Nicole is a Pre/postnatal Health and Fitness Coach and founder of Strong Mama Wellness. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, is a certified Exercise Physiologist, certified Pre/postnatal fitness specialist, and certified Health Coach. She is also a mom of 2 little boys. Nicole’s work is dedicated to helping women support their body through the changes that come with the motherhood journey so they can feel strong, confident, and capable in this transformational stage of life.
If you are a woman, if you have two X chromosomes, you need to listen to this episode. I don't care if you've had kids or no kids. I don't care if you had a baby yesterday or if you had a baby 50 years ago. This episode is going to be applicable to you.
I brought on my friend Nicole from Strong Mama Wellness to talk all about the pelvic floor during pregnancy and early postpartum. We debunk a whole bunch of myths about what you can and cannot do when you're pregnant in postpartum, especially in those first six weeks before your doctor checkup, postpartum.
And then we talk about addressing common symptoms that a lot of women experience, like leakage, tightness, painful intercourse, just like all of those things that you've probably heard from your mom saying, oh, that's just what happens when you have kids. That's just what you get for being a woman. We're going to talk about how to avoid and or fix all of those symptoms.
This episode is so, so good. Nicole is such a wealth of knowledge, and she has so many resources for you in addition to today's conversation that are going to help you not only feel so much more empowered as you go into pregnancy and postpartum, but just like feeling better in your body altogether.
When I first learned about the pelvic floor, it completely transformed the way that I moved my body, whether I was at the gym or getting out of bed or getting off the couch. And I noticed that my overall health was so much better because I was paying so much attention to this very specific part of my body that nobody else had ever talked about before. And just to reiterate the fact that today's conversation is for any woman of any age, I'm going to read you a recent review from Wachell titled Awesome and Informative that's really going to help you understand why this is so great.
She says, "I love how real, down to earth and honest Brooke is. Even though I'm a mom of adult kids, I find a lot that I can get from and apply all that she is sharing. I am so excited to hear more." I'm so excited for you to hear more too, Wachell.
And I cannot wait for you who's listening right now to just really get the 101 about pelvic floor during pregnancy and postpartum. So without further ado, let's jump into today's episode with Nicole.
Hey, Mamas, welcome back to another episode of the Well -Nourished Momma podcast. I am super excited for our conversation today because we are chatting with my friend Nicole about all things core and pelvic floor.
If you're familiar with that, I guarantee you're going to learn something. And if that just does not sound like anything you've ever heard, then you're going to learn a lot today because Nicole is an expert.
We are going to be talking about how our core changes during pregnancy and how to combat some of the common symptoms that we experienced during pregnancy and postpartum and things that we can do to keep our bodies safe.
So without further ado, please help me welcome Nicole to the podcast. Hey, Nicole. Hey, Brooke. Thanks so much for having me. I'm super excited to dive into all of things core, pelvic floor, women's health and fitness.
It's such an important topic. So thanks for having me. You're welcome. I'm actually just excited to return the favor because I got to be on your podcast first. So now you get to be online and we're just training.
Spreading the love. Yes, spreading the podcast love. I love it. So for those listeners who aren't familiar with you or Strong Mama Wellness, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into women's fitness?
Yeah, absolutely. So my name's Nicole. Of course. I founded Strong Mama Wellness and we're all really started. So I've been in the fitness industry for quite a while. I got my bachelor's in exercise science after that that led to a couple additional certifications and just working with people in the group fitness, personal training setting, management, like different roles in the fitness industry.
But where it all really took a turn was when I became pregnant with my first and that was about four years ago now. And that's when I really started to get into the pre and postnatal space women's health because I realized how difficult it was.
You know, like a goal of mine was to have a healthy pregnancy and stay in shape through my pregnancy. And that's what I, you know, had really wanted at the start of that. And then I got into the first trimester and, you know, the first trimester is so hard.
And I did not know how to navigate that in terms of exercise, in terms of health and fitness. I knew nothing, basically. It seemed like I was starting at square one when I was like thinking that I knew all the things about fitness, but no, I was exhausted.
I didn't know what was safe. I didn't know how to essentially prepare my body for what was to come. So that's when I really went down the rabbit hole. I have to do like continuing education for some of my other certifications.
And I found like a little mini course on prenatal fitness and preparing your body for pregnancy. like, Oh, that looks interesting. I'm going to try that. So I like devoured that and then realized that that same company, which is pronatal fitness, offered a full certification program for pre and post -adult fitness specialists.
And so I just, I went into that and realized that women need to have all the things like at first, I think it was more of a, I don't want to say selfish, but I wanted to get that knowledge for me to help me through my pregnancy and birth and postpartum.
And then I was like, wow, there's just so much to this that moms are not told. Like I was not told any of that by my provider. And so many of us aren't when it comes to preparing our body in our core and pelvic floor.
So that's, that's what I'm here for. That's what I absolutely love to talk about. That is such a cool story. I feel like that's going to resonate with so many moms because Oftentimes, the things that become most important to us are as a result of our life experience, right?
And you were already passionate about fitness to begin with, but then all of a sudden you realized that there was a gap in your knowledge and in the fitness space and taking that initiative to try and close that gap, not only for yourself, but for other women is super amazing.
So how did that impact your subsequent pregnancy because you now have two kids? Yeah, how did that affect my subsequent pregnancy? So I did a lot of things differently. I would say from the get go, I was not only physically preparing my body, but also I had the mental like also had the mental awareness that it was going to be a little bit more of a mental breakdown.
It was going to be a little tougher at certain points along the way. And so I was able to give myself that grace. But also from the start was preparing my body for pregnancy because it was about to carry this baby, this heavy load essentially on my body and it was going to be transforming over the next several months going into a birth.
I was preparing for a VBAC with my second. And so there was just a lot that went into it that I trained differently from the start. Like in my first pregnancy, I didn't look at exercise as a tool to prepare my body for this event.
I was just kind of looking at it as a way to stay in shape and stay healthy, which nothing wrong with that, of course, but there's also like this other flip side of how can we serve our body and support it through all of these changes.
So I did a lot more core and pelvic floor work from the beginning. I did a lot more birth prep stuff. So it did look quite a bit different and it did help with my recovery as well. That did not. I ended up with a V -Back just with the way that it all played out.
I ended up with a second C -section, which I'm totally at peace with, but I will say my recovery was so much smoother with that second cesarean delivery than the first, because I knew a lot more of what I was doing and had prepared my body in advance.
That's incredible. I love that you pointed out that it's not just to stay in shape, right? It's a tool we're preparing for birth, right? And we're preparing for postpartum. Postpartum recovery doesn't start after we give birth, right?
It starts when we're pregnant and the things that we do or don't do with our bodies while we're pregnant. Okay, here's a super honest question. If there are moms listening that didn't know about core and is it too late for them?
Have they missed the game? Are they just done and they just have to kind of deal with where they're at? No, no, not at all. I know that it's easy to feel that way, like, oh, I'm leaking when I sneeze or whatever symptom might be present.
It might feel like it's too late for you and you have to live with this, but the core and the pelvic floor are both muscles. And just like our biceps are muscles, we can train them, right? If we don't work our biceps for a long time and we aren't, you know, those muscles aren't adapting, they aren't being worked, the same goes for our core and pelvic floor.
So when we attune back into those and we give them what they need, we can definitely change the game. So no, it's not too late to change your story, whether you're experiencing symptoms or not, or whether you're listening to this in your third trimester and you're like, oh, I haven't done anything all pregnancy, you can definitely do some things now to still prepare for birth and prepare for postpartum.
So absolutely not too late. And I love what you said earlier about preparing for postpartum starts in pregnancy. I like to think about it as prehab. Like, if you've ever had, if you've ever had a surgery, like, I know that I had ACL surgery when I was in college and I went through physical therapy to begin with, to strengthen my knee joint so that I could recover quicker.
And that worked wonders. And so the same goes for pregnancy and postpartum, when you can strengthen your core and pelvic floor and prepare those muscles, you, they essentially come back, the connection comes back so much quicker postpartum.
So all this to say, it's never too late, wherever you're at, whether it's late in pregnancy or, you know, you're a few years down the road in motherhood. Okay, that is such a relief. And I know that is going to make so many moms happy, because I was one of those that felt late to the game.
And I'm doing great. So moms, take. courage that it's never too late. Even if you're in your fifties, right? Like my mom would benefit from our conversation today, right? And she had her last baby. How old is my brother?
I don't know, 23 years ago or something like that. Like it's never too late, right? No, no, I know. And so many women in like our mom's generation did not have access to this stuff, you know? So they would absolutely benefit from it.
It's not too late for them to work on any, anything as well. So we're on the story. It's not too late. OK, good to know. So before we get into the physiology of the core and pelvic floor, can you just tell us some telltale signs or symptoms that we might need help with our core and pelvic floor or that there might be issues going on that we need to address?
Yes. So I like to split it into like five different categories. So I'll run through those quickly. The first one is pain. So if you're having any. pain that's unexplained like pelvic pain and back pain can be related to an imbalance or weakness or overly tight core and pelvic pelvic floor So pain is number one number two would be bladder.
So things going on with your bladder like leaking urine If you're unable to like fully empty your bladder If you are peeing super frequently like more than every two hours or so on a consistent basis you know some of that is normal in pregnancy especially late pregnancy, but So bladder is that second category third category is bowels So if you are straining when you go to have a bowel movement If you're having incontinence like fecal incontinence or gas incontinence things like that Sexual is another one so pelvic floor plays a big role like a big sexual function So if you're having pain during intercourse or any like type of penetration like even like with a tampon or something like that so any pain in that region is is another sign and then finally the last one is prolapse so Pelvic organ prolapse is when you're you know, your pelvic floor is not strong enough to uphold the pelvic organs so bladder bowels uterus Anything that's inside your pelvis essentially so if you're feeling heaviness or you're feeling like there's like a dragging Sensation in your pelvic floor area.
That's another telltale sign. So those are mostly pelvic floor related I know you said core too, which pelvic floor is part of your core but if you're you know in in let's say a workout or something and you are Doing a core exercise and you want to know if it's You know right or wrong or good for you or not we really want to watch out for any doming or coning that might be happening.
So right between your six pack abs, your rectus abdominis, right down the midline there, if you're doing an exercise and you're seeing a big bulge right there, that's a warning sign that the pressure isn't being managed well enough.
And so we can do a few things like go back to our breathing and such. I know we're not getting into that at this point, but definitely watch out for any doming or coning in the abdomen that just means mismanaged pressure within the core.
That's a lot of signs and symptoms. And I think, I don't want to say most women, but I think a lot of women can relate to at least one of those signs and symptoms, right? Especially like hearing stories from our moms of, oh, well, I can't jump on the trampoline anymore after having kids because that's just what happens when you have kids.
So it's so fascinating that The physiology has always been there. Like we've always understood that we have a pelvic floor, that our pelvic floor supports our back and holds in all these organs. But the idea that like we can do something about it and that we're not stuck in this cycle of, oh, well, once you have kids, you're gonna pee every time you last sneeze, cough, jump, and you're just gonna be stuck, you know, in this limbo for the rest of your life.
So this is, I think, such an eye -opening thing that we are starting to like really pay attention to it. And I hope that whoever's listening, that you listen to these symptoms and know that this is very common to experience these symptoms, but it doesn't mean that you're stuck that way forever and that's what we're gonna dive into today.
So don't feel like all is lost if you experience any of those symptoms that we just talked about. Yeah, yeah, you're not broken for experiencing any of these things. And there can be a lot of shame around it too and kind of like a fear of bringing it up.
So I just wanna put it out there to you, that you know your body best. You're the best advocate for your body if something feels off or not right. That is a big red flag and absolutely talk to your provider, public floor PT, get support.
There is support and you're right. Not all is lost. So yeah, just be your best advocate. Amen. That is something I will preach for days until I am blown the face because we need to remember that, right?
Just because our doctor dismisses us doesn't mean that there's not a problem. We need to advocate for ourselves. Okay, so we went over the signs and symptoms and just kind of the basics of how it's all connected through pregnancy and postpartum.
So let's now dive into the physiology so that we can understand how to strengthen our muscles, right? And how they're all connected. So tell me about the changes that our core and pelvic floor go through during pregnancy and how they affect us thereafter moving forward.
Mm hmm. Yeah, this is all super fresh because as you know, right now, as I'm as we're doing this recording, I'm like doing all the core and pelvic floor stuff on social media. And so anyways, it's just really fresh.
But I think before we talk about the changes, it's, I just want to say, like what our core really is made of, because I think a lot of times it's not necessarily well known that the pelvic floor is part of our core.
Like we think about core and we just think about maybe our abs and maybe our back muscles or something like that. But your pelvic floor serves as the floor of your core. So the essentially the core canister, the core unit is made of your diaphragm.
So right there within your ribcage, your transverse abdominis, which is the deepest layer of your abdominals that serve as kind of the core set of your core, kind of pulls everything in, and then the bottom of that core canister is your pelvic floor.
So those areas need to work together as a unit and they are super thrown off in pregnancy. They are stretched. Of course, we have a new hormone in our body during pregnancy called relaxin. And relaxin is great because it relaxes all the muscles, joints, ligaments, essentially preparing your pelvis to widen and make space for babies growth and make space for babies delivery.
But it can also impact your pelvic floor additionally. So, you know, it it can relax those muscles and lengthen those muscles, which is important, but we also need kind of that balance of strength there too, because the pelvic floor is uplifting the baby or holding everything up inside of us, essentially.
So that hormone is one physiological change. Another one is with your abdominal muscle. So the linea alba is the tissue right between your six pack abs and that stretches as a normal and natural part of babies growth, which results in diacesis, diacesis, recti always tongue, do a tongue twister with that one.
But I will say DR So so with DR, that is the abdominal separation that will happen in 100% of pregnancies by the end of the pregnancy. And you know, there's so much there can be a lot of fear around DR like, Oh, I don't want my abs to separate and all that such.
But it's super natural and normal and it's it's going to happen because that linea alba needs to stretch and make space for babies. So anyways, that tissue is going to thin and weaken Then another change is that your pelvic floor is going to be loaded progressively over the course of your pregnancy.
As that baby weight builds, as your baby grows, your pelvic floor is going to be loaded that entire time. It's going to be bearing the weight of that baby. There's a lot of extra force bearing down on that pelvic floor throughout pregnancy, which just means we really have to learn to manage that pressure so that we're not extra bearing down on that pelvic floor and straining those muscles.
Exactly. Another change. Yeah. Then two other changes that I wanted to mention. One is alignment changes. That also can put additional stress on your core and pelvic floor when your pelvis is tilting forward.
You can think about your carrying your baby right out in front of you. That's naturally going to start to pull your pelvis forward out of alignment. That can put extra stress on your core and pelvic floor.
and then breathing changes. So we tend to, towards the end of pregnancy, start to breathe up into our chest and shoulders a little bit more, just as a common adaptation. We wanna try to offset that with intentional breathing, but that's something that can also affect that core system is just differences in breathing patterns as that baby sort of creeps into your lung space and your rib cage.
Yeah, so something I wanna reiterate that you said multiple times is that all of these changes are natural and they are supposed to happen and they are good for the time being, right? Because it's what's allowing our body to stretch and grow and make room for all of the important things that come with growing a baby, right?
The idea is that we're aware of these changes and we know that because things change during pregnancy, postpartum is gonna look different and that's why we're incorporating everything we're talking about today so that we can manage those changes and then be able to hopefully bring our body back to its equilibrium or its normal when we're done being pregnant, right?
Yeah, I think knowledge is power. So the more you can understand what's going on within your body, the changes, the functions, all of the above, that's gonna, you're gonna be well -equipped to really be in tune with your body.
I think pregnancy's also just a great time to, you can't ignore the things your body's telling you in pregnancy, so yes, the more you can understand about your body, the more you're gonna be armed with tools to help and support it through all of these changes.
Of course, yeah. So then how do these physiological changes affect us postpartum? Does our body stay in this altered state when we're postpartum? Does it return to its original state on its own? Like how do these changes affect us after birth?
we've given birth? Yeah, it's the rate of recovery is going to be a little different for every mom. It's going to be a little bit dependent on genetics as well. Of course, our core muscles are going to be very weak at first because of that natural DR in the third trimester.
So within those first six weeks, it's still pretty normal and natural to have a diastasis recti gap, which is about two finger widths or greater in your midline. So that's probably still going to be present there for the initial weeks.
We do want to be watching that past the six week mark to see if that does start to close a little bit. If it does great, if not, we want to be for sure focusing in on that and trying some alternative approaches to strengthen the deep core.
Hopefully we will be doing that before that point as well, regardless or not of DR. But weak core is definitely one. Another one postpartum that might be affecting you is that the pelvic floor can adapt a couple different ways to pregnancy and birth.
It can either be weak or sometimes it can be overly tight, which this was mind blowing to me when I learned it because I thought, and I think maybe it is the common narrative too, is that if you're leaking or having symptoms, pelvic floor symptoms of any kind, like your pelvic floor is just weak and you need to do kegels, kegels, kegels, but your pelvic floor can also bring about symptoms if it's overly tight and you think about your pelvic floor during pregnancy and sparing this load, it's contracted for much of that pregnancy.
It has to be contracted. So a lot of times, not all the time, but a good amount of time. There's also an overly tight pelvic floor that can be contributing to different symptoms. So making sure we're doing both the activation work of strengthening that pelvic floor, but also the mobilizing work to relax the pelvic floor is super important too in pregnancy and postpartum.
So those are the changes that might be happening still postpartum, as well as postural changes. So I know I mentioned that before with the physiology, but pregnancy has put us in this natural position of our pelvis is tilted forward and our shoulders are rounded and it just, in the shape, if we're not counteracting it, that's kind of what our body, you know, where it lands.
And so postpartum, we will probably still have some of those things and, you know, we're breastfeeding and we might be sitting a lot or baby wearing. And so we're still in those common positions postpartum.
So it's just really important to know that and know those different positions and sort of shapes. Your body has been used to in order to start doing the work to offset it and by doing the work, you know, core recovery, work.
work doing some strategic strength training to build muscle and build strength and support your body to come out of those patterns that they've been used to for so long. So I hope that that gives you a little bit there.
Yes. Very, very insightful. And you mentioned something that I wanted to make sure I asked about because I know I'm going to get lots of questions from our listeners. You mentioned Kegels. And I know that that is like the standard advice given by OBGYNs and like whoever your healthcare provider might be.
And that's basically all we've ever heard in relation to our pelvic floor during like pregnancy or postpartum. So what I really want to know is, are Kegels effective? Should we just stay away from them altogether or do they have a time and a place?
Like just give us the low down on Kegels so that we like have the best understanding and we know how to incorporate or not incorporate them into our training and our healing. That's a good question. And I love talking about Kegels and yes, to your point, it is dependent on the person and sort of their pattern with their pelvic floor, but just in general, you know, if somebody has an overly tight pelvic floor, I would not be telling them to do Kegels because like we said, you know, Kegels mainly focus on that contraction and mainly focus on the squeeze or the lift of the pelvic floor and that's going to be strengthening it.
Now, if somebody has an overly tight pelvic floor and we're doing Kegels, that might be detrimental and cause symptoms at some point down the road. So we just want to be aware, like if you've ever been told you've had an overly tight pelvic floor or if you've had pain with intercourse and that is symbolic of a tight pelvic floor, Kegels may not be right for you.
Um, so I will say that it is important to understand how to properly do a Kegel, like lifting your pelvic floor, but also focusing on the opposite part, which is the relaxing of the pelvic floor. So if you're going to do Kegels, I would say focus on both lifting and then fully relaxing.
And I like to use an elevator analogy. So if you're thinking of your pelvic floor starting at, you know, ground floor, you're lifting it up to the second floor on that contraction. And then as you lower it down, you want to release that muscle and lower it all the way down to the basement.
So below floor one or below that ground floor. So I like to just use the elevator analogy a little bit, um, but we do need to be focusing on relaxing just as much as we are strengthening with the Kegel.
Absolutely. Um, and for those who can't see our, our zoom call, you're, you're using these hand motions. Um, if an elevator analogy is hard for you, if you're listening, you can't quite imagine an elevator.
Nicole was doing this motion with her hand that makes me think of a jellyfish. And that's That's how I like to imagine it. So if you imagine a jellyfish, when a jellyfish goes to move, they go up and they draw all of their, I was going to say strings.
What are they, hmm. I'm not sure. Tentacle strings. The stingy parts, whatever hurts. They draw all those up and they become like a really long, skinny jellyfish, right? And then when they relax and they're not trying to swim through the water anymore, they kind of like flatten out and they become, yeah, just like a lot more relaxed.
So if you mentioned like a jellyfish moving, that's another good image to have in your mind. I've also heard like trying to lift a blueberry with your lady parts. So just trying to imagine this little tiny blueberry and there's just enough force to pick it up.
And then you're trying to practice like setting it down. What's another one that I've heard? There's a couple different ones, but yeah, just basically trying to imagine the, that there's enough strength that you're lifting, but you're not like tensing, right?
Because we don't want to be tense and we don't want to have like too much tightness, but we also want to be able to get that relaxation. So whatever visual helps you be able to connect with your pelvic floor, find that visual and imagine that every time you're doing a kegel or a different exercise that's going to help you connect to your pelvic floor.
So with that being said, what are some other things we can do besides kegels that help us work with our pelvic floor and our deep core muscles and help us not only during pregnancy, but rehab postpartum?
Yeah, I like to start with breathing as the foundation. And that's because when you breathe, like naturally when you inhale, you take a big breath in, your pelvic floor naturally relaxes. And then when you exhale, when you breathe out, your pelvic floor naturally engages and lifts, essentially performing that natural kegel.
So I like to definitely have clients focus on 360 breathing. So breathing fully into the rib cage, relaxing the pelvic floor, and then exhaling, doing that little blueberry pickup, that pelvic floor activation, and then again, relaxing as you take that big inhale.
So that's one key player and just the foundation of any core and pelvic floor work is just mastering that connection with your breath and connecting that breath to your core and pelvic floor. So that is kind of like baseline, like very important.
So cat cow is a good example of one exercise that we can do. And with a cat cow, we would be on all fours, hands and knees. And with that, you'd be dropping your belly, lifting your head on the inhale.
And as you exhale, you'd be rounding your back to tucking your tailbone and tucking your chin to your chest. You're gonna get a little bit of both with the cow, both relaxation of the pelvic floor, as well as activation of the pelvic floor.
And again, it all comes back to your breath and pairing your breath up with the motion. Some other little ones we can do are dead bugs for your core, maybe not so much in the late, late stages of pregnancy, since it is primarily on your back, but just different movements like dead bugs and heel slides and knee lifts, like these different small, and I know it's so hard to show you on a podcast, so I'm not even gonna try to explain it and confuse everybody, but just know that we can be pairing our breathwork with some gentle core movements, and that's gonna help you in both pregnancy and also in the early postpartum period, rehabbing that core, getting your core back on board with your breath.
Perfect. All of these... Exercises seem so basic and so simple and so boring. I've had a lot of people tell me, is there something else I can do? That's like a little bit more exciting, but I promise you, if you can just do these little simple things that Nicole has talked about, your breathing and really simple things like cat cow, glute bridges, dead bugs, heel slides, all the things, that is what is going to let you eventually do the harder things, right?
To where you can do heavy squats or you can do bicycles, like flat on your back on the floor or something, right? So these are the foundational things that are gonna help us connect everything and they are boring, but they are necessary, right?
Yes, it's not sexy, it's not super fun, but it is important exactly what you're saying. It is the foundation and when I take clients in pregnancy or postpartum through, they're programming for fitness, we start with the foundation all the time.
So no matter what, we start with the foundation and you build on that, you build a little bit of strength and then you can get back to the fun stuff or like you're progressively getting back to the fun stuff, but yes, this is step one and it's gonna make all the difference in how you feel because when you work your core and pelvic floor and when you are connected to that and building those up with these slow, boring, intentional exercises, it's gonna help you reduce pain, it's gonna help you reduce leaking or prevent leaking long -term, it's gonna help you not end up with back pain, you're just supporting your body in such a very beneficial way.
So absolutely take the time, give yourself that gift and just allow yourself to slow down and do it. It doesn't have to be a ton, 10 to 15 minutes a day is all you really need or most days a week, but absolutely beneficial.
All right, so another question with all of these exercises and all of this work that we're doing with our core and pelvic floor, are these exercises going to help with pushing during labor? Because a lot of, or I guess most healthcare providers will tell us like a certain way to push and we have to push on our backs.
And I don't feel like it's really conducive to all the training that we do during pregnancy. So are these exercises and all this work that we're doing supposed to help with pushing? It can. So a common myth though is that Kegels and having a strong public floor is going to push out your baby.
That is false. So we really want to have that mind and muscle connection to relax our pelvic floor. So doing a lot of pelvic floor relaxation and mobility work throughout your pregnancy and even especially closer to the end as well is going to help you to really tune into relaxing those pelvic floor muscles because they need to move out of the way for that baby to get through your pelvic floor.
So the exercises that are specifically aimed at mobilizing and relaxing the pelvic floor are absolutely going to help with that pushing process. Something that I help clients with is just birth prep breathing.
So essentially, breathing into a relaxed pelvic floor. So our pelvic floor naturally wants to lift when we exhale. It wants to become that contracted lifted jellyfish when we exhale. But when we are preparing for birth and such, we want to breathe in a way that we are exhaling with a relaxed pelvic floor.
So it's not necessarily going to come back to the specific exercises in terms of birth prep and pushing, but you really need to know how to breathe and relax that pelvic floor. And exercises can sometimes help with that, but it's mostly going to be like getting in a deep squat position and relaxing your pelvic floor or Thank you.
getting into a quadruped position or like a tabletop on hands and knees and and breathing in that position as well. Those are common birth positions that are not on your back. And those are much more friendly because it's going to help you open your pelvis whereas on your back with your knees wide actually closes your pelvic outlet.
So there's a couple a little bit more on that is like when you So your pelvis has an inlet and an outlet essentially and when we are we can perform exercises that Open our pelvic inlet by widening our knees.
So let's just imagine we are in a deep squat position Like we are sitting into our heels. Our knees are wide. The top of our pelvis is going to be open in that position So that might be something you do earlier on in your labor As baby is starting to descend at the very beginning stages and then As baby is starting to move through the pelvis we want to be doing things that help us to Open that pelvic outlet where that baby actually leaves our body at the very bottom So that's going to be actually your knees want to be more narrow So that wouldn't be that deep squat position anymore.
Let's just imagine ourselves on all fours in like more of a tabletop position Knees facing in towards each other ankles out wide and sort of like rocking back and forth a little bit there So that's going to help you open up that pelvic outlet And relax.
So those are definitely things we can be doing in pregnancy To prepare for birth prepare for pushing. It's not necessarily going to be like a specific core exercise, but Just really being in tune with your body relaxing your pelvic floor and just knowing those different knee positionings can be Really really helpful as well as you're moving through labor So to summarize what you said One our pelvic floor does not push our baby out It needs to relax And that's something that I think most women forget about.
And then number two, it's not necessarily any specific exercises or stretches. It's the principle of becoming in touch with your pelvic floor, understanding how your breath connects everything and then being able to maintain that mind -body connection during labor so that we can push effectively in all of those things.
Is that right? Yep. You summarized it perfectly. Okay, perfect. So now when it comes to postpartum recovery, when can we start working on our core and pelvic floor postpartum? Because most women think that they can't do anything until they're quote all clear at six weeks.
And that's a whole nother conversation for another day. I hate that term. So do we have to wait until we get the all care from our doctor to start these gentle movements and this breathing and this rehab?
Or can we do it sooner? You can absolutely do it sooner as long as you're feeling up for it. I never want to pressure anybody to be like, oh, you need to be doing it at one week postpartum. You can, though.
You can start with super simple 360 breathing like we talked about, and then some of the gentler motions where you're pairing that 360 breath with some simple movements. You can absolutely start that at one week postpartum again, as long as you're feeling up for it.
We don't need to wait as long as it's super gentle. We're not going out there and lifting weights or doing any jumping or anything like that, but this gentle recovery work can absolutely start before clearance as long as it feels good to you.
And do women that have C -sections need to do any of this rehab? Does this apply to them, Nicole? Such a good question. I think the common narrative is that C -section moms would just need to work the core.
Their pelvic floor didn't deliver the baby, so there wouldn't be any trauma there, but we need to think about the pelvic floor just bearing the burden of the baby weight, that entire pregnancy, and a lot of C -section moms are actually found to have tight pelvic floors.
So, yes, absolutely. We all, no matter the type of delivery, need to be rehabbing the pelvic floor and creating strength and mobility. Hey, mamas, basically, if you're a woman, you need to be working on your core and pelvic floor is what Nicole is saying.
And I know that you've seen lots of benefits. You've had two C -sections, right? You haven't had the opportunity to birth vaginally for whatever reasons with your births. So, what would you say to the C -section moms out there who maybe had a hope of having a vaginal birth and then had to experience a C -section and all the extra rehab that comes with that?
What would you say specifically to them in regards to all this healing and just our conversation today? Yeah, it's it's such a mental game. I feel like with a C section, especially if you weren't prepared for it.
And, you know, the mental piece is the first step and can be super hard to get through because you might feel like you're like grieving or like you've lost the opportunity to have a different birth, the one that you might have envisioned.
So I would just say like, I'm with you, I get that. And it does get better with time. So definitely support yourself in that mental healing process and know that like you did not feel yourself, you did not fail your birth, like any type of delivery is birth.
So just give yourself that grace in that that healing process. And then also, just know that there is not much given to you post birth in terms of recovery, like I, my first C section was unplanned, it was unexpected, it was an emergency, but it was still like unplanned and I didn't know how to recover.
And luckily, I had gone through the education process beforehand and luckily for me, I knew some steps to take, but it wasn't from my provider. It wasn't from my doctor. I just left the hospital with this big incision in my stomach and a baby.
And here you go, see you in six weeks. So I just wanna say, support yourself through that healing process, both mentally, both physically, really support yourself in building back up your core strength.
You will absolutely get there. So well said. I have only had one baby and it was a vaginal delivery. So I always feel like I don't quite have all of the answers and information because I haven't given a C -section or I haven't had a C -section.
And so I really appreciate you sharing that for all of our C -section moms or maybe just moms that are pregnant that are trying to prepare mentally for the possibility of a C -section, right? Knowing that it's not the end of the world, you didn't fail and that all of our conversation today still applies to you and that you can still feel great after having your baby, no matter how you gave birth or whether or not you were in a place to exercise during pregnancy, right?
I have a lot of women reach out to me on Instagram and they'll say, well, this is great for you that you were able to go to the gym and do all these stretches and walk and all these things, but I had XYZ complication or I just had no energy.
And so, that's just my lot in life. And I think what I really want the women listening today to remember from our conversation is that any little drop in the bucket counts, right? Yeah. It's no matter how small, no matter how frequent or infrequent, it's the mentality like you want.
mentioned and the idea that we're just trying to be aware and then take action where we can, when we can to help ourselves feel the best given our circumstances. Yeah, absolutely. We have to give ourself grace when it comes to all of this and know that there are going to be different seasons of pregnancy, different seasons of motherhood.
We just need to have the mentality of supporting ourselves through it. Some of us maybe having more fatigue than others. Some of us may experience more nausea than others, more pain than others. And it never serves us to become a victim or have that victim mentality.
But just being very realistic of where you're at and what you're capable of and what's going to help you get through it and the best way that you can and knowing that that's not going to look exactly like the next moms.
Yeah. Okay, we had an amazing conversation today. I just have one more question to ask you before we wrap up. This is a question that I ask all my guests, and I'm really excited to hear your answer. My question for you, Nicole, is what is a non -negotiable for you to living a well -nourished life?
Good question. I could sit here and say, my exercise routine or meal prepping or XYZ tangible steps, but I think for me, it's really just been being adaptable with my self -care based on the season I'm in.
You know, I just I feel like the tangible little stuff, it doesn't always look perfect. You know, I've had two babies now. I've gone through two pregnancies. I've gone through a miscarriage. I've had two C -sections.
It's just been all up and down. And if I had been trying to be perfect throughout this entire time, it would have fell off somewhere, you know, like permanently. But I think the thing that keeps me coming back and to living that well -nourished life is being adaptable to myself as we were basically just talking about, like whatever I can give in the season that I'm in, making that OK and working with the energy that I have, working with the time that I have and the capacity that I have.
And so I just say like meeting myself where I'm at in whatever season that is helps me. What a beautiful way to end our episode today. That was so well said. Thank you so much, Nicole. OK, now the big question that I know everyone has been thinking, how can we connect with you?
How can we learn more? We learned a lot about just like the basics, but I know there's going to be so many women that are like, OK, but like I need you to teach me how to do this stuff. And I want to like learn from you and I want to see you do it with me.
So how can we connect with you? How can we take our learning and our education to the next level? Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for asking. It's yeah, it's so hard to get through like. exercise concepts in a podcast because I want to be demonstrating it and I want to be walking you through it.
But if you want to learn more and potentially work together or even just come over on Instagram and check things out, you can find me on Instagram at Strong Mama Wellness and the mama is MAMA. I also have a podcast which is the Strong Mama podcast.
And those are the main couple of places. I have a core recovery program that is basically everything we talked about today to nutshell for the early postpartum period walks you through everything you need to know about breathing and these gentler core and pelvic floor movements.
So yeah, all of that stuff you can, you know, if you head over to Instagram, you'll find links to pretty much everything. So hopefully we can connect there. Feel free to send me a DM anytime or if you have questions related to this episode.
Yes, Mama's take her up on that. Nicole is such an amazing resource. She is always giving so much out for free on social media. And you have a, is it an email newsletter? I know it's your strongmama subscribers, right?
Is that another resource? Yes. Yes. Strongmama insiders. So that's linked up on Instagram too, but I give out like a monthly free piece of content. It's usually like a workout. And so I've done some postpartum, pelvic floor related stuff there.
But each month you get a brand new, like mini workout. And so if you're just on my email newsletter list, you'll have access to the vault of things that have already already done and the things that I'll be doing in the future too.
OK, so basically, no matter what our budget or timeline is, you've got resources for us, right? Yes, I've got you covered. OK, awesome. So go give Nicole a follow over at Strongmama Wellness. Go listen to her podcast.
She has amazing episodes every week. I love listening to your podcast. And then if you are preparing for postpartum or have had a baby, whether it was last week or two years ago, Nicole did just relaunch her core revival program.
And it is going to be such an amazing resource for you. So be sure to check those out. Nicole, thank you so much for coming on today. I really loved having you here. Thank you so much, Brooke. I loved our conversation and thank you so much.