Forward leaning inversion pose during pregnancy

Forward leaning inversion pose

The Forward-leaning Inversion is meant to create room in the lower uterus by using gravity. The goal is to stretch the ligaments of the uterus and cervix to remove tensions and restrictions around your baby and ease labour and birth. It is also a great stretch if you experience any round ligament pain (around the belly button) or pain on the sides of your belly bump. Lastly, it can be used during your contractions in labour if your cervix is not dilating properly.

When should you be doing forward-leaning inversions? 

  • As a proactive way to prepare your body for labour in your third trimester in order to make room for baby – even if baby’s head is already down 🙂
  • Can be done during a full contraction during labour if your cervix is not dilating – ask clearance from health provider before performing this pose in labour
  • If you have round ligament pain or pain on the sides of your belly bump
  • If you feel pelvic heaviness at the end of your day
  • If you have swelling in your lower body and want to improve circulation

How to perform a forward leaning inversion pose? 

**Important: If you have doubts about the safety of this pose during your pregnancy, get clearance from your medical provider first.**

  • Ask your partner or a friend to be present with you the first few times in case you feel any symptoms (ex: dizziness) during the exercise
  • Put a stool, chair or coffee table nearby so you can support yourself when coming back up from your inversion pose
  • Kneel on your sofa or bed (if it is low enough)
  • You can ask your partner or friend to hold your thighs to feel more safe
  • Slowly  lower yourself down so your hands are on the floor **this may be where you want to stop for the first few times, especially if you are in your third trimester. Get used to this position first before moving to a lower position.**
  • Then, if you feel OK, go all the way unto your elbows for a steeper angle.
  • Hold the position for 3 breaths  – not longer!
  • Slowly come back up using the stool/chair/table nearby as a support
  • Stay in a high kneeling position (see image below) for 3 breaths
  • Stand up unless you feel any symptoms of dizziness or head pounding

When should you AVOID doing forward-leaning inversions? 

  • After eating
  • If you have high blood pressure, glaucoma
  • If you have any vaginal bleeding
  • If the inversion triggers pain anywhere in your body
  • If you feel dizzy or have severe headache during or after the exercise
  • If baby is moving a lot in frantic ways during the pose
  • If you present any medical condition associated with your pregnancy: check with your doctor prior to practice an inversion pose
  • If your intuition tells you to avoid it 🙂 Always listen to your mother’s intuition!

How often should you do it? 

  • For labour preparation: 1-2x/day as of your third trimester – there is nothing wrong with doing it earlier if you wish.
  • For pain management: 1-2x/day + whenever you feel symptoms

Questions/comments? Share it below 🙂 

xx

Sophie

Postpartum Running Program

You just delivered your baby a few months ago, and you are SO EAGER to get back into your running shoes!

Plus – I am so proud of you – you checked all the boxes:

  • You waited at least 12 weeks post delivery: as you took my prenatal class and heard it was the minimal amount of time you should hold off on high impact exercises after baby is born. Also, you were too afraid of developing a prolapse from returning to running too early – not worth the risk, you concluded!
  •  You were assessed by a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist: and got their clearance – your pelvic floor and core are in great shape – good work girl!
  • You have no pelvic symptoms in your daily activities: including long walks (1h or more). Those pelvic symptoms include urine leakage, vaginal heaviness (or feeling that something is coming out of your lady bits), pelvic pain or bowel control issues. Oh you may have had those symptoms in the early days after baby was born, but this time is well over now, and you are quite happy about it!
  • You performed the return to running pre-requisite tests: and felt great, no pelvic symptoms during any of the tests. Yay!!!

Can I go back to my previous running program?

First, no matter how much running you did before delivering your baby, you will need to take things slow. It does not matter if you were 5 months pregnant when you ran your last half marathon…! Sorry!! In the postpartum running world, you will never regret taking your time so you can protect your pelvic health and continue to support your body in its healing. Because, yes, your fourth trimester may be over, but your body is still healing from your pregnancy and birth, and will still be for up to a year!

Also, being a new mom…

  • You energy level is different than before – your little one may be keeping you up at night, and you are far from those 8-9h of sleep you used to get!
  • Your breast is heavier: if you are breastfeeding or pumping, the additional weight of your breast adds pressure on your pelvis
  •  Your hormones are still out of whack: if you are breastfeeding or pumping, the relaxin (the hormone that makes everything looser in your body during pregnancy) is still running in your blood stream and affects the strength of your joints, ligaments and muscles, thus affecting stability. However, if your period has resumed, it is normally a sign that your hormones are shortly going to be restored.

With all these changes, it is understandable that you will need to take it slow, and start with a program that will allow your body to progressively adapt to this new load.

Setting yourself for success

In order to put all the chances on your side to have a successful return to running, a few things to consider:

  • Run on days where you feel rested
  • If you are breastfeeding, make sure to empty your breast before going for a run, so you reduce the weight on your pelvis
  • Wear a supportive bra 
  • In the first few weeks of your running program, make sure you don’t “overdo it” on the days you are planning to run. For example, take baby in the stroller as opposed to the carrier, or avoid planning a run when you know you will be on your feet a lot that day.

Running program

Now let’s dive into the details of your running program! The following postpartum interval program was designed by physiotherapists and can be found on the running clinic website. I translated it from French, for your convenience 🙂

Download and print the program

Why alternating running and walking?

I know those first few runs will look very short at first and may leave you on your appetite, but the goal here is to provide your body with an opportunity to slowly adapt to the demand without overloading the system. Progressively, your ligaments and muscles will build up strength and adapt to the load, and it will decrease the chances of experiencing pelvic symptoms like urine incontinence, urinary urgency, pelvic prolapse and pelvic pain, to name a few.

I had clients who started running continuously (without walking breaks), and after a few runs started experiencing pain in their lower back and pelvis. We had to fix their alignment before they could return again. The second time around, they followed the program and had much more success, their symptoms did not return. The body never lies! It will tell you when you are trying to go too fast. Trying to cut corners sometimes sets you back in your fitness goals, so why not doing things right from the start 🙂

Flat versus hills?

I always recommend starting on flat courses (you can walk the hills if your environment does not allow you to run strictly on flat), and choose a soft terrain (ex: trails) over road to decrease the impact. Progressively include hills, starting with running up hills and walking down hills. Downhill running is definitely something you should try later on in your program (in the last weeks), since it puts more stress on your pelvis.

Be smart and monitor your pelvic health!

During your run and in the next 24h, pay attention to your body symptoms. If you experience any urinary leakage, pelvic heaviness (sensation that something is hanging down in your vagina), pelvic or hip pain, or urinary urgency, you may want to check in with your Pelvic Health Physiotherapist so they can help you figure out what is going on.

Running technique pointers

Now, did you know that the way you run affects tremendously the load applied on your pelvis? And since your pelvis is trying to recover from your pregnancy and birth, running with proper technique could make a huge difference on your success and symptoms.

A few pointers:

  • Soft landing: try and pay attention to your landing and make it as soft as you can – a hard landing means you put more impact on your body and pelvis
  • Lean slightly forward: did you know that running with your body upright is not optimal for your pelvic health, as it increases the impact on your pelvic floor? Try to lean forward instead – normally about 20 degrees is sufficient to significantly decrease the load on your bladder and pelvis. For that reason, running with a baby stroller is not optimal, as it forces you to keep your body upright.
  • Breath in your abdomen: a shallow breath (or chest breathing) contributes to increase the intra-abdominal pressure, thus adding pressure on your pelvic organs. You want to send your breath down into your belly during your runs 🙂
  • Short strides: the longer your strides are, the more likely you will land directly on your heels which puts more impact on your body. It is better to accelerate your cadence and shorten your strides.
  • Arm swing: keep your arms relaxed so they can help propel yourself forward – normally your hands should swing down beside your hip bones. Avoid running with your arms “punching the sky”!
  • Don’t grip your abs: a lot of women were told they should ‘engage their core’ when running, so they end up running with their tummy super tensed which puts so much pressure on their pelvis and bladder, and also reduces their trunk’s ability to rotate! This is a whole topic on its own – but ladies, please, let your belly be, let your belly breath!

The most insightful thing you can do is to ask someone to take a video of your running so you can self-assess those elements – get a front view and a side view. This is exactly what I do with my postpartum clients who are ready to go back to running – it is helpful to watch the video in slow motion to see where the foot lands (heel versus forefoot), the angle of your trunk (upright versus backward or forward), your stride length, how you use your arms, etc. Of course, don’t overwhelm yourself if you are not sure what to look at, and consult with a Pelvic Health PT who has some training in postpartum running assessments!

There you go! You’re GTG!! So excited for you!

How did your return to running go after baby? Share your story by dropping a comment below 😉

xx

Sophie

 

Self-massage with balls during & after pregnancy

Low back, hip & pelvic pain during & after pregnancy can restrict mobility and limit moms in their daily activities. Having some self-management techniques to alleviate the pain can be a life saver for a better sleep, improved mobility & remaining active.

How about using massage balls for self-treatment? You can do it anywhere, anytime, for as long as you want! Isn’t it the best?

WHO IS THIS FOR?

  • Pregnant or post partum women who experience low back, hip, sacrum or pelvic pain (**an assessment by a pelvic health PT is highly recommended prior to do these techniques, to make sure they are appropriate for you**)
  • Pregnant women who are closer to labour (>36 weeks) and want to improve their pelvic mobility in order to ease labour and birth
  • Pregnant women in labour who want to reduce pain during the contractions

First watch the warm-up video to help your tissues get in the mood and ease into the release. Then, move on to the next video for more in depth massage techniques.

**The Yoga Tune up massage balls are available at my clinic for purchase, or online :)**

2 self-release techniques for your guts!

If you have abdominal discomfort from bloating or constipation,
this video for you!

Or if you came to see me and I mentioned that you had tension around your intestines, this video is for you too! 

Here below is a video with two techniques you can do at home to release your small intestine and colon.
This is a quite powerful health tool that you can use for yourself or your kids to help with digestion!

Why do we have tensions in our guts? 
Stress, intense core workouts, habit of clenching the belly to “look flat”, poor diet, and trauma (ex: car accident, falls) can all lead to tensions in the fascias and connective tissues around our guts.

Why is it bad to have tensions in our intestines? 
It can lead to many problems, including:
– Decreased flow and mobility in the digestive system, leading to bloating/constipation and discomfort along the digestive track in some cases

– Increasing pressure on the pelvic organs such as the bladder, uterine and rectum, and can lead to urine leakage, urinary urgency, painful menses

How to prevent tensions to build up in my guts? 
By…
– Decreasing your stress level as much as possible
– Having a healthy diet that includes adequate fibre & water intake
– Avoiding to clench your core to look like you have a “flat belly” through your daily activities- let it go instead, let it breath 🙂
– Once in awhile, massaging your intestine with the techniques demonstrated in my video to keep things moving!

Top 3 tips for hemorrhoids & anal fissures

(If you rather watch my video summarizing these things, click link above!)

Hemorrhoids and anal fissures are a real pain in the butt to deal with. And when you just gave birth and you have a newborn to take care of, the last thing you want is to cry out of pain on the toilet every time you have a bowel movement. So let’s make things easier for you mammas.

First, you may have hemorrhoids or anal fissures, or the whole package deal (both).

What is the difference between hemorrhoids and anal fissures?

Hemorrhoids are basically swollen veins that are bulging out of the rectum lining. They can be located internally (inside the rectum) and/or externally (outside of the anus). Some people have them and are not symptomatic (inactive hemorrhoids). A flared-up or active hemorrhoid is normally caused by recent increased of pressure in the pelvic area. For example, childbirth, pregnancy and severe constipation are common causes.

An anal fissure is a small cut in the lining of the anus. It can be caused by childbirth, constipation, straining, passing large stool, and anal sex.

What are the symptoms? 

Both hemorrhoids and anal fissures can present the following symptoms:

  • Pain with bowel movement often describes as if “you were passing sharp glass through your rectum”
  • Blood on the toilet paper after bowel movement

If you do not have these symptoms but you have had them in the past, that means that your condition is under control (hemorrhoids are not active, or fissure is healed). That’s awesome!!! Keep it that way by following tips #1 et #3 below 🙂

What to do? 

#1 Keep your stool soft! 

The first thing to look at is the quality of your stool. Keep it as soft as you can – you do not want a hard stool to go through these painful spots, believe me! Target a #4 type stool on the Bristol Stool chart, like a snake or a soft sausage. Drink plenty of water and check your fibre intake – if you need more info, read my blog post about bowel health.

#2 Decrease inflammation 

My number one to achieve this is a very natural way to decrease swelling: good ol’ ice! But how do you ice your butt hole? Using this wonderful device called the ANUREX which you keep in your freezer. It literally saves lives (according to my clients…!) – the best investment you will ever make to sooth the area. It comes with a little bottle of lube that you can put around it to make insertion easier. You basically insert the anurex in your rectum for a few minutes to help decreasing pain and swelling. I recommend using it 2-3x/day when things are flared-up.

There are other ways to decrease inflammation such as using topical prescription drugs. Some of my clients found lots of relief in Proctofoam which is a numbing foam with cortisone. It is used with an applicator that you gently insert in the anus. Ask your doctor 🙂

The other thing you should consider to decrease inflammation and pressure is to sit on a donut cushion (a cushion with a hole in the middle). This way, your anus will be free of pressure and it will be better for the healing process. You can find those cushions pretty much anywhere in health care stores or even Walmart.

#3 Squat to poo!

I cannot put more emphasis on the importance of the squat position during bowel movement!! I told you about it in my post about bowel health, and this was more as a preventative recommendation. But here my friends, I am telling you: you don’t have the choice anymore!! You need to get a Squatty Potty!!! Squatting during bowel movement relaxes the tension from your pelvic floor muscles around the rectum, and makes it easier to release stool without straining. Since avoiding to strain is huge in healing hemorrhoids and anal fissures, you really want to put all the chances on your side. The Squatty Potty is available at Canadian Tire (in the bathroom items aisle) or you can also purchase it online. Or else you use whatever you have at home to elevate your feet while you poop – however make sure it is high enough so your knees are higher than your hips!

 

I followed all these tips but I am still struggling….

OK – do not panic. You are not a lost cause, there are still a few things you could consider. First, go see a Pelvic Health PT to see if there is any tension in your pelvic floor that could make your stool more difficult to pass, thus restricting the healing of your condition. I learned a super powerful technique at the Institute for Birth Healing called the “anal sphincter release” and it has been working like a charm to reduce tensions around the anus and make more space for the stool to go through. It is a super gentle technique to relax the anal sphincter.

The last resort option is to consult your doctor and see if you would be a candidate for surgery. I would not recommend this option if your symptoms are still recent (<3 months), and you have not tried all of the above. Hemorrhoids can be removed through different procedures. But they are only removed if they are causing extreme pain and difficulty with bowel movement (that means – they won’t remove them for aesthetic reasons just because you don’t “like how they look” – anyway I swear you do not want to go through this surgery if you do not have symptoms, because the recovery is quite painful!)

 

I hope this gives you a few tools to manage your symptoms.

Sophie

Tips for a peaceful bladder during the holiday travels

The holiday travels can be a source of anxiety for folks who experience bladder control issues. Long travels, flights, airports, being in places where you don’t know the location of the bathrooms, can indeed make things stressful. 

Here are a few tips to go through the holiday travels with a bladder at peace!

#1 – Avoid bladder irritants before and during your travel time

Coffee, tea, alcohol, carbonated drinks, acidic, spicy & sugary food can all be triggers for those who experience bladder urgency & incontinence. Avoiding them the day before and during your travel time may just be what you need to keep yourself out of trouble.

#2 – Keep the bowels moving

I know this can be a challenge when you are away from home and you eat things that you don’t normally eat, drink more alcohol than usual, perhaps eat less fruits and veggies than what you are used to. But remind yourself that constipation is one of the #1 causes of pelvic disorders. When your rectum is full, it can press on your bladder and cause urinary urgency and incontinence. Straining on the toilet can also worsen a prolapse, so you really want to keep things moving while you are away and don’t let it go too long.

One good way to manage it is to carry dried fruits with you so you get your fibre intake, as well as a water bottle to keep those fibres wet & moving along the intestinal track. Fibre supplement caps such as Metamucil can also be a good way to get your fibre intake without carrying too much food on you. However, be aware that increasing your fibre intake without increasing your water intake at the same time can actually make your constipation worse by bulking your stool too much! So make sure that both water & fibre intake go hand in hand! 

If you have not had a bowel movement for more than 2 days, try my intestinal massage to get things started.

#3 Select an aisle seat if possible

There is no point in stressing yourself out while travelling on the plane by having a window seat and not being able to access the bathroom on time if you need to. Sometimes, paying the extra few bucks and buy some peace of mind is the way to go, this way you don’t end up having to wake your neighbours up every time you have to use the washroom. One less thing to worry about!

#4 Exception to “no just in case” rule

I know I have told you in the past that going to the bathroom “just in case” is not a good strategy to work on your bladder capacity. However, when it comes to air travel where you may have to wait in line for security or other things, you can make exception to the rule. This is not the time to work on bladder capacity that day, you can work on it while you are in a more familiar environment. Emptying your bladder before security & boarding could be a good solution to avoid distress associated with bladder urgency while you are waiting in line and cannot use the washroom.

#5 Wear protection in case

There is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable from urine leakage in your underwear and pants, especially in public when you can’t change right away. Wearing a liner or incontinence pad during your travels can be a good way to keep your mind at peace, knowing that you have protection just in case, and that you can change it if you have an accident. I highly discourage you from using menstrual pads for that purpose, as they do not breath well and may create some irritation around the vulva. Go for pads that are specifically made for incontinence (ex: Poise) and will be much more comfortable for you. Carry a few in your purse in case you need to change them over the course of the day, and maybe a change of underwear as well.

#6 Urgency: stop, breath, distract, kegels

If you are on the plane and have sudden bladder urgency but there is a line up to the bathroom, use the “stop and breath” technique. As you are waiting, try to distract yourself from your bladder by bringing your attention to your breath, and count up to 10 nice breaths in & out, feeling the air coming in through the nose, out through the mouth.

You can also use mental distraction: counting backward from 1000, mentally listing the American states, find the names of all the people you know whose names start with an “A”, or whichever silly task you may find. You can download games on your phone before taking off which you can use for distraction during the bathroom line up. The less you think of your bladder, the more control you will regain over the urgency. Your bladder literally feeds on your thoughts, it WANTS YOU to think of it. Do not let your bladder control your mind!

You can also do a few kegels (pelvic floor contraction / release) to distract yourself from the sensation of your bladder. Squeeze for a few seconds, release, squeeze, release… Do this 5-10 times. Normally, the urgency will decrease as you do this.

#7 Trust yourself

In a new environment, this is so easy to lose your confidence in your bladder control, as you may not know where the bathrooms are. Reminding yourself that there is a huge psychological component to bladder control, and the more thoughts you put into your bladder or are worried about it, the more you are giving material for your bladder to feed on and take control over your mind.

Finding a positive and empowering mantra that you can repeat mentally when you feel about to lose control may be a great way to work around this. Something around the lines of:

“I am calm, in control, and I know I can do this.”

Close your eyes and try to picture yourself in an environment that is familiar to you where you would be in control (ex: in your own house). Or picture yourself on the beach, on the top of a mountain, or any environment that brings calm & quiet into your mind. Take 10 breaths here.

 

Alright – that’s it for my little tips!!! I know you can do this!! 

Happy holidays everyone and see you back in January 🙂 

Sophie

Vaginal scar tissue: 3 techniques to release it

Vaginal tears from childbirth can heal in different ways, and many people are not aware that sometimes they need a little help in the healing process. In fact, vaginal scar tissue can often heal “tight” and not super flexible, and can cause pain with sex.

If this is your case, these techniques can help with releasing the scar tissue and make it softer. I recommend doing them every day or other day until there is no discomfort anymore with any of the techniques and that sex feels comfortable.

Painful sex: how to use vaginal dilators to stretch your vagina

There is this myth going around in our society that it is “good to have a tight vagina” – but good for who exactly?! I’m asking you.

What if I was telling you that most of my clients consulting for painful sex issues present, in fact, a tight vagina, and it sure makes their sex life not pleasurable at all! Is that good? It sure ain’t.

There is a difference between having a healthy muscle tone in your vagina so you can have good sensation during sex, versus having a high tone and tight pelvic floor. Hypertonic pelvic floors are NEVER good and healthy – they can cause pain, incontinence, overactive bladders and so on. We want those tissues to breath, to allow stretch, to be dynamic, to move!

BUT HEY – that was not the point of my post actually. I wanted to tell you that if you feel like your vagina is so tight that penetration feels like sandpaper in your lady bits or like trying to fit a banana in a toothpaste tube, this video is for you.

This is for you, post partum mom who had vaginal tearing or episiotomy, or simply a challenging healing time, and now feels like sex is no longer the same and that there is not enough space down there.

This is for you, menopausal women who had no sex for years and just met a new partner, and discovers the sad reality of “use it or lose it”. Indeed, after a certain age, if we do not have sex very often, the vagina can actually shrink…! But hey, you can get it back!

This is for you, young woman in your 20s who has never been able to insert a tampon without pain, or never been able to have painfree sex ever since you became sexually active. You are actually starting to think that this may be how sex is supposed to be, and may start wondering why people even have sex.

PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT PAINFUL SEX AS YOUR REALITY!

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