So, here it is. Intuition meets science. For years I have been promoting exercise as a primary intervention to boost perinatal mental health in my inner circle. A recent study published by the Frontier's in Women's Health was just released. It states that the rate of high anxiety in pregnant or newly postpartum women has gone from 24% pre-pandemic to 74% during the pandemic. It also reports that those partaking in moderate intensity exercise has a significant impact on improving mental health. For those women riding that line of anxiety and depression, this may be easier said than done.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
First and foremost it is critical to remember that you are not alone. There is a continuum of normal emotional variances during pregnancy and beyond that often don't get talked about enough. I am remembering back to when I went to a concert after my first daughter's birth. I was so anxious about the crowds, being away from her and everything else in between I never heard the music! I had no idea that postpartum anxiety was a real thing. I only had heard of postpartum depression. My husband thought I was being dramatic and the entire day out was depleting and exhausting. When I finally learned that there really is a continuum of experiences and emotional variances that occur to women around the stages of pregnancy and postpartum I felt a bit frustrated that no one had educated me about this part of motherhood. I only had heard of severe postpartum depression and I didn't fit in that category. If I had been aware of what might happen, I would have been more gracious with myself and maybe done some reading to resource some assistance if needed.
Pregnancy and Postnatal Recovery are meant to be surrounded by a tribe
Pregnancy is a time to listen and guage activity
What can women do to take action especially during Coronavirus?
EXERCISE DECREASES PRENATAL AND POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Exercise can reduce prenatal and postpartum symptoms by up to 67% according to a study referenced by the Frontier article. Many pregnant and postpartum women I have met often know that they should try to exercise if they are medically cleared to do so. However, it is often hard to get started whether it is finding the time, energy or ability to revamp an exercise plan now that many are avoiding gyms and studios. As we learn more about grading the return to exercise postpartum, many women are left in the dark about how or when to proceed.
The recommendation sounds easy enough, but there is really a lot to navigate for many women during this period of life, especially now with Covid-19. Exercise gyms and studios have been great about transitioning to virtual classes during Covid-19. What if you are not an exercise class kind of gal? What if you have a toddler at home so you can't focus through a class? What if you know you could add exercise, but can't seem to motivate yourself?
A FEW IDEAS ON INTEGRATING EXERCISE
1. If the mountains seems high, start small. Sometimes a walk outside seems monumental, so try 5-10 squats every time you get up to go to the bathroom or go up/down the stairs one extra time several times during the day.
2. If you have kids- set up a date to play whether it is tag, simon says or taking a nature walk. Know that they will feel better too after some quality time!
3. If you are new to exercise don't go it alone. If you don't want to hire a personal trainer for weekly sessions, can hire them to make a simple program for you to follow? You can stay accountable by enlisting the help of a friend.
4. If you are working from home, don't forget to get to get up every 52 minutes and move for 17. If your meetings last longer, set aside the time in your schedule. Remember that you have gained the time of your am commute. Guard your personal time vehemently. Work can wait.
5. Do you have more questions? Call! I am here for support!
BEST FIRST EXERCISE....BREATHE
Breathing is really the best and first exercise to begin with. We think that breathing comes naturally, but breathing to optimize core activation and support to protect your back, pelvic floor and reduce potential for excessive diastasis recti takes a bit of education. Breathing also reduces heart rate and regulates our body's responses to stress. If exercise is not possible, just start with breathing. Then reconfigure your web of wellness to support the next steps.
Everyone's pregnancy, delivery and postpartum experience is different. You may not feel well enough to partake in exercise at all points of time during your pregnancy. And the more we learn the more we know that you should not be expected to pop back into a full workout at 6 weeks postpartum. You may have a pre-existing injury that limits your ability to exercise with large groups on line or in person. Maybe you are like me and big classes were never your thing. The point is that every woman needs to begin to listen to their intuition and push when they can, rest when they can and do the kind of exercise that suits their body. This by no means that you have to do it all alone. This is the time to define your web of wellness, built with a network of people who are there to guide and support your individual goals.
Here in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts we have a great sight for women to find local support called Pentucket Mom's Support.
Do you want to learn more about breathing technique? Check out my video here
Ready to start coaching or PT to help connect you during this journey? Call today to set up your complimentary Discovery Call.
Is a mom of two, life long exercise & nutrition enthusiast, women's health specialist & physical therapist.