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Pre- and Post-Natal: When fear isn’t enough of a reason to hide away
A few months ago I made the decision to embark on a Pre and Postnatal Exercise Referral Course. This came as a little bit of a shock to those that know me well as I am not exactly the most… relaxed person regarding the subject. In all honesty I have been ever-so-slightly terrified of childbirth since I learnt that babies do not, in actual fact, depart the body via the belly button. Which to me still makes more sense than where they do exit. The belly button just feels like a more direct route y’know? No? Sigh.
The question most people have asked me is ‘Why?! Why put yourself through it when you can barely discuss it without feeling faint?’ and I must admit I have wondered this myself on more than one occasion, typically after telling a female friend that I am doing this course, which often signals an opportunity to be regaled with their labour story with no detail too small or insignificant to be spared. Or in one case, re-enacted.
So why would a woman so freaked out by this, who has some pretty wacky ideas to birthing alternatives, decide to submerse herself in all things pregnancy? Well, essentially, I got really annoyed, which I’d like to think is unlike me. Ha. But yes, I was annoyed to the point that my annoyance eventually outweighed my fear. I found myself annoyed at the misinformation or just plain lack of information regarding exercise before, during and after pregnancy, at the old wives tales perpetrating society that shamed a woman if she even looked in the direction of a gym whilst pregnant and the scorn from certain areas of the fitness community if she didn’t turn into an Amazon of a woman who boshed out muscle up’s the minute those two blue lines appeared.
I also found myself feeling really peeved that I knew of so many Mums that since childbirth had needed to massively adapt their day to day living around toilet breaks, that couldn’t play a sport that they used to or that every time they laughed had to pretzel themselves into some inhuman form.
“In the three months after childbirth, a third of women suffer from incontinence. Yet a third of those women were embarrassed about mentioning it to their partners and almost half with friends.
Even more worrying? Almost 38% of women said they were self-conscious speaking about the problem with a healthcare professional.” 
I discovered that in France it is standard practise for women to be given 20 sessions with a pelvic floor physiotherapist in order to ensure they regain bladder and bowel control.  In contrast, here in the UK woman must request this service, something many woman are either too embarrassed to do or simply unaware that the service is there in the first place. Once again, I can’t help but feel that woman are being underserved and expected to quietly go about their daily lives as mass investors in Tena Lady.
And that’s why I chose this course. Because it isn’t right that at a time when a woman has, frankly, more than enough on her plate that she should have to battle through the mass of vastly conflicting information regarding the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of exercise during and after pregnancy, the judgements, the unsolicited advice, the stigma, the silent pressure to just accept that incontinence as normal and to just ‘crack on and deal with it’. And also so I could finally face my fear and stop putting my fingers in my ears every time the topic of child birth arises – which as I near 30 seems to be EVERY. FREAKING. DAY.
After lots of research I decided to do my course with Girls Gone Strong as not only do they teach the nitty-gritty science components such as Anatomy and Physiology, Nutrition and Psychology, but they are also re-educating both coaches and the general population in terms of how we approach exercise and pregnancy i.e. being aware of the language that we use, thinking of the reasonings behind the advice we give and remembering at all times that a pregnant woman has complete autonomy over the choices that she makes, regardless of whether people agree with those choices or not.
Once I have qualified, I will be counted as a Pre and Postnatal exercise Specialist which means that I will be able to provide exercise and nutrition coaching to woman both during pregnancy and after. I will have the extra knowledge to be able to guide a woman through an exercise program during her pregnancy and afterwards- no matter how many years ago she had her baby!
During my studies (and after of course!) I would really love to hear of your experiences of pregnancy and the weeks, months and years that follow child birth, so if you are happy to share then feel free to grab me for a natter as it will help me understand the various trials and tribulations a mother goes through, hopefully leading to me being better able to understand and empathise with my future clients and hopefully anticipate some of the hurdles they will face.
Wish me luck!