The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast

3 mistakes women make in their post-partum recovery

January 09, 2022
The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast
3 mistakes women make in their post-partum recovery
Show Notes Transcript

 On the back of an email I received this week I thought I'd go over 3 of the biggest mistakes women make when they work on their post-partum recovery.

The email I received was pretty standard, I get about 10-20 of these every month or so, so I'm guessing there are a lot more people out there whom are struggling with these things.

The email read as follows; I take you through the top 3 things that this lovely lady, like many others, is not quite getting right;

 Hi Peter,

  I really need your help in my case

 I gave birth to my second child ( birth weight 9lb) 2 years ago, since then my tummy is sticking out like a 6 months pregnant. I am not an active person but lean except the belly area. Weight is 126 lb’s with height 5”6. My DR is measuring 3 finger width and 2 knuckles deapth. Started lying vacuum, toe taps, bridges with vacuum, side planks and other DR related excercises and it’s been 10 days.
 My questions are.

 1. how long will it take to heal ?

 2. Can I do all other excercises along DR excercises since it’s not right after birth as my DR is 2 years old?

 3. Do you suggest any specific excercises that shrinks the belly fast?

No "in the news this week" as all the health related news was depressing Covid stuff. So please get your vaccine or speak to someone who knows what they're talking about if you're vaccine hesistant.

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Playing us out this week; "You and I" by Luna Wave

Hey, welcome to the Healthy Postnatal Body Podcast with your postnatal expert Peter Lap. That, as always, would be me. Today I am talking about three of the top things, the top three mistakes so to spea, women make in a postpartum recovery. I got a little email this week and this lady makes some pretty standard, some pretty basic errors, that almost everybody makes when it comes to their postpartum recovery. I think it's useful to go over it. So I read out a little email. I tell you the answers I gave her and then I go over the three mistakes that I think she's making in her postpartum recovery that will also be holding you back if you make the same mistakes. Right, it'll be fun. Here we go.


Intro music

Hey, like I said, welcome to Healthy Postnatal Body Podcast with little old me. It's little old me, Little Lola and Little Kitty. Kitty is sound asleep. Lola hopefully will be soon as well, because Lord knows I struggled enough with the audio quality of this podcast. I'm trying to make some changes, good people. So thank you for bearing with me when it sounds a bit echoey and all that sort of stuff. I'm trying to get one or two things sorted so that we get that Conan O'Brien's studio level quality. So on the back of an email I received this week, I thought I'd go over three of the biggest mistakes women make when they work on their postpartum recovery. The email is, like I said in the podcast subscription is pretty standard. I get about ten or 20 of these every month, so I'm guessing a lot of women struggle with things like this. 

For those of you who have been listening for a while or even are members of HPNB, see if you can spot the one or two things that she can. Definitely that would help her get results better. This woman was not a native English Speaker, by the way, her English is a little bit broken, but you know what I mean;



Hi Peter, I really need your help in my case, but that's a picture for you. (She attached the picture to the email, which I'm not going to do/share, of course).

I gave birth to my second child. Birth weighed 9Lbs (tiny) two years ago. Since then, my tummy is sticking out like a six months pregnant. I'm not an active person, but lean, except the belly area. Weight is 126lbs with height five foot six. (What is that, that's just above average height). 

My DR is measuring three finger width and two knuckles depth. She started lying vacuum, toe taps, bridges with vacuum, side planks and other DR related exercises, and it's been ten days.

 My questions are: One how long will it take to heal? Two: Can I do all other exercises along DR exercises since it's not right after birth, as my DR is two years old, And 3:. Do you suggest any specific exercises that shrink the belly fast? Thanks


It's an interesting email, right. Because there's a lot happening there. So obviously it's quite normal for women not to start on their postpartum recovery until two years after giving birth. That's not unheard of at all. It's not really an issue. Technically. Of course, everything heals quicker. The sooner you start, right? The closer you are to that, say, six weeks postpartum or eight weeks postpartum, the faster your recovery will be. But two years is quite normal. I've spoken about this before. If you're lucky enough to live in the UK and a lot of you are, then you have X amount of time maternity leave and then you have a year going back to work. And that's when a lot of settling back into work. And that's when a lot of women come to me and say, “oh, yeah. I kind of forgot about myself the first couple of years”. The first year, the focus is all about the baby. The second year is all about getting back into work and trying to sort your schedule out with a new baby and a job and all that sort of stuff. And then by the start of year three, that's when a lot of women come to me. I'd like you to come earlier, but, you know, it is what it is and it's no biggie. It just means it takes a little while longer. Right? Of course. She said, I'm not an active person, but lean except for the belly area. Her diastasis recti is three fingers. So I'm going to translate that to English and say that's 5- to 6 CM for most people. Two knuckles depth. Yeah. There's nothing you can do about that. 

I don't mind people measuring in knuckles, but you know what I'm like with centimetres and all that sort of stuff, right. I'm also not a big fan of. I mean, yeah, I measure the depth of the diastasis recti or have women do that. But there's nothing exercise wise that you can really do for the depth. But when they say 5-6 centimetres wide, you're going to have a bit of depth as well. Right. So that's not unheard of. She started some exercises already. Makes sense. It's been ten days now, of course. 

Questions, how long will it take to heal? Obviously, I responded to this lady in private right? And how long will it take to heal? Yeah. That depends on your effort levels and your muscle functionality and all that sort of stuff. How well is your body responding to exercise and the stimulus of exercise? How consistent are you with the exercises? 

Question two. Can I do all other exercises along FR this is not right after my birth. As my Dr two years old. Now you cannot. You start focusing on your diastasis recti, because if you don't, then the problem is that you teach your body to cheat, because your muscles aren't functioning properly yet. And therefore, I mean, at 3cm… at three fingers width. So at five, six centimetres width. And you just started just ten days into some exercises. 

You can't do all the normal exercises because you won't have the muscle functionality. Specific exercises which shrink the belly fast. Of course not. There's no “fast”. You had nine months pregnancy and then two years postpartum. So there's no fast in this. 

But what she's doing is quite interesting. Like I said, waiting two years before she came to me is completely fine. Or two years until she started, ten days and then sent me an email asking if it's what she was doing was alright. The exercises that she's describing are very, very much focused on the core, right? They're the standards started lying. She started doing lying vacuum, toe taps, bridges with vacuum, side planks, and other DR related exercises. 

Now, the vacuum exercise is something that I come across a lot when people don't really know what they're doing, but they think that it should work, especially personal trainers. And, let's say, “new Mama coaches”. They call themselves, much to my annoyance because it's called postnatal training for a reason. You're not a “New Mama coach”. Get over yourself. This is just my annoyances, right? If you want to call yourself a “New Mama coach”, than that's what you do who gives a ……right? If people are happy at calling themselves that's fine. It's not like personal trainer is a protected title or anything like that. 

Anyways, the reason the vacuum exercise isn't suitable for people postpartum is because your body isn't functioning well enough yet to do something which is actually quite an advanced exercise. You're also likely not exhaling properly, in the right order. You know how I always talk about exhaling from the bottom up when I talk about the core breath. Well, you're missing that for most vacuums, and therefore it won't help heal your diastasis recti, really. I mean, It’ll strengthen the core up for sure, but not in the way that we need it to. Now, And that's kind of what the problem is. She clearly has looked up, as most people, do some diastasis recti related exercises. Like I said, vacuum tote taps, bridges, side planks, and other DR exercises. DR related exercises. That is just not really how any sort of rehab exercise works. You HAVE TO, I cannot stress this enough. You have to start right with rehab exercises. Remember the interview I did with’s Jessica? I think it was Jessica Marie Rose Leggio. Something like that. Long name. Lovely, lovely interview, she absolutely crushed it. Again, we were all in sync about how you get people back to full fitness. Even though she takes a different approach because she works with runners and I only do bog standard postpartum stuff, but we're all in sync because we know what the starting point is and the starting point is always the same. 

And it's about getting everything to function properly. That's where you start. Activation is what I talk about a lot. She talks a lot about release and all that sort of stuff, but it comes down to the same thing, right? We're very much, during that whole interview. Check it out. If you're ever bored because it really was a cracker, she knows a lot of stuff. 

You cannot grab a random bunch of exercises and hope it sticks, right? 

You start in a certain way and you build up. There has to be progression in your program. I spoke about this before: if you start with crunches, random example, but I've seen that before. “I do 100 crunches a day”. Yeah okay? What's next? 200, 300, 400. What's your progression in that? It doesn't mean anything if you're constantly... Katrina Oakley is one of those ladies who is a personal trainer or physio, whatever she is. She has a four-week beginner program, and the amount of people I see that do a four-week beginner program for six to nine months is insane.

 It is just, you're just out of your mind. You cannot do a four-week program for six months. A four-week program is a four-week program, unless you never look at it. Unless you just never do the exercises, in which case, yeah, you put it in a drawer somewhere and you look at it every now and again. 

But you have to have progression in your program. Otherwise it's virtually useless. 

This is why, if you sign up to a normal gym and you walk in and you get your four-week program, which is usually free for most gyms, your initial one anyways. After four weeks, you're supposed to go back to the guy and buy a program from the personal trainer, the guy or the girl that gave you your original program. That's why they give you a four-week program. So after four weeks, you come back for another one. But you pay for that. If a program doesn't have progression in it, it's not a program. It's just a random bunch of sessions. And random sessions don't really get you where you want to be when it comes to any sort of rehab, any sort of postpartum recovery program. 

So you have to start with a program, not just random exercises that you stumbled across somewhere, even though the exercises sound like they were. They’re the sort of thing that comes up when you Google diastasis recti exercises, but they're not necessarily the right ones. 

So her first mistake is really just grabbing a random bunch of exercises and hoping it helps.

The second one that I think is a big mistake that most women, if not almost all women and all people in the gym in general and all people in life in general, make is saying: “it's been ten days. How long is this going to take?” 

Oh, dude, such a lot longer than ten days, right?

 I always say diastasis recti takes about three months to recover from providing the following: Your gap is relatively small. Your muscle activation is pretty decent. You were pretty active prenatal, and you came to me six to eight weeks postpartum. Most of the women on my personal training package, which I of course, only do in Edinburgh, right? Don't have diastasis recti related issues anymore three months postpartum, three months after starting with me. That is, if they do the exercises every day, the daily home routine and then they do the strength sessions. Basically, HPNB healthy postnatal body is based on that personal training system that I have, right? The personal training system, of course, is much more targeted at the individual, but the basis is the same.

So two strength sessions a week and you do, on days that you don't do a strength session, you have your home routine. If you do that every day, the home routine, those five days and you do your two strength sessions and they have, I don't know, 2.5-3 centimetre gap, so not too big and close to where you should be for yourself. This is all personal, the gap is not the same for everyone. And your muscle functionality is okay, so it's not terrible. As in we can switch stuff on fast enough, then it's about three weeks, (correction) three months until you have no diastasis recti anymore. 

That doesn't mean you have a completely flat belly at that stage. It doesn't mean you have six pack abs, a super strong core. It just means that your muscle functionality is good, your muscles are relatively strong and there's no gap anymore. The gap isn't wider than it should be for you, so usually anything near 2cm is pretty much normal, right? Below that it’s definitely it's back to where it should be. This is why GPs, and midwives and all that don't count anyone below 25 mm as having diastasis recti because we don't know what the gap below that should be because that's completely personalized. But at least after that three month stint, your diastasis recti won't cause issues anymore, and you can just go about your business and do whatever you need to do in the gym and lift heavy things and do whatever you want, right?

Ten days is absolutely nothing. Especially not if you waited two years and you have a five, six-centimetre gap. You could be looking at, f you don't do exercises every day, you could be looking at years. I've come across women before, as I sigh deeply as I remember these poor women on these support forums, Because Jess will send some my way every now and again to just have them ask me questions. And one of them was three, four years post-partum hanging out on these support forums, constantly trying new programs and never sticking to them other than, you know, Katrina Oakley for four weeks but doing it for six-seven months or looking at MuTu and working it for years. And you just can't. That is not how these programs are designed to work. MuTu is not designed to work for anyone too long post-partum. I mean, it'll help, but it's not what it's designed to do. 

And that is kind of what the issue is. 

Not being patient when it comes to results, being impatient, will lead you to stop exercising and all that sort of stuff. To stop doing your exercises. 

Not being consistent with your exercises is one of the biggest faults people have. So first of all, you're not following a program, which means you're not doing the right exercises at the right time. Secondly, you're not consistent in your exercise or you expect results in absolutely no time. That just doesn't work.

The third one. The mistake I think that she makes, there one or two other ones. Right. But the third one that I think is, can I do all other exercises along with diastasis recti exercises? Since it's not right after birth, my DR is two years old. Now, the question already implies you're not prioritizing your injury. 

Diastasis Recti is an injury. It's that simple. Your body is not right. I compare it to a broken leg. You don't go: “Yeah. Before I have this broken leg fixed, can I do bicep curls?” It would sound ridiculous, right? For diastasis recti it’s the same! We have to move away. I mean, that in the finger pointer sort of thing.

In an ideal world, you have to move away from prioritizing non-essential exercise over essential exercise. 

We are so wrapped up, quite often, in the idea of exercising for aesthetic reasons that we've forgotten that exercise is a healer. Exercise aids recovery. Yes, you can go and run. Yes, you can go and swim. Yes, you can go and sit on a cross, do the cross trainer or do bicep curls or whatever. 

Do lat-pull downs, all that sort of stuff. Yes, you could do that, but not at the cost of your diastasis recti. Anything you do, once you have diastasis recti and you don't have great muscle functionality, which you don't if you have diastasis recti, remember that, right. But I don't mean to tell you off, I sound like a Jackass there. As my chair creaks, I need to buy a new chair. 

You can do lat-pull downs and all that sort of stuff. But if your body on one side of your body isn't functioning properly and the muscles aren't functioning in the right order and they're not doing what they're supposed to do, you're teaching your body to cheat. And that is the biggest problem with diastasis recti. And I've mentioned this before. 

The problem with doing other exercise alongside or even worse, instead of, diastasis recti exercises is that you're teaching your body not to function properly and therefore to find workarounds and to find..You'll be surprised at how much how many different forms of exercises rely on your core in some way or another. I would go as far as to say there is almost not a single exercise that doesn't require some sort of core functionality, some sort of help from the core, some sort of secondary or tertiary, even core activation. 

Even something as simple as a standing bicep curl requires the core to be active and to be functioning properly. Now, the fact that most people don't have a core that functions properly doesn't really negate that. It just means that there's a lot more people that need to do more core related exercises, especially women.

If we can move away from doing non-diastasis related exercises and thinking they’ve in any way the same level of importance as the recovery exercises that you need to do, that would be really, really helpful. 

So in short, I'll just summarize because like I said, I get this a lot. Be a bit more patient, be patient in your recovery. It can't all be three months. It can't all be ten days and see results, guys. That's the shrink wrap and the body wrap sort of promise and all that sort of thing. There's a reason they don't work. 

There's also a reason why they sell it's because you believe the bull-shit, because we all want to believe that there's a simple solution that doesn't require a lot of effort, the belly binders and all that sort of stuff. “It shrunk my belly in two weeks”. No it didn't. It just doesn't. 

So be a bit more patient. 

Use a program. I keep banging on about this. HPNB is free for three months. Katrina Oakley has a four-week program that is free. Mutu's pricier, right? As in they charge. But for twelve weeks it's £100. It's still nowhere near the most expensive on the market, and it's a good system. 

It just is. Not better than mine, of course but, you know. 

Use a program there are enough out there. Don't look at random YouTube stuff or Instagram stuff or Google for yourself. Why would you Google yourself? And there are experts out there. You do not have the knowledge. Most people listening to this. I guarantee it in the same way that I always say the reason I got my booster shot is because I am not a virologist. I'm not a pandemic specialist. So when Van Tam and Chris Witty and all those guys say, “hey, Peter” Jason Leitch and all those guys say, “hey, we think it's a good idea if you get your booster shot”, I could go. “But I'm not sure it's necessary, and I'm not sure it was necessary”. But they say “Pete, it's really quite a good ide”a. So then I'm going to do it right? 

I'm not going to go to Uni for four years or Google anything and then say, “hopefully this will put my knowledge on a par with people that actually know what they're talking about”. There's just no point. 

Just know what you don't know. 

Knowing what you don't know is a vital skill. “I don't know”, is such a good answer to give people asking you questions. So just know that you don't know as much as I do with regards to postpartum health. You probably know a shit-load more about everything else because I'm a bit of an idiot, but predominantly I know postpartum stuff, right? 

And you get access to that information. There are tons of post-natal experts out there, postnatal physios and “mommy MOTs” and all that sort of stuff. So why would you Google it for yourself? There's just no need. Google “postnatal expert” and then see who comes up and ask them a question like this lady did after ten days. Right?

 But do it before you start. What did I say? We were patient. We took our time and then prioritize your recovery. The fact that people come two years postpartum, and that is genuinely is completely and utterly bog standard. It means that you're already in the mindset that you don't prioritize your recovery because you prioritize your baby. Understandably. Prioritize getting into a new routine, understandably, and then prioritize your work. Maybe…you know, bills have to be paid, but it's a bit of a shame. So put yourself a bit higher up on the list of priorities and get your exercises in. And prioritize, like I said, prioritize your recovery over any sort of “aestheticy” sort of exercise. Don't do a body pump class if you still have diastasis rect, you just shouldn’t….There's no need for it. That is all I'm saying. So those are the top three things. Take a note and tell your friends. By the way. if you have any questions or emails, right?

 Definitely, just get them in. I always answer them. Not usually on the podcast. Sometimes I do, but not always. And you know, it's a bit of fun. What else are you going to do when you have questions during the week? You send me a quick little email. just go, “hey, you Jackass, How’s about this then, you smart guy?”. That's wise guy, wise guy. that was the phrase I was looking for.

I was going to do in the news this week. I was looking for bits and pieces, but really, all the news is now just COVID related. Again, I've said this before, right? 

Get your vaccine, please. When you're pregnant, when you're thinking about getting pregnant, the stats are so clear, the evidence is so solid. Now in the beginning, of course,… the reason.. I understand that there are a lot of people that are hesitant when they're pregnant or trying to get pregnant about getting the vaccine because in the early stages, there wasn't any data available on how pregnancy or trying to get pregnant, trying to conceive would be affected by having the vaccine. And therefore, they were like, “yeah, just hold off for a little while”. In the early stages at least. 

We now do have the data that says that it's completely safe to do. So I read story after people keep sending me this stuff. And I don't know why but, of mums passing away/pregnant mums giving birth early and all that sort of stuff due to COVID and hospitals are full of COVIDY people and 90% of them are unvaccinated. The other 10% who do have a vaccination tend to be people with severe health issues and older people and all that stuff. Just don't become one of those statistics one of those horrible stories.

 I saw in the news today, the Scottish government is saying we won't give you fertility treatment if you are IVF, if you're unvaccinated. And again, it's a shitty decision. I get it. I kind of understand why they did it, but it's still…You know, speak to your health care professional. Go see your GP, go see your Gynaecologist, go see whoever your contact is at the hospital. 

If you're not vaccinated yet and you're concerned about getting vaccinated before IVF or if you're early stages of pregnancy, speak to someone about it. 

Don't think you know better, right? 

There are professionals working on this sort of stuff. Your GP is not one of them, but he at least knows which stuff to listen to. He or she at least knows which stuff to listen to and what to filter out. 

And the same goes for most doctors and hospitals. So if you have a doctor, speak to him or her, and when they tell you it's a good idea to get the vaccine, please just get the vaccine. 

I get sent way too many stories about people that didn't get the vaccine and are now regretting it. 

Let me put it that way.

Right, on that depressing note! I'm sorry about that. 

Oh, by the way, I completely forgot to mention: if you like listening to my dulcet tones, and why would you not? I did a wonderful interview with the Fittest Fat Guy podcast, which will be out on Tuesday. 

So check that out. I will also remind you of that next week and put it on the social.

Bruce from Fittest Fat Guy is a wonderful host and is great fun to talk to and basically shoot the shit about everything non post-natal related because we didn't even get round to that and still took an hour and a half. 

That's what you get two middle aged wise guys sitting in the room and they give you all the information.

Anyway, that's me done for the week. hope you have an awesome week. Get in touch if you have any questions, any comments? As I always say, you can call me a Jackass if you want that's okay. give us a like and a subscribe if you don't mind too much. 

That would also be much appreciated to tell people about the YouTube videos because aren't they cute? You get loads of little slides, every now and again, something relevant and a slide of a puppy or something like that in the middle. Here's a new bit of music. It's Lunar Wave, you take care of yourself. Bye. Now.