After Riina Laaksonen welcomed her second child, her GP (wrongly) told her to return to her pre-pregnancy exercise routine - and she ended up injuring herself.
Riina was unaware that she was suffering from abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti), which affects around 60% of women during pregnancy, but she did know that her previous hobbies - running, snowboarding and surfing - were off limits until she was healed and feeling confident in her own body again.
Her journey back to fitness inspired her retrain as a PT specialised in pre and post natal exercise, and to launch the Nordic Fit Mama Post Natal Programme. It's a research-backed, 6-week online training programme which has already helped more than 30,000 women to recover safely after pregnancy and childbirth.
Here Riina writes for Women's Health about her experience with diastasis recti.
My own experiences led me to where I am today. I had two children very close together, and at the postpartum check-up, the doctor told me to continue exercising as I had before my pregnancies. That’s what I did and ended up doing a lot of harm to my vulnerable body. And I'm not the only one. Millions of mums desperately need more support.
It wasn't until much later that I realised, after researching, that I was suffering from abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti). I went to a physiotherapist specialising in post-partum rehabilitation. However, when doing the exercises on my own, I made mistakes again.
I always say that it's easy to exercise the pelvic floor but also easy to exercise it wrong. Even I as a sports professional, couldn't do it right. That's why all our training has daily reminders and visual, text and video instructions. Many sports and healthcare professionals participating in our programme have praised us for this. As professionals, they understand how vital the constant support of an external coach is.
I was scared of running for a long time
In my rehabilitation, I started to progress gradually, through trial and error and continuous study. However, it took a very long time before I could run in a way that felt good. My favourite sports, surfing and snowboarding, demand a lot from your core. Thanks to my exercise regime, I am thrilled to have regained my confidence. I can now run and snowboard with my kids, trusting my body. It feels strong now.
Later, encouraged by my own experiences, I became a personal trainer specialising in postpartum rehabilitation. I understood how important it is to get expert guidance, especially during the sensitive period of matrescence, the fourth trimester, when you recover from pregnancy and childbirth and become the mother to your baby.
Before Nordic Fit Mama, I ran a boutique gym, mainly for women. When I told my customers about my postpartum journey, particularly diastasis recti, many were curious to learn more. After I wrote an article about it in a newspaper, I started getting requests all over Finland. So we created an online training programme to help as many women as possible. That's how Nordic Fit Mama was born.
Important information belongs to everyone
We were the first to help mums with digital services in Finland. Online training is time and cost-effective and accessible to people no matter where they live. Our mission is to offer the world’s best maternity healthcare, in digital form, to all mums worldwide.
Our mission is also to provide mums with information about their recovery and well-being and support them so that no one feels left alone with a 'broken' body. Pregnancy and childbirth often cause health issues that are difficult to live with; incontinence, back pains, mummy tummy, and even organ prolapses. We bring a virtual expert to every mother's home with a fast and easy way to recover. Daily exercises won't require more than 10 mins and are doable in the comfort of your own home. And I'm there to support you every step of the way.
How to start training pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and childbirth
Core muscle training should be started gently. All exercises are done at only 20-30% power of the maximum strength. The key thing is to breathe, as breathing is an important part of every exercise. Pelvic floor muscles work together with the diaphragm, and on the exhale, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor rises. On the inhale, the diaphragm extends and the pelvic floor descends and relaxes. The exercises are always done together with exhalation.
Testing the pelvic floor muscles
The first thing you need to do is identify which muscles to train. It is very important to correctly identify your pelvic floor muscles before moving into a regular pelvic floor muscle exercise program.
An exercise to identify your pelvic floor muscles that makes it easier to feel the muscle function
1. Contract your anus slightly as if you were holding wind in.
2. Extend the contraction to your urethra, as if you were holding pee in.
3. Hold the tension, and also squeeze tailbones horizontally together towards each other (side to side).
4. Relax the urethra first, then the anus. Do the exercise gently, concentrating on muscle function in the pelvic floor area. Keep all other muscles as relaxed as possible.
Keen to give it a go? You can get 50% off the Nordic Fit Mama Post Natal Programme - running NOW until 29th November (usual RSP £99). Use PINKFRIDAY50 at the checkout.
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