For any of you that have been following me recently, you will probably have already seen the amazing Anna pop up on my instagram from time to time!
Anna is not only a Masters-trained Women’s Health & Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, but she is also the Founder of The Whole Mother www.thewholemother.com
I randomly met Anna at a women's business event last year, and we really connected (in fact, she was one of the first people I told I was pregnant, as I had just found out that day!!)
I have been going to see Anna at her clinic in Bondi, and have learnt soooo much about why it is so important to look after our pelvic and mental health, especially if you are ever planning to fall pregnant, are pregnant or are postpartum!
I love Anna's holistic approach to women's health and I think you guys will too!!
What inspired you to want to specialise in women’s health?
I have always been really passionate about helping others, but to be honest, general physiotherapy just wasn’t enough for me! I wanted to make a difference in the lives of women during the most amazing, transformational time in their lives – pregnancy and postpartum. There’s a lot of focus on the baby’s health during this time (which is crucial yes!) but I believe women are missing out on receiving fundamental physical and emotional support. This is where The Whole Mother www.thewholemother.com comes in! To combat this issue, I created an online platform where women feel educated and empowered by the information and support I provide.
Why do you think it is so important for women to ‘prepare’ their bodies for pregnancy, even if having a baby might not be on the radar right now?
How long have you got?!! I feel like the importance of the ‘preparation or preconception’ stage doesn’t get enough airplay in society. We tend to be far more reactive than proactive in regards to health, including fertility and pregnancy. Couples decide they want to fall pregnant and expect it to happen straight away, without giving much (if any!) thought to changing their lifestyle to optimise fertility and the health of their future baby.
Preparing yourself for pregnancy means preparing the inner workings of your body to create a healthy baby, and a strong body and mind to optimise your pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum experience.
Studies show that the health and nutrition of both men and women during preconception not only impacts their pregnancy outcomes but the longer-term health of their baby. As a result, it is ideal to implement healthy lifestyle changes at least 3-4 months (even years) prior to trying to conceive.
It takes approximately 100 days for an egg to mature and be released by the ovary – before conception has even happened. It is in this time period that our health impacts the success of conception and the health of the foetus.
Both research and science support women AND men adopting a healthy lifestyle in preparation for babies.
What are some simple steps you would recommend to women to help prepare their bodies for a potential pregnancy?
I recommend women look at their life through a holistic lens, and start taking manageable action in each area of their life. The point is not to overwhelm you, but to leave you feeling educated and inspired to be the best version of yourself.
Some steps I recommend:
Nourish your temple. Our diet is such an integral component of our health and impacts all of our other bodily systems, including our hormones and fertility. Key principles of healthy eating include plenty of vegetables (especially dark leafy greens and seaweed), fruit, organic grass-fed hormone-free meats, bone broth, fish, good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, eggs), full fat and fermented dairy, legumes; and cutting out inflammatory foods http://www.thewholemother.com/top-7-inflammatory-foods-you-should-avoid/, such as packaged/processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, vegetable oils, fried food, and soy.
Studies show that dietary changes in the three years leading up to pregnancy have been associated with reduced risk of gestational diabetes, hypertensive disorders and preterm birth.
Supplementation. Good quality supplementation on top of a nutrient-rich diet can assist fertility. Speak to your Integrated Doctor or Nutritionist about starting a good quality supplement with folate, zinc and antioxidants.
See an Integrated Doctor. An Integrated Doctor who specialises in women’s health is an important practitioner to have in your support network. It is a good idea to have an individualized health check and run blood tests to check hormone levels, thyroid function and vitamin levels, as you may need other specific supplementation.
Having a holistic healthcare professional to support you through preconception, pregnancy and postpartum is essential. You could also see a nutritionist you trust.
Hydration. Drink two litres of filtered water per day, reduce coffee to one per day, cut out carbonated, sugary and energy drinks, and lower your consumption of alcohol.
Quit smoking. This may seem obvious to most, but it’s important to re-iterate that smoking has been linked to infertility and poor birth outcomes.
Exercise smarter, not harder. I recommend women exercise at low to moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Whilst there are no clear research recommendations on exercise during preconception, it has been found that high intensity exercise to exhaustion has been associated with infertility.
The type of exercise you do is also really important to maximise physical strength, fitness, core stability and emotional wellbeing in the lead up to pregnancy. I recommend women do a combination of:
Cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking, light jogging, swimming or gym class.
Strength training, such as light machine weights, dumbbells or resistance bands.
Core and strength training, such as Pilates, barre and yoga.
Pelvic floor exercises. These simple exercises have profound benefits for us women. For instance, they have been shown to prevent prolapse http://www.thewholemother.com/prolapse-all-your-questions-answered/ and bladder leakage. So starting your pelvic floor exercises before you fall pregnant makes complete sense! Learning how to relax your pelvic floor completely is also incredibly important to facilitate childbirth.
Manage stress. This is such a big one in today’s society. So much so, stress has been shown to be associated with infertility. This is because increased cortisol levels disrupt the production of progesterone. Now, this isn’t meant to stress you out more! But it does emphasis just how important it is to manage stress levels. I recommend having a self-care practise where you take time out for yourself. This could be for meditation, gentle exercise, having a massage, journaling, reading, having a bath or anything that helps to relax you. Health modalities such as acupuncture, kinesiology, reflexology and counselling are also great ways to help manage stress.
Meditation. Speaking of stress, meditation is an incredibly powerful way to calm your mind and reduce stress. Not only this, but meditation during pregnancy has positive effects on the health of your newborn.
All you need to do is find 5-20 minutes in your day (it is possible!) and over time you will reap the benefits. To find a meditation that works for you, a great free app with a variety of meditations is Insight Timer.
Sleep hygiene. Good quality sleep is the cornerstone of health and is the driving regulator of our hormones. Make sure you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, ideally from 10pm.
Daily sunshine. Our vitamin D levels drive our reproductive hormones. Try to get about 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day. Any more than this, and you should slip slop slap and slide!
Remove toxins. It’s really important to minimise your (and your partner’s) exposure to chemicals in your personal and home care products. Substitute any toxic products in the house with chemical-free, BPA-free products that exist on the market nowadays.
Don’t forget your partner’s health! Remember you are only half of the equation to making a healthy baby! Studies show that men need to adopt healthy lifestyle changes to improve the quality of their sperm and therefore increase fertility.
What is your favourite exercise or tip you would recommend during each phase?
Preparation: Move in ways that make you feel good! If you do exercise you love, it will become a habit (not a chore!), and therefore easier for you to maintain during pregnancy. I always recommend Pilates and Yoga as these are great exercises for both strength and core stability.
Postpartum: Strengthen your body from the inside out. Many women focus on what they want to change about their post-baby body rather than focussing on what will have the most benefit for recovery and body image in the long run – which is retraining core muscles (pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles) and posture. As you strengthen your core and improve your posture, you can safely progress to strengthening more superficial muscles and to other forms of exercise. See your Women’s Health Physio at 4-6 weeks postpartum for guidance on this. For more information, grab my FREE Postpartum Exercise Guide.
Connect with Anna:
Work with Anna:
Sevenways Health Centre (North Bondi):
Ph: (02) 9365 4059
Ph: 0419 828 948