Transcript: Healing Your Body After Birth: Tips For Recovery
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Healing Your Body After Birth: Tips For Recovery and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: The subject of healing your body after the trauma of birth is not surprisingly a topic that has been explored on First Time Mum’s Chat in a number of episodes. In this week’s episode, I’m talking with Prudence Todd, a previous Midwife and now Holistic Pelvic Care Practitioner and Restorative Pilates Instructor.
Prudence helps women heal emotionally and physically after birth trauma in her healing sessions, you’ll hear prudence talk about, how women don’t tune in enough to their pelvic floor and how releasing helps them in their postpartum healing journey. Why as a mother following birth, your pelvis carries so much emotion, which can impact you physically, why in our modern hustle and bustle lifestyle, where we’re all so busy, we need to learn how to take care of ourselves and not put everyone else first, why you need to communicate your needs openly and honestly, and not ignore possible physical symptoms,
And so much more…
Hi Prudence and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to be speaking with you today about healing physically after birth, and I can’t wait to speak with you in the next week’s episode about how you help women heal emotionally after giving birth. Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and what you do?
Prudence Todd: Beautiful it’s lovely to be here. Helen, thank you so much for the invitation. So my name is Prudence Todd and I’m a mama to 4 teenage kids, a girl and 3 boys, and a wifey to a beautiful man of 23 years, and I live on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and I’m deeply passionate about helping women through their experience of birth and understanding their womanhood and so I work as a holistic pelvic care practitioner and a restorative pilates instructor, and I help women, both online and in person to heal their heart and bodies after birth trauma.
They’re very relaxing and interestingly, women get a lot from actually tuning into this part of their bodies. We don’t tune in enough, so women do find it very connecting, yeah.
Helen Thompson: So how do you help women through what you do to heal their body after trauma?
Prudence Todd: That’s a really good question. So I used to be a midwife and when the kids were young, I was working as a midwife and then I grew 4 little humans in the world and I left that whole world because I didn’t work enough basically. And then I became a restorative Pilates instructor to get back into working because I had actually had a lot of lower back pain through having over 9 and 10 pound babies myself and had huge tummy separation in my own body and pubic synthesis separation where the pubic bone separates and there’s lots of pain involved with that.
So I got into Pilates and became a restorative Pilates instructor, and I noticed that I was attracting women who had pelvic floor issues and so over the years, I’ve also seemed to attract women that have experienced traumatic birth or stillbirth, or abortion or miscarriage, or they’ve been through some kind of traumatic birth experience, so it’s impacted them emotionally or they’re feeling that in their body physically as well. So now being a holistic pelvic care practitioner, I notice that women carry a lot in their pelvis. So whatever the experience has been as a woman firstly, but then also as a woman who has birthed a baby, our bodies carry that in the cells of our bodies and particularly very big in our pelvis. So I started to notice that women actually in my Pilates classes, we would start doing a little bit of trigger release work with balls around the pelvic area and women would start to cry in class.
Tears would flow and emotions would flow and so that got me very interested in how women held things in their bodies. If we think of the pelvis being like a container underneath our heart space. So everything that we feel in our heart as a woman, as a birthing woman, as now a mother, we carry that in our pelvis, it’s like a container and so that then carries in our body emotionally, but it also impacts us physically. So what I noticed with women is they may feel it emotionally in their body, but they also may feel physical symptoms like, they might come to me because now that I’m a holistic pelvic care practitioner, which is something that I’ve gone into now, women will come to me with like leaking pee, not being able to poop properly, tummy separation, feeling numb in their whole vagina area since having birth and not being able to experience pleasure during sexual intimacy. Perhaps even avoiding sexual intimacy completely because it’s too painful, they feel disconnected with their body or their partner. A sense of lower back pain all the time.
So these are some of the things that can show up. Another one is like a heaviness through the vagina or the vulva that women often feel after they’ve had a baby or when they’ve got their period, particularly after they’ve had their baby, because that area gets impacted through birth, right? Whether we’ve had a vaginal birth or we’ve had a cesarean section, those muscles are all connected and so w e have to be really careful that we don’t ignore the cues that our body is telling us. So one of my things I’m really passionate about is actually helping women to find language to explain what’s happening in their body and help them with that.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s a couple of good points you’ve made there. Women, they’re very good at expressing themselves, but not so much when it comes to trauma. They tend to block it and put it aside and think, oh, well, that’s another thing, I’m not gonna think about that anymore and I think being able to work with the body and help the pelvis to heal, I think is so valuable.
Prudence Todd: Totally.
Helen Thompson: And the vagina too. People don’t realize that when women give births, it’s actually a huge impact on the whole body. It is not just a process of pushing the baby out, but it’s expanding so much of your body because you’ve got that tiny baby inside your tummy, but that tiny baby’s got to come out from such a small hole that it must be quite dramatic on the rest of the body, as you said.
Prudence Todd: Yeah, and there’s a few things to consider here because as women, we are designed, we are created in our bodies to birth babies, and the pelvic floor is designed to carry babies, and it’s designed to expand and it’s designed to go back to a way that it still supports a woman, it’s designed to do that. However, we also have to consider that we live in a very high paced life these days. We have huge expectations on ourselves as mothers, and we also have expectations on ourselves of what our birth should be like. And so if our birth maybe doesn’t go the way that we had hoped, sometimes we can carry things in our body and not talk about them.
So one of the biggest things that I find with women is, we will get together with women and we’ll talk about a sore shoulder or a sore neck, or a sore hip or a sore lower back, but we don’t talk about the fact that our vagina is aching or that I’ve got this inner thigh pain or I’ve got shooting pains into my rectum and there is a lot of changes that happens in our body and our life and we’ve got a new human to hold in our space when we become a first time m um and so there is just so much that we are going through. Even for a mum whose had a birth that went well, there is so much her body is going through.
We are not living in a culture that teaches us how to take care of ourselves. We’re living in a culture that teaches us, it’s really normal to just get up in the first week after having a baby and go out and resume life and to resume daily activity in the home and to actually look like you are maintaining a lifestyle with your new baby. So it’s really, really important that women start to understand that if you’ve had a birth that was traumatic, all the more reason why it’s so important to get the support that you need to understand what’s happening in your body and that it’s not in your head. Some women I even talk to, even go to a doctor and convey what they’re experiencing in their body and leave feeling like this is just normal.
Yeah this is just what women go through, through having a baby. But there’s so much that I realize now through seeing the women that I see, that women experience, that they just pass off as being a woman, and it’s so not necessary. They could be experiencing so much more joy and pleasure in their bodies as a new mum.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree and I think that’s why maternity leave is so important. Not just maternity leave to look after the baby, but maternity leave to recover and go to somebody like you and say, look, this is what I’m experiencing and take the time to get to know your body again, and understand what’s happened to your body.
I think a lot of moms today, as you said at the beginning, it’s rush, rush, rush, rush, give birth, right I’ve gotta go back to work! I know here in Australia we get maternity leave, but I think in some places they don’t get maternity leave, they’re just expected to have the baby and go straight back to work. But you need that time to recover. You need that time to feel what’s going on in your body and decide, right, well do I need to see a specialist like you and as you said, it’s so rush, rush, rush.
Mums don’t have the opportunity to feel their bodies cuz they feel guilty that they’re not there to help their partner or help their baby. Whether they’ve gone through an easy birth or a hard birth, it’s still a trauma and they need that time to recover.
Prudence Todd: Totally and once you have that little human in your arms, it’s very easy to kind of just put anything that may be showing up in your body to the side. I mean, I remember when I was a first time mum, I would still be in my pajamas at midday and I think back now to, being a mum of 4 teenagers and how I just fumbled my way through in those early days but it’s all relative when you change from being an only human being that you’re taking care of to then taking care of another little human being and so understanding the cues that our bodies are giving us, and understanding that we can actually heal through some very simple techniques if we prioritize ourselves, but that’s gotta be a choice within the mama.
And I think we don’t feel free to actually do that and we also feel like I just need to put all my care into my child, not care for myself because they’re the most important. Which they are but what I’ve learnt in my 20 years of mothering is that when I take care of myself, I have so much more for my baby.
So really letting new mums and mums of little ones know that it’s okay for them to have needs, it’s okay for them to speak up and say, I actually have something going on in my body that doesn’t feel right, and I need support because it’s hurting and to be able to say that to your partner around sexual intimacy. You know, I’m feeling this in my body and sometimes I think women aren’t even sure what they’re feeling. So that’s a lot about what I work with women, is actually helping them understand what they’re feeling and what’s important not to ignore because it can get worse.
Helen Thompson: So as somebody coming to see you for your Pilates, how does one of your classes look? What’s your approach to encourage mums to express in a loving, supportive way?
Prudence Todd: Yeah, so the one-on-one sessions that I do with women, the healing sessions, aren’t Pilates focused. I do Pilates as part of what I do here on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia but when I do my one-on-one healing sessions with a woman, before I see any woman, I always spend 30 minutes with them and just chat, because I think it’s really important that women feel aligned and they feel safe to even share their birth story.
And it’s important that they have space to do that. So that’s always something that I do first and then when we start to work together, we work weekly until they feel like what we are doing together becomes second nature in their body. So it’s not something extra that they have to think about as a mum.
It’s actually like they wake up and not only is their baby calling to them and asking them to do things for them, but their body is calling to them and asking them to do things for them and they’ve founded such a connection with their body that they feel drawn to actually back her and love her and nourish her.
So the way that I do that is we do some emotional release work, kind of like kinesiology, where we actually release any trapped emotions from the birth that may be resting in their bodies. Sometimes there can be guilt or shame or anger toward caregivers that maybe they didn’t feel heard or treated them well.
There can be even a sense of numbness in the body where they can’t feel or a sense of even disdain or disgust toward themselves if they’ve had scarring or cesarean scars, so there can be emotions that need to be released. The reason I always do that is because the emotions always contribute to the physical impact.
So even though they might come to me with, you know, I’m leaking since my baby was born, and it’s not resolving, a little bit of leaking after having our baby is normal. Doesn’t happen for everyone, but it’s normal, but it should resolve itself as those sphincters come back into action and everything goes back to its normal place.
So then I start to look at understanding your own anatomy. Just like we look at ourselves in the mirror, and look at our face and get ourselves ready for the day, when was the last time we actually looked at our own vagina, our vulva, particularly after birth? if we have an understanding of what we look like, we can start to understand if things change and sometimes women feel things in their body, but they don’t take a look to, to be like, well, what’s happening down there and their first port of call is to go to the doctor. And I’m not saying that women shouldn’t go to the doctor, but there’s two things that happen here. The first thing, is if we do go to someone to seek help, we’re not empowered by actually having seen what’s happening in our body and having that kind of foundational understanding of what’s happening and often the 6 week checkup with a doctor is not very comprehensive. So if we do go for a 6 week checkup, they don’t do a really deep, comprehensive check, so often things can go missed for a woman, and that’s what I find shows up in my sessions.
So it might be that their scarring is quite painful and so it’s difficult to go to the toilet or it might be that they’re not actually emptying their poops properly, and so constipation is becoming an issue, then they start straining a lot. So when we start straining on the toilet, that puts a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor. It also puts pressure on any stretching or scarring that has taken place through tearing or an Episiotomy, if we’ve had an Episiotomy.
Helen Thompson: What’s an Episiotomy?
Prudence Todd: An Episiotomy is where the doctor feels like they need to create more space for a baby. Often it happens if it looks like a really bad tear is going to happen, or if they’re doing an instrumental delivery with vacuum or forcips and sometimes when women have an Episiotomy that cuts through two layers. So it’s the skin layer and it’s also into the muscles. So we need to regenerate a lot of blood perfusion for that to heal well. Sometimes women can experience a lot of scarring and pain there. So I might see them further down the track and it has healed well, but it’s always a little bit painful. So I talk them through a lot of breath ing to help make sure that they’re going to the toilet properly. A lot of us are not breathing properly, which means that we are straining on the toilet or we’re pushing the pee out.
Instead of just sitting down, letting the belly relax, allowing the pee to just flow out we’re in a rush, we’ve got a baby to tend to. We sit down, push that wee out, and that’s putting pressure on those sphincters that we don’t need to. Or if we’re straining a lot through constipation, which can often happen when we’re rushed. Perhaps we’re not drinking enough, we’re breastfeeding or we’re just not nourishing ourselves well, that’s straining or not getting that full empty. We all know how good it feels to get a full empty when we go to the toilet well.
A lot of that has to do with breathing and tension held in the pelvic floor, whether that be from the birth or even if we are just a really tense mama, or we’re feeling anxiety since the birth. A lot of mums, if a birth didn’t go well for them, they can have ongoing anxiety with their little one, and that impacts our pelvic floor and what we feel in our bodies. So breathing is huge around being able to go to the toilet well, understanding how much we hold our bellies in, that’s a cultural thing, it’s a social thing. We don’t want our bellies to hang out. We have a postnatal belly after we’ve had a little buby and we hold our bellies in. There’s a lot of tension. If you sit down on the toilet, I’m pretty sure I know for myself, I have to consciously let my tummy go. When we let our tummy go, we actually also release the tension in the pelvic floor and that helps the elimination process. But often we are unconsciously clenching through the pelvic floor, whether it’s on the loo or even just in our daily life. So I teach women little things all throughout their day to become more conscious about how we’re holding tension in the body. When I see women in person, part of the holistic pelvic care is actually to internally release through massage.
I call it more trigger work, but basically looking for tension within the pelvis and I work with women one-on-one with that through the holistic pelvic care that I do. But I also help women online to become aware of where they’re holding tension through the sensations that they have. Maybe it’s when they’re having sex, maybe it’s feeling a sense of pain in their pelvic floor that they’ve never felt before. And so I teach them internal work to actually be able to release tension themselves or with their partner. So you’ve probably heard of stretching, like people do some kind of stretching before birth to get ready. But this is different to that, it’s more actually releasing tension a little bit deeper in the vagina. So I help women understand that when we’re in our one-on-one sessions. So they’re, they’re a lot, and women generally do about 3 or 4 sessions before they’re free to fly and they feel confident in their body and it’s just like second nature that they feel that real sense of connection with their bodies and it’s not like an extra burden. It transforms the way they see themselves and feel those cues in their body.
Helen Thompson: And I think you mentioned anxiety before. I think that also helps the baby too, because if you are feeling anxiety, if you are feeling all what you’ve just mentioned, your baby’s going to pick up on your stress so they’ll be stressed and it’ll be making it more stressed for you and if you can do what you are suggesting and just have that time to relax, then you’ll have a happier, more contented baby because you’ll be happier and more contented. I know with me, when I go to the toilet, some of the time I go really quickly and think, right, done, but sometimes I actually sit there and just allow it to flow.
Prudence Todd: Yeah, totally and just little things like, changing little things in our diet, making sure we wake up and have a lemon water when we start. Like there’s just little tweaks that we can make as a mama that just are so profoundly changing to the whole process of healing for the pelvic floor, which helps us prepare for the next birth.
Helen Thompson: So what does the lemon water do? I sometimes wake up and I have water. I just wake up and I have a big gulp of water, but I don’t put lemon juice in it. I don’t like having lemon in water because it’s a bit bitter. What does it actually do for you?
Prudence Todd: Yeah, that’s a good question. That’s brilliant just getting up and having a glass of water. That’s like first step, it’s rehydrating your body, right. The lemon is just a really beautiful way to cleanse the bowel. So even though lemon is acidic, it also brings an alkalinity to our body. When our body is quite acidic, our body can be tense and it helps our bowel, it cleanses like a really good flush for the bowel. So when I was working through some pelvic floor issues, I went to someone who actually did some bowel cleansing for me and she basically said lemon water in the morning, then some gentle movement and some fruit, and that became my morning routine and I’ve never had any problems with that. So yeah, lemon water is an absolute, it’s game changing in regards to cleansing the bowel and getting things moving in the morning.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you for sharing all about healing your body in trauma. I think it’s good to hear those tips and I think for a mum to know that there’s somebody there other than the doctor, I think is so valuable. if somebody wanted to find out about you or how to get in touch with you, how would they go about doing that?
Prudence Todd: Yeah, there’s a few ways. I’m on Facebook as Prudence Todd, also on Instagram as Your Womanhood. I also have a free Facebook group called Heal Your Body and Heart After Birth Trauma, and I’m in there every other day having a little chat about different things that women can have going on for them and how to help that and if anyone wants to reach out to me, I’ll just connect with them and send them a link to have a free 30 minute chat with me before we go ahead with anything.
Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Prudence for being here, I really appreciate your time.
Prudence Todd: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Helen Thompson: Prudence shared some great tips during our chat and I learnt a lot from her. I highly recommend checking out her social media and her offer of a free 30 minute connect call to find out more how she can help you. I’ve included links to Prudence’s Facebook group and other social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/116.
I’ve included links to some other previous podcast episodes which may be of interest relating to healing after birth.
Next week I’m chatting with Prudence, this time about healing emotionally after giving birth. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week, and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.