Mother and Baby

Jane Wake The UK’s Top Pregnancy And Post-Birth Fitness Expert Answers Your Questions

Section: Fitness
Jane Wake The UK’s Top Pregnancy And Post-Birth Fitness Expert Answers Your Questions

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with fitness guru Jane Wake? Don’t worry, you can read all of the advice she shared here

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your fertility, pregnancy and parenting questions from a top expert. 

This week, top fitness expert Jane Wake was on board to answer your questions.

Jane’s specialises in pre and postnatal exercise and is one of the most recognised and qualified experts in her field. She’s recently teamed up with women’s health experts Kegel8 to help raise awareness of the importance of pelvic floor exercises for mums-to-be and new mums and has helped create Kegel8Mum.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

Which topics would you like covered in our Wednesday Lunch Club? Let us know in the comments box below.

Tummy muscles after birth

Is there anything that can be done to help diastasis recti after pregnancy? Anything I should avoid? And will the muscles ever be normal again – do they ever reconnect?

Jane: The answer to your question is a resounding yes! Absolutely, you can do something and yes – while many muscles don't go back completely, some do and you can still gain maximum strength even with a slight gap.

While many muscles don't go back completely, some do and you can still gain maximum strength even with a slight gap

The thing to do first is to check your tummy or have it checked by your doctor to check the width of the gap. Lie on the floor and place your fingers of one hand just above your belly button. The place your other hand behind your head and perform one curl up. Try to then feel the gap – if it’s two or more fingers worth then you need to be very careful with the exercises and movements you do. No one should be doing curl ups after pregnancy! You only do this once to check your tummy.

Then lie on your back and try to connect to your pelvic floor (PF) by lying with your tailbone on the floor with a little hollow in your lower back. Think of drawing your pubic bone and tailbone together while keeping your tail flat to the floor – as if stopping yourself going for a pee but try to think of pulling up more centrally.

Your deep tummy muscle should come in with your PF as you do this. For more exercises take a look at the exercises on the Kegel8mum information pack. If your gap is bigger than three fingers in width, I'd advise you get some professional help from a physiotherapist.

Pelvic floor exercise

I had my baby 10 months ago. He was a high forceps and suction delivery. My episiotomy got infected and I have just started exercising again. I’m struggling especially with pelvic floor exercises. Any advice?

Jane: If you’re sitting down right now, sit forward a bit with a tall spine and then pull your butt cheeks out from underneath you and sit on your sitting bones. Now, keeping your butt cheeks out the way and with a slight forward lean, imagine pulling all sides of your pelvic floor together and then up inside you through your vagina. It’s a very deep feeling that’s close to your womb and feels bit like pulling up a tampon inside you. Try to pull up slowly, release and repeat ten, three times a day every day. Keep trying and I promise you will start to feel it!

Running after birth

I've signed up to a half marathon for the summer but have just found out I'm three months pregnant. Can I still do it?

Jane: This is a tricky one as we know some athletes will still run while pregnant. Running while pregnant is fine but only if you are already a proficient runner. If you have only just started running then I'm sorry to say the answer is no. You have to be running fit so that you can keep your intensity at a moderate level – i.e. where you can talk comfortably.

My other issue is with running in a competitive environment where you will be tempted to run faster because of others around you. If I were you, I would switch your focus for another marathon event – giving birth. The more physically fit you are then the easier birth can be – but you need to do the right exercise.

Post-baby body shape

How on earth do you get rid of 'back fat'? It's the one bit that won't shift.

Jane: Back fat is part of your torso fat so often those of us who are more apple shaped, tend to carry more fat on this area. If it’s an issue for you then you need to do two things. First, cut out as much sugar and processed foods from your diet – just saying no to unhealthy snacks can make a massive difference.

Secondly, start to embrace healthy eating and start moving as much as you can – ideally up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five days a week. Be consistent, too. You need to think of activity you can do that you enjoy and can be done as a part of your day – like fast walking to work or a fun/social dance class. Record what you do and keep checking you’re on target for 60 minutes, five times a week and you will achieve your goal.

Cut out as much sugar and processed foods from your diet – just saying no to unhealthy snacks can make a massive difference

Pelvic floor in pregnancy

Sorry for my ignorance but can you please explain why I need to 'exercise' my pelvic floor? I'm 10 weeks pregnant and haven't yet told everyone about my pregnancy but want to get clued up.

Jane: Think of your pelvic floor as the base of your pelvis – if it wasn't there everything and I mean everything, would fall through! I would stick my neck out to say that the PF is probably the most important muscle in the body. It not only helps to control stability through the pelvis and keep everything up, it also helps to control bladder and bowel movements and a strong pelvic floor can do wonders for your sex life.

Both women and men suffer greatly from incontinence issues – pregnancy and childbirth can have the biggest effect over your pelvic floor and if you don't do pelvic floor exercises you can face all sorts of problems, not just in the next year but also for the rest of your life.

Exercise after a c-section

I have recently had an unplanned c-section and now on my way to a full recovery. What exercises could you recommend to starry trying to get my tummy back into shape? And how I can reduce the low hanging skin under my belly button – before bikini season kicks in?

Jane: It’s really important to think about your deep PF and abdominal strength first. This will not only help you heal, but will also help to flatten your tummy and help with any overhang! You must however also massage around your scar. The tissue around your c-section is tight and scarred, while the surrounding muscle and skin has been stretched.

Massage can really help to soften the tissue around the skin and smooth the line from your scar to the rest of your abdomen.
I think we tend to be a little bit bashful about this subject but just want to assure you that if you do have issues you are so not alone. Every woman who has had a child, doesn't matter whether they have had a c-section or natural birth, need to do PF exercises. The kegel8Mum recent survey showed that 50 per cent of women don't know how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly.

If you’re not sure let me know, as I've got loads of tricks up my sleeve for getting you to do them right so let me know!

Toddler keeping me fit?

While chasing after my 15 month old while eight months pregnant is tiring, is it secretly doing me good and keeping me active? Also I know heavy lifting is suggested against, however try telling my 15 month old who wants picking up!

Jane: Yes, telling a pregnant mum with a toddler to take it easy is just ridiculous! The pregnancy is already making you feel tired. So you have to account for this but keeping active is really good for you. You just need to adhere to a few rules – if you’re really tired, make sure you are getting adequate rest. If your toddler has an afternoon nap then you must, too.

Secondly, moderate activity is recommended not vigorous so if everything you do is making you huff and puff after two seconds – slow it down.

Thirdly, you have to pick up a toddler sometimes, so do it right. This is where you core strength comes in. Always use good posture and connect to your core. For good posture always hold your spine tall and think of three areas:

1. Pulling up through your pelvic floor

2. Drawing your belly button back towards your baby/spine

3. Drawing your shoulder blades back and down

What topics would you like covered in our Wednesday Lunch Club? Let us know in the comments box below.


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