Dr Wegner’s Blog January 2021
Being pregnant and becoming a mother is a very intense and life changing time for every woman. Often we are so busy looking after our baby that it is easy to forget looking after ourselves. And with many ante- and postnatal appointments reduced to telephone calls we can feel even less supported. Being on maternity leave at the moment I have been in the same position over the last few months. So I will try to cover some common topics you might have been wondering about.
Pelvic Floor during and after pregnancy
Your midwife might have mentioned it to you and we usually ask you about your pelvic floor at your six-week check. But with many other topics to cover it might easily get overlooked, especially if you haven’t heard of it before. However, being mindful of your pelvic floor is key to help your body recover and get fit again.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor sits in our pelvis and builds the bottom of our trunk holding up all of our organs and insides. Whilst the word ‘floor’ sounds rather solid, I picture it more like a fancy hammock – an arrangement of muscles and tendons perfectly fitted within our pelvis and still providing dedicated gaps for our urethra, bowels and, in women, the vagina. As they are very well hidden you might not have ever been aware of them.
Why is the pelvic floor important?
You can imagine that carrying a growing baby and pushing it out significantly strains and stretches the strands of these hammocks. As it looses tension, it can overstretch and cause your inner organs to sink deeper into the pelvis. In more advanced stages they can even poke outside its dedicated gaps such as your vagina. In medical terms we call this prolapse.
What are symptoms of a weak pelvic floor?
Our body changes so much during pregnancy and after delivery that it can be difficult to know which symptoms are normal and which you should highlight to your doctor.
Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor are:
- Leaking urine, especially when you jump, cough or sneeze
- Leaking stool
- Having a dragging or bulging feeling between your legs
- Experiencing pain in your pelvis
If you experience any of these symptoms at your 6-week check, please tell your GP.
What can you do?
The good new is that we can train our pelvic floor muscles just like our biceps or abs. This is also beneficial if you don’t have any symptoms, as it will help you prevent symptoms in the future. And besides, it’s even known to help you orgasm during sex. It’s never too late to start, even if your children are already long grown up and you find yourself struggling to make it to the toilet in time.
How to do the exercises?
If you have never done pelvic floor exercises before, you might need a bit of practice.
Imagine you want to close a zip from your back passage towards the front of your pelvis. It is the action of holding in a fart or stopping your wee (although you should not do that regularly). As with every muscle you train, the relaxation time is as important as the exercise itself.
These are links for further NHS guidance as well as the Squeezy App that helps you remember to do your exercises regularly.
I also find it useful to watch postnatal exercise videos on youtube and follow pelvic floor physiotherapists on Instagram.
What to do now?
Take a moment to find your pelvic floor by lying or sitting down and gently tighten and lift your pelvic floor muscles. Ideally practice this regularly during pregnancy and after delivery (you can start doing these exercises straight away).
If you struggle with this or do not notice any improvement after 6-8 weeks, feel free to contact us. We can provide further advice and have the option of referring you to a pelvic floor physiotherapist for further guidance.
Dr Dolphin's Blog August 2020
Many of my patients will have heard me say “I love exercise!”
It really doesn’t have to be sprints and a full-on workout, and you don’t need to don full lycra or buy lots of equipment either. My favourite ways of being active include:
- A walk outside in some fresh air.
(All photos taken locally during lockdown walks – Abbott's Pool, Blaise Castle and Ashton Court)
- Cycling with friends, commuting to work and on my home visits.
- A stretching session in my living room or on the balcony (I often use any YouTube Yoga for Beginners or Lower Body Stretches given that I cycle a lot during the week)!
No matter what type of physical activity I do, I always feel more energised afterwards and, most importantly, my mood is lifted as a result. It is widely acknowledged that exercise:
All of the above are just the benefits to mental health. The physical health benefits are summarised below:
Some patients worry about how safe it might be for them to exercise, for example, if pregnant, or if limited by a disability or chronic pain. Your GP can always offer advice on this but there is also a lot of information on the following websites:
If you’re looking for local exercise classes, take a look at The Greenway Centre who have recently reopened their doors (they’re also offering some classes online). The NHS Couch to 5k jogging and Active 10 walking apps are also handy tools to motivate you to move more.
With many of us entering uncertain times with the COVID-19 outbreak, taking care of our mental wellbeing has never been more needed. Physical activity ticks the box of being a quick and simple method to help us feel better and cope a little better with the stresses of everyday life. I am already looking forward to my cycle home after writing this! What are you looking forward to doing now?
Dr Steiner’s Blog July 2020
We know that the most important factor in all our health is the future of the planet. Global warming through excessive carbon pollution (known as carbon footprint) is our biggest threat, affecting the lives of many more people than COVID 19.
Southmead and Henbury Family Practice is on the Royal College of GPs Green Impact for Health scheme and these are the changes we've already made:
- Reducing the amount of paper we use by using emails, text messaging and electronic prescribing instead.
- Working more from home and holding internet-based meetings to reduce our carbon footprint.
- Choosing to walk or cycle to work.
- Installing more recycling bins.
- Reducing medication waste: the production and use of medication is responsible for the greatest negative NHS impact on the planet's health. We're helping patients to use their medications more effectively, and find other ways to support their health, such as Social Prescribing. This reduces waste and also the need to take medications.
- We are taking part in Plastic Free July (this link will open in a new window - popups must be allowed). Unfortunately a lot of our PPE and medical equipment comes in plastic packaging but we are making personal efforts, and encouraging our patients, to limit the amount of single-use plastics that we use.
What can I do to help?
Even the longest journey starts with a small step, and any changes you make can make a real difference.
Here are some ideas:
- Walk or cycle to your appointments, rather than driving: this will boost your health in many ways (and save you money too)!
- Eat a vegetarian meal at least once a week: meat production has a big carbon footprint.
- Make sure you know what medication you're taking and why: there may be more environmentally friendly treatment options available to you which you can discuss with your GP.
-Spend more time in Nature: we have some beautiful spaces near the practice, such as Baddocks Wood and Blaise Estate, and it has been shown that exercising in nature is more effective than the same time spent in a gym. It has a positive effect on mental and physical health, and the birdsong seems so much sweeter and louder since lockdown began!
- Look after your Space: even small outdoor spaces can be made very special by picking up litter, planting something which looks lovely, and smells or tastes good. Trees and plants reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.