Meeting Recap for January 13, 2017 - Women's Health

Our MOPS speaking topics range all over the spectrum. We've had our fun, Oprah Christmas special type giveaway talk on rainy day fun. We pondered the very serious subject of child safety and tricky people and last Friday, we delved into the the personal subject of women's health with our own MOPS mom Ellen Bass.

Ellen works as a physical therapist at Kitsap Physical Therapy and Sports Clinics, specializing in women's health. Early in Ellen's career she recognized how our physical, spiritual and mental health are interwoven. This realization drives her passion to improve women's' lives using her unique set of talents.

Ellen shared how pregnancy and childbirth affects the body. During a women's pregnancy, into the postpartum period and throughout the days/months/years a woman is breastfeeding, the body releases hormones. These hormones change our bodies, loosening joints and ligaments to prepare for the baby's birth. A very positive and important function. However, this hormonal loosening also makes women more susceptible to back pain and ligament injuries during this time. So at a time when we are changing in uncontrollable manners, it is extremely important to be careful with our bodies.

Even after pregnancy and birth are over, we need to continue being careful, giving ourselves grace and time to heal. Ellen reminded us, it took nine months for our bodies to change. Go slow. Give yourself at least nine months for it to change back. Other postpartum exercise tips included:

  • Avoid jumping exercises. These put additional strain on weakened areas.
  • Protect your joints.
  • If you have Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal muscles), be cautious with aggressive abdominal exercises.

Ellen also spoke specifically about the muscles in our pelvic floor. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that support the uterus, bladder and bowel) are under constant strain. The nine months of continuous pressures loosens the once tightly woven muscles, causing many of the more embarrassing long term side affects of pregnancy. Ellen said that while pelvic floor issues (incontinence being one of the most popular) are common, they are not normal and not something we have to live with. There is an exercise that we can do to regain strength in our pelvic floor: kegels.

Kegels are the repeated contracting and relaxing of the pelvic floor muscles. Ellen gave four tips on how to do preform kegels properly.
  1. Do your best. A bad kegel is better than no kegel.
  2. Squeeze both the vaginal and the rectal muscles.
  3. While contracting the muscles, pull up and in towards your heart.
  4. Keep your abdominal, glutes and thigh muscles relaxed.
Ideally, you should do 3 sets of 10 kegels each day, holding each muscle contraction for 10 seconds. If 10 seconds is too long, start with 5 seconds and work up to 10. She also recommended 10 quick pelvic floor contractions at least once a day. If you add this private little workout to your routine, your pelvic floor should begin to regain strength.

Ellen closed her talk by reminding us to take care of ourselves physically, emotional and mentally. As moms, we often put ourselves last, giving every bit of ourselves to our families. When we do this day in and day out, we end up drained with nothing left to give. Yet, if we take time to nurture our bodies, souls and spirits not only will we feel fuller ourselves but our families will get more too.

After Ellen gave her talk Kelsey, one of our MOPS Coordinators lead us in a "little" work out. It included three rounds of the following exercises.
If you need to, don't be afraid to modify the workout to meet your current fitness level and physical goals. If you are up for a challenge, set a timer for 20 minutes and see how many times you can do the workout listed above.

Now go and take some time to take care of yourself.