenging than it is often portrayed especially for new parents. Being a new parent can be incredibly lonely and isolating. Add a prolapse diagnosis on top of that and you probably feel like you are on another planet compared to where you used to be. 

Finding things like postpartum support groups which can be run by local non-profits, doulas, and other people in the birthing community is a great way to get connected with people who are going through a similar phase as you. There are a number of prolapse specific groups like the P4Moms Community. Be aware that prolapse specific groups often have people who are still seeking help for their prolapse so it may seem like everyone is struggling with POP which can make you feel overwhelmed. They can be really helpful but just know it is a subset of the people with POP population. 

Consider engaging an accountability partner if it aligns with your current circumstances. Personally, I relied on my sister for months, even though she lived over 200 miles away. We would meet via FaceTime early in the morning, often doing different exercises during our call. 


For mental health support groups, Postpartum Support International is an excellent resource. 

Woman does yoga at home with a dog on the mat

Tip #5 - If Someone Offers You Help, Take It! 

If someone offers assistance with your child or asks if you need help, don't hesitate to say yes. You shouldn't have to handle everything alone, and even small gestures of help can free up time for your daily movement goals. Don't be afraid to request assistance, even if your support network is not physically close. Challenge yourself to think creatively about meaningful ways people can help.

For those reading this with the opportunity to assist a new parent, reach out and express your willingness to help. Instead of open-ended questions, suggest specific ways you can offer support. For instance, say, "Hey, I'd love to support your family during this transition. I can give you X minutes for yourself so you can focus on things just for you. I'll change the baby and play with her during that time." Adjust as needed for your situation, but the key is to offer specific help that makes it easier for the person to say yes. Keep in mind that in the early postpartum weeks, parents often just want to snuggle with their new baby. Some of the most helpful gestures during this phase include running errands, cleaning, and providing a nice meal.

Tip #6 - Know that there is hope and reasons to be optimistic 

Prolapse diagnoses often come with a list of initially restricted activities. While some things may be off-limits initially and could take months or even years to resume, many individuals have successfully engaged in activities once deemed "off-limits" due to prolapse. If there's something you loved but can no longer do, it's natural to mourn the loss, but discovering new ways to move your body and stay active can bring a renewed sense of well-being and self-identity. I mention this not to diminish your feelings but to offer a glimpse of hope that you can regain confidence and a sense of self in due time. Kimberley of @wildmatresence provides a realistic portrayal of an active life with prolapse and birth injury if you would like some inspiration and open, candid discussion on these topics. 

Ensuring success in addressing pelvic health challenges is crucial, requiring internal commitment and support from those around us.

As we conclude our exploration of the delicate balance between parenthood and pelvic health, reflecting on shared experiences, insights, and solutions is essential. Navigating the demands of motherhood alongside the pursuit of pelvic wellness is undeniably challenging but immensely valuable. Amid the journey's highs and lows, triumphs, and learning curves, remember that your path is unique, and you're not alone. Hem Support Wear serves as both a provider of garments and a supportive community.

As always, we're glad you're here. If you're interested, we offer a free pelvic health symptom tracker, a useful tool for your pelvic health journey. Learn more here.

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