Exercising with a New Baby
Jules Pattison, Midwife

I am frequently asked when visiting new Mums at home “how soon can I get out and walk baby in the stroller?” The answer to this requires some consideration of what has happened to you recently! The evidence shows that a new Mum needs to pay attention to her core strength before venturing out to pound the pavement.
Dynamic exercise is always associated with a healthy lifestyle and weight loss with the psychological benefit of being out in the fresh air. However some of the many cultures that I encounter in my work restrict a new Mum to staying indoors for the first month and often a parent comes to stay to help this happen. Others without this imposed restriction would buck at the idea. So what is the correct approach?
Rest and recovery is essential after childbirth but society in the past has not been evidence based in its approach to recovery after pregnancy. It is vital that women restore functional strength to sustain our long and busy lives.
Caroline Muller-Ward a physiotherapist at re:ab physiotherapy tells us why:
“Your ‘core’ is a group of muscles that form a cylinder shape. It consists of deep abdominals in the front and deep spinal muscles in the back. The pelvic floor muscles form the base and the diaphragm is the lid. This cylinder of muscles acts like a corset that works to support and protect your spine. Being pregnant and having a baby stretches and weakens the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, which can allow your spine to move around too much with your daily activities. It is so important to re-strengthen this central ‘core’ before taking up active dynamic exercise in order to prevent back strains and to improve your (urinary) continence.”
So what is best to do? Start a couple of days after the birth and make a commitment to do 15 minutes a day of core strengthening exercise.   When you start power walking (which is what you will do pushing the weight of a babe on wheels) you will then be protecting your body because you will have appropriate co-ordination to activate the core whilst moving your legs to walk and arms to push a stroller, and with practice you will have the strength to keep these muscles working throughout the walk. This will reduce your risk of back injuries and pain by supporting your spine in its correct position.
We are lucky in Auckland to have two groups who specialize in core repair and strengthening after childbirth.
Jill Wood and Vicki Holmes work at Auckland Birthcare and you will be invited to their physio class if you are staying at Birthcare in the first few days after baby arrives.
re:ab physiotherapy are situated in Grey Lynn an easy minute to the St Lukes motorway exit and offer excellent advice at their clinic. We recommend an appointment with them a week or two before your due date to set up a plan for afterwards.
So in response to that question - “how long before I can get out and walk baby in the stroller around the neighbourhood?” my answer will always be “wait up there and address the core issue first!”

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New Genetic Screening

Most couples seek reassurance that their baby is normal. Recently genetic screening for normality has become easier. A combination of maternal blood test at 10 weeks and an ultrasound scan at 12 weeks will exclude for most couples the common and serious abnormalities your baby could have.

A recent improvement has been the partial funding by the Ministry of Health of a program for Antenatal Screening for Down ’s syndrome and other conditions. This brings New Zealand in line with genetic screening programs that have been available overseas for some years.

The program involves a maternal blood test at 10-12 weeks and the usual ultrasound scan at 12-13 weeks of pregnancy.

This new program incorporates two hormone markers from the placenta with two ultrasound anatomical markers with each woman’s age to generate a risk estimate. This number for most couples provides reassurance of the low risk of these conditions or for some can be used to decide on more invasive testing such as a placenta biopsy at 13 weeks to check baby’s normality.

Conditions detected by this program include the chromosomal conditions which increase with the woman’s age such as Downs Syndrome and fetal heart abnormalities.

The main improvement, for couples who chose this program, is that the results, usually confirming normality of course, are all available by 14 weeks, which is a month earlier than they where in the past.

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