By Ashley Gammon
I am a mom to my three presidents, Mckinley(10), Madison (9) and Monroe(6), a military wife of 15 years and an advocate for women and their health. Just like you, I was a mom on the other side of the computer screen–overwhelmed and desperately searching for answers on how to heal my postpartum body with no idea where to start.
All of my girls arrived via c-section and my doctor cleared me at my six week checkup to go back to “normal activity.” I did exactly that every time, desperately trying to fit into my jeans and lose the 60 pounds I had gained. My exercise routine included running a few miles and then doing 100 crunches right before I hopped in the shower. I was suffering from symptoms due to my pelvic floor dysfunction but I wrote them off as “normal” postpartum issues that I didn’t have answers for. Read more of my story here.
I finally got answers when I discovered an online program called MUTU System. I found out that I had a 3.5 finger diastasis recti and discovered that the symptoms I had been suffering with for six years were related to my core and pelvic floor dysfunction. The program changed my life so drastically that I become certified to teach the program. Now that I’m trained in postpartum fitness, I would never recommend new moms start with the exercises that I was doing postpartum! A few years after becoming MUTU certified, along with Wendy Powell the founder of MUTU, I launched an outreach program to specifically serve military women.
Military Outreach MUTU System (M.O.M.S.)
Our mission with M.O.M.S. is to create a special space for women serving in the military and military spouses. We provide them with education, resources and tools related to pelvic floor and core health, and in-person events to bring women together. All women deserve bodies that function well! For women serving in the military, core and pelvic floor concerns impact not only their physical well-being, but also their career. Within 180 days after their baby is born they are expected to take and pass a PT test.
I want all mamas to feel empowered in their postpartum body. I want you to know that leaking and incontinence is NOT normal. Suffering with painful sex, lower back and pelvic pain, hemorrhoids and queefing in yoga is not just some normal stage of motherhood. These things are very common, but never normal! Your core and pelvic floor did their job so baby could grow and then come earthside. Your amazing body did that! Now those muscles need a little love so that most importantly your body functions go back to normal. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to lose the baby weight postpartum, but function should come first. The rest can wait and will come in time.
Postpartum Fitness Do’s and Don’ts
My mindset has shifted so much since I had my first baby 10 years ago. I had three cesareans in a little less than 5 years and my number one goal each postpartum was to shed the weight. I felt a lot of societal pressure to “get my body back,” and now looking back, I often wonder if I made things worse, constantly struggling against my own body. Now I know that it’s best to focus on how you feel; not how you look. Work on regaining normal function first; the rest can wait! Here are a few of my do’s and don’ts for postpartum fitness:
- Rehab your core and pelvic floor before you do anything else. I recommend that every mom schedule an evaluation with a women’s health or pelvic floor physical therapist.
- Give your body a lot of grace and time to heal. Healing goes way beyond your 6 week check up!
- Advocate for yourself. If something seems off about your body, speak up, even if someone told you it’s “normal”! Ask your OB for referrals to pelvic floor therapists or other providers, if needed.
- Focus on weight loss. I understand wanting to lose the baby weight, but focus on having a body that functions normally first! You want to feel comfortable in your body.
- Run and do hundreds of crunches 6 weeks after delivery (like I did!). Focus on rehabbing core and pelvic floor first and making sure your body has properly healed.
- Give yourself a hard time if you are not where you want to be just 6 short weeks after delivery. There are so many factors to take into consideration like sleep deprivation, hormones, and 9 months of amazing changes to your body to accommodate a growing human!
You deserve support
I often think of that phrase “it takes a village” and how true it is. Woman entering motherhood need and deserve so much support. I have heard far too many stories of women suffering in silence for years, or those who speak up and are told that their symptoms are normal. This does NOT have to be a “normal” part of motherhood. With the right tools your body CAN regain normal function and feel good again!
I strive to be the support person that I wish I would have had in those exhausting, early days of motherhood. We need so much more than one appointment 6 weeks after baby is born and a vague clearance to return to “normal” activities like exercise and sex. The healing time for each woman can look very different. Not only physically, but mentally we may not be ready for anything but caring for our newborns. Women deserve to have empowering resources, a women’s health/pelvic floor physical therapist, and a support group like M.O.M.S. or Whole Mamas.
Ashley is a seasoned Army wife, mom of three beautiful girls, and a passionate military spouse on a mission. She has a background in health and is a certified personal trainer, MUTU Pro, and M.O.M.S. (Military Outreach Mutu System) Community manager. This program promotes pelvic floor and core health for women in pregnancy and postpartum. Ashley empowers women to put their health first and improve quality of life in the process. When she isn’t busy with that, you can usually find her outdoors in the country, sipping hot coffee, while enjoying the calm of rural life in Michigan. Connect with Ashley on Instagram!