Abdominal Separation #ppnchat from 9/9/14

Myself and the fabulous Claire Mockridge hosted the second twitter #ppnchat on 9/9/14, the topic was abdominal separation. Personally I’ve found these chats not only a chance to meet new people who work in the same field as me….but a chance to share knowledge, ask questions, be stimulated, be made to think about my practise and to learn. All of that in an hour, whilst sat at home. Pretty amazing networking and learning huh.

So if you work in the pre/postnatal field make sure you come along to our next #ppnchat on 7th October at 2.30pm.

If you missed the chat or want to catch up on some of the tweets and links (I know I do) then you can find a transcript of our chat here.

Lift without lower back pain

Lower back pain, it’s the most common issue I see on our Pilates medical forms. Heavy lifting without engaging your core is often a cause of it. It’s common sense that if you lift badly or lift too heavy a weight it will hurt your back… but it is all too easy to do, especially when it is a child! For more on lifting babies see my video.

Think of the core as being the central point from which the power comes from or like a fulcrum that you pivot from. Every seen someone lift something far too heavy? You can see the force going into their back, not a good thing as it can damage the discs in the back. When I was pregnant and post birth I could instantly feel the effects when lifting my toddler, my core was far weaker and I couldn’t support my lower back.

Lifting safely involves engaging the core, bending the knees and thinking about your alignment. Here are my top tips:



  1. Keep the load close to your waist – easy to do when it’s cuddling a child, less so if it is a tantruming one 😉
  2. Get a good grip.
  3. Engage your core.
  4. Maintain a stable base with your feet hip width apart.
  5. Bend the knees and hips NOT the back. Keep a neutral spine.
  6. Know your lifting limits, we aren’t all training for Ironman.
  7. Think about using your legs rather than your back to lift.
  8. Lower down safely, bending your knees.

Top 3 complications Post-Birth.

Being pregnant, giving birth and then looking after a baby – it’s all particularly hard work on the body and comes at a time when you are more focused on the baby and less focused on you. However you need to look after your own body, you only get one and if it isn’t functioning as well as it should is makes life a lot harder.

Three of the key complications that can occur during pregnancy and postnatally:

1. Diastasis Recti.

This is a seperation of the tummy musclesDiastasis Recti that run vertically down the tummy (the Rectus Abdominus or 6 pack muscles). It can happen naturally but there are also things you can do to prevent it from becoming too large an issue whilst pregnant. After your 6 week check is then the time to get this checked out and to address it.

Top Tips: No sit ups in pregnancy and post-birth. Don’t go back to high impact exercise too quickly as it can make this worse and use safe postnatal Pilates exercises to fix it.

2. Pubis Symphysis Derangement:

Otherwise known as pelvic girdle pain or SPD. This occurs when there is movement in the symphysis pubis, and a misalignment of the pelvis. It leads to pain in the pelvis and groin region. This is usually worse on standing, walking, climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car and activities that involve having the weight on one leg. Pilates can help by strengthening the core (above the pelvis) and the thigh and bum muscles (below the pelvis). These strengthening exercises effectively help the body support the pelvis and take the pressure off. This can happen in pregnancy, during labour or after birth.

Pilates with Priya: The Pelvis

Top Tips: Your local obstetric physiotherapist may be able to help with misalignment. Then use Pilates specific exercises to help strengthen and maintain the correct posture and position.

3. Hunched Posture:

Being pregnant means heavier breasts, a bump and often rounded shoulder to compensate for the heavier load. Having a baby means you end up leaning forward a lot to play, pick up, feed and change your little one. Carrying a baby around leads to tense shoulders and feeding can be awful for the posture too. Having a rounded upper back leads to tight shoulders and neck, tight hamstrings, weak gluteals (bum) and tummy muscles. It also doesn’t look great.

Top Tips: Keep checking your posture in the mirror, think about it when you feed and carry baby. Make posture part of your everyday awareness.

For specific exercises and more top tips try “Beyond Your Bump”

Postnatal Hair Loss, how to look after those locks.

One of the lovely side effects I had during pregnancy was to have thicker, faster growing hair. My hairdresser was always amazed when she saw me yet again for a trim.

This extra hair growth that some ladies see is due to the hormone levels, specifically the oestrogen. Hair has a cycle of growth and loss. Usually we lose about 100 hairs a day, however in pregnancy this hair loss can be reduced giving you those extra lush locks. All good things must come to an end however and as the oestrogen levels drop so must the extra hair. It is not uncommon for clumps or handfuls of hair to come out when you are brushing or washing it. So do not panic! Your hair will go back to how it was pre-pregnancy, you will not be bald (phew).

For some mums this will happen from birth and for others it will be when breastfeeding stops.

Pilates with Priya: postnatal hair loss

Top Tips:
1. Be kind to your hair, don’t was it excessively (as if you have time to with a baby!) and be gentle when styling it.
2. Try to stay away from hair dryers and straighteners, chemicals and treatments for a while.
3. Take a postnatal vitamins and eat a healthy balanced diet. Essential fatty acids are needed for hair to grow strong and healthy so no low fat diets.
4. Talk to your health visitor or GP is you feel the hair loss is excessive as it could be a sign something else is not quite right.

3 Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten

Losing the Baby Weight, Week 1.

It’s day 7 post birth and slowly my body feels like it is returning to normal. My mummy tummy is shrinking gradually and the after birth pains are definitely diminishing. For me these after birth pains have been the worst thing. I didn’t have them with baby number 1, but everytime I feed it feels like another contractions. This is due to my uterus contracting and everything shrinking back to normal so it’s a good thing, but I’m not enjoying it!

Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth
Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth

Having a toddler means little time to rest so I’m quite active around the house. I’ve already learnt that I can’t lift my toddler, it’s too much for my back and lifting her led to some twinges (yikes) so I’m steering clear of heavy lifting for a while.

So what exercises have I been doing?

Pelvic floor exercises or kegels. I’ve been trying to do these everytime I feed the baby. If you aren’t sure where these are they are the muscles that now don’t work very well  😉 Imagine you are doing a wee and try to stop the flow of urine, it’s those muscles. Try doing some fast contractions where you squeeze the muscles all the way up and then release – imagine a lift going up inside you. Then also do some slow contractions where you slowly take the lift up, hold at the top for 5 seconds and slowly release. You really want to strengthen these muscle as otherwise there will be problems when you cough, laugh, sneeze, jump…. you get the picture!

TVA or core activation. Think about drawing in the muscles below your belly button. There is a belt-like muscle that comes all the way around your body like a corset. Try not to scoop in all your tummy but just tighten up the lower tummy muscles. It may help to place your fingers just inside your hip bones, then cough. Did you feel something tighten? That’s the muscle.

Rest time is also essential though personally this is the bit I find hardest to fit in as I seem to have babies that require a lot of feeding! Try to rest when the baby is napping and remember you don’t have to be superwoman at this point in life. If you have a slightly “messy round the edges house” no-one will mind 😉 Plus if you do too much you can affect your milk supply, so be kind to yourself.

Giving Birth for the Second Time.

Judah Elisha Tew was born on Thursday 12th September at 11.46am, 7lb 1oz.

Pilates with Priya: Baby Judah

This was my second labour which did make it easier in terms of I knew a little more about what to expect and had the knowledge that I’d done it all before so could do it again. However it was not easy. Anyone who gives birth to a baby is amazing in my opinion.

I’m very fortunate in that I seem to have happy, healthy pregnancies. I worked all the way through both pregnancies, this time I was still teaching Pilates and seeing dietetic clients, in fact I had run a clinic Thursday afternoon and chatted to a journalist about an article that evening and then my waters broke!

My waters broke just before midnight and trickled throughout labour. Having had a 23 hour labour with my first baby I had a snack, a quiet whoop of excitement and then went back to bed to rest. A quick nudge to the hubby to let him know and he rolled over back to sleep 😉 At 3 am I decided to alert the birthing centre, they wanted me to go in to check my waters had gone, however I knew they had and wasn’t prepared to wake a sleeping toddler and leave her with friends at this stage. So I waited until 6am by which time the contractions were building but manageable. Now getting a toddler up, explaining the situation and getting out of the house with contractions every 3 minutes was a bit of a challenge, but typically the car journey led to the contractions slowing. Very frustrating, but quite common.

At the birthing centre I was 3 cm dilated, so we got ready for action. By 8am I was in the birthing pool and things started to get hard. Although my active labour wasn’t long in the moment of it, it felt like a long time. Around 9cm dilation I started to panic and needed reassurance, at this stage the gas and air was given to me. Thank goodness. Even though it did make me feel slightly woozy and sick I needed it to take the edge of the contractions. Pushing didn’t take long at all and it is amazing how your body takes over, suddenly I was aware I had to push, looked down in the water and there was a head – very odd to see!

This labour I really found made me go deep into myself, I was talking myself through it, willing myself on and it showed me how determined I can be. Focusing on the contractions and moving around as much as I could really helped. In the last stages of labour and pushing my husband took over and he was the voice willing me on, talking me through it and telling me what was happening. I gave birth in a birthing centre where they let the woman take the lead, this was amazing as it was a very natural birth but I also needed to know what was going on and have a plan ahead of me. This is where my birthing partner (hubby) came in. He was my eyes and ears.

Top Tips:

1. Stay as active as you can in the early stages, I found circular hip movements helped me work through the contractions.

2. Stay calm and focus on getting through one contraction at a time.

3. Find something to distract yourself early on. I blogged an article and finished making some breakfast/breastfeeding bars.

4. Eat food that will sustain you. I’ve not wanted to eat once my contractions have started coming fast and strong, so eat early on. Pasta, an oat based cereal, rice dish, wholemeal toast with peanut butter or a tuna sandwich for example.

5. Keep drinking and have small snacks in case you fancy a bite. Cereal bars, bananas, sport drinks can all be useful.

6. Have a birthing plan but be prepared for it to change!

7. Discuss your ideas with your birthing partner. Think through things they may be able to do to help you. Gentle massage or running you a bath for pain relief for example.

8. When your waters break collect a sample, the midwife may want to check! So take a wet pad with you.

9. Focus on the final goal – your baby! Labour is hard work but it is only a small part of the adventure of mummyhood.

10. Try and get some skin to skin time and a breastfeed in as soon as possible after giving birth.

11. Practise breathing techniques before hand. Pilates has taught me these.

12. Antenatal exercise classes can really help you be in tip top condition for giving birth. Don’t forget my “From Bump to Birth DVD“.

I feel privileged and completely blessed to have had a water birth, in a calm amazing environment. The human body is an awesome piece of work and giving birth shows what you can do. However I’m not planning on doing it again anytime soon 😉

Why is Pilates so beneficial for new mums?

Pilates is still quite a new form of exercise in the UK.  Just to give you some background, Joseph Pilates, a German-born gymnast, circus-performer, boxer and anatomical-chart model, developed his training method during the 1920s, so it’s been around for quite a while.  He named his method “Contrology”, initially to rehabilitate soldiers during the war.  Later, it became popular in the ballet circuit, then went mainstream, where now it’s suitable for just about everyone.

You’ll hear Pilates Instructors mention your “core” muscles quite a lot during class.  The “core” is made up of several muscles which wrap around your spine – a bit like a cylinder.  There are muscles at the front of your body (transverses abdominus/hip flexors), side (obliques), back (multifidis), top (diaphragm) and base (pelvic floor).

To find your core muscles, you just need to tighten/pull/draw your abdominal muscles in slightly.  Start by breathing into your belly first, then as you breath out, drawing your tummy muscles in towards your spine and keeping that light tension switched on.  These muscles are slow to contract and slow to fatigue, so it means you should be able to hold your tummy muscles inwards with a low level of contraction, for a minute or two, then simply move an arm or a leg, or the spine, to create an unstable environment and therefore provide a challenge for the muscles.  Pilates is quite simple in design.

Pilates is particularly beneficial for postnatal women, because, put simply, it targets the very muscles which get weakened by pregnancy itself eg the pelvic floor and core.  It also helps you breathe better, puts your body in an optimal postural position and relieves tension in your neck, shoulders, hips and lower back from constant lifting, carrying, feeding and changing your baby.


Trainers hung up at 37 weeks. Tips on exercising late in pregnancy.

As well as being a Pilates instructor I’m also trained to teach various other exercise classes. One of my favourites is Step Aerobics. I recently set up my own little community class and have adored teaching my group of amazing ladies. Go back a few months and many of them had never done a Step class before, this week I looked on with happiness seeing how them all getting the moves and putting the steps together like pros.

So at almost 37 weeks I’ve finally hung up my trainers, tonight was my last cardio class (I’m still teaching Pilates) and althought it feels sad my body is definitely telling me it’s time to stop. Having said that it also feels awesome to exercise and keeping active in pregnancy has kept me mobile, well, fit and able to do all I need to do. Here I am after class this evening.

Pilates with Priya: Almost 37 Weeks Pregnant.

Step Aerobics wouldn’t be the class I’d suggest to start up in pregnancy as it involves moves where you stand on one leg and other moves that may not be great if your body is not used to it. However if you have already been doing this type of class then you will be fine to continue as long as you LISTEN to you body and consult your instructor. I have had a pregnant lady in my class who is now 29 weeks and doing really well.

Here are my tips on exercising late in pregnancy:

1. Now is NOT the time to start an exercise regime or take up a new form of exercise but continuing with what your body is used to is fine.

2. Avoid moves that involve twisting, jumping, standing on one leg, lifting the leg out to the side and high kicks.

3. Dial down the impact level. It is perfectly fine to stay active but you will need to bring it down a notch 😉 Make moves smaller.

4. Take regular breaks, drink plenty of fluids and make sure you don’t overheat.

5. If you feel any pain or discomfort then STOP. It is really important to listen to your body.

6. Wear suitable clothing, a decent, supportive, sports bra, good trainers are essential.

7. Ask your instructor for modified moves that you can do in a class or find a pregnancy fitness class.

8. Keep going as long as you feel good and feel like it is doing you some good.

9. Rehydrate and refuel afterwards.

The Stout truth about Iron in Pregnancy

Iron-deficiency anaemia. It’s not much fun, especially when you are pregnant. Unfortunately it’s also not unsual, and many have it in the third trimester. I was anaemia with in y first pregnancy, the sheer horridness of the iron tablets has sent me scuttling for the green leafy vegetables this pregnancy. What I’ve discovered working with pregnant ladies is how little sensible advice is given on this topic, so here is some from me 😉

Top Foods to eat for Iron content:

  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Egg yolks
  • Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, swiss chard, watercress, curly kale.
  • Dried fruit – prunes, raisins, figs, apricots.
  • Breakfast cereals that are enriched with Iron.
  • Beans, lentils, chickpeas and other pulses.
  • Sardines
  • Tofu

Top Tips:

  1. If you eat iron-rich foods along with foods that provide plenty of vitamin C, your body can better absorb the iron.
  2. Phytates : Oxalates in spinach and phytates found in wholegrains, brans and legumes (soy beans, split peas, lentils and dried beans) inhibit the absorption of iron
  3. Tannin: Avoid drinking tea, coffee & cola drinks withmeals as they decrease the amount of iron absorbed.

The Myth: In 1759 Arthur Guinness first began to brew his famous Irish stout, over the years a lot of clever marketing went on and a few myths were created. As much as I’d like to encourage pregnant ladies to have a little stout now and again I’m afraid the iron content really isn’t worth writing home about. A pint of Guinness contains 0.3mg of iron, less than three per cent of daily adult needs. That means, you’d need to drink 15 pints of Guinness to get the same amount of iron as two Weetabix. So ladies, stay away from the Guiness, it will not help with anaemia. Sorry.   guinness is good for you Supplements: If you feel your iron levels are low (common symptoms include tiredness, looking pale and feeling washed out) then ask your midwife or GP to check your iron levels via a blood test. There are iron tablets that can be prescribed or you can increase your intake of iron containing foods, or look for a natural supplement like Spatone. I hope that helps! Pregnancy is a tiring time anyway, so it can be hard to tell if you have low iron levels, but it’s always worth keeping your iron topped up through plenty of iron rich foods just in case.