Leonie Lynch im­plores new mums to stop try­ing to be per­fect,

Pi­lates in­struc­tor Leonie Lynch be­lieves too much pres­sure is be­ing put on to­day’s mod­ern mam­mies

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - CONTENTS - Pa­trice Har­ring­ton Brian Gavin IN­TER­VIEW PHO­TO­GRAPH

Limerick Pi­lates in­struc­tor Leonie Lynch, 37, has a de­gree in fine art, a PhD in mar­ket­ing, myr­iad fit­ness qual­i­fi­ca­tions, a tod­dler, a new baby – and a cru­cial mes­sage for new mums. ‘ Try­ing to live up to a supermom ideal is a farce. The idea that you should have your pre-baby body back in six weeks is a farce. The quicker we end the farce of supermom and the farce of the six week re­cov­ery, the bet­ter.’

It is note­wor­thy that an over­achiever like Leonie - a marathon-run­ner who has also trained as a DJ and ra­dio pro­ducer - finds the pres­sure too much. Then again, car­ing for a new­born is a hor­monal roller­coaster of awe and anx­i­ety for any­one.

‘We have to be nicer to our­selves and stop putting our­selves un­der so much pres­sure. You need a more re­al­is­tic time­frame to build your body from the in­side out. It doesn’t take six weeks – it takes a year. In­stead of “get­ting” your body back, you need to “bring” it back. Oth­er­wise you risk in­jur­ing your­self.’

Leonie should know. After the birth of her first daugh­ter Beau three years ago, she was back teach­ing Pi­lates just six weeks later – even though she had en­dured a 30-hour, hyp­no­birthing labour, fol­lowed by an emer­gency Cae­sarean sec­tion.

‘I know, I’m mad,’ she sighs. ‘Have you heard of di­as­ta­sis recti? Ev­ery woman should know what it is. 65% of women will have it after their first preg­nancy but most peo­ple have never even heard of it.

‘ Tummy mus­cle sep­a­ra­tion is the lay term for it. Ba­si­cally, in be­tween your six-pack there is a line of con­nected tis­sue that stretches when you’re preg­nant and it can­not knit back to­gether after­wards if you do the wrong things.’

And, yes, even a new mum who is also a qual­i­fied Pi­lates in­struc­tor can do the wrong things. ‘I had the gap and it healed. But when I

➤ went back teach­ing it opened again. I was demon­strat­ing the plank and stomach crunches – all that makes di­as­ta­sis recti worse.

‘Most new moth­ers make the same mis­takes that I did. Num­ber one, they go back ex­er­cis­ing too soon and num­ber two, they end up do­ing the wrong things.’

Leonie high­lights the mis­con­cep­tion that new moth­ers should do stomach crunches, sit-ups and planks to tone up their mummy tum­mies.

‘For post­na­tal women they are the worst thing you can do. The pres­sure from in­side pushes through the gap and makes the gap worse.’

Both Leonie and her garda hus­band Rob Lynch, 38, have a keen in­ter­est in fit­ness – he has played bas­ket­ball for Ire­land.

But the pit­falls of par­tic­u­lar ex­er­cises post­birth took her by sur­prise and piqued an in­ter­est in safe and ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tives. Leonie be­gan train­ing with Jenny Bur­rell, one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing ed­u­ca­tors in fe­male well­ness, sign­ing up for her on­line course in post­na­tal ex­er­cise, nu­tri­tion and core re­store.

‘ The re­laxin hor­mone is in your body to al­low you to give birth – it re­laxes the mus­cles, joints and lig­a­ments. And if you end up breast­feed­ing that re­laxin hor­mone is still in your body and can make you hy­per­mo­bile.

‘So you have to be so care­ful what ex­er­cises you do,’ says Leonie, who will launch her own on­line cour­ses for moth­ers in April.

‘I get women com­ing up to me cry­ing, point­ing to their tum­mies, say­ing, “when can I get rid of this?” They have un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions. I re­mem­ber say­ing to a woman, it’s not six weeks – a more re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tion is a year, and she started bawl­ing. It seemed so far away – she just wanted a quick fix. Women go to classes that aren’t suit­able, try­ing to live up to this ex­pec­ta­tion that they should be back to their old size within weeks of giv­ing birth.’

The wash­board tum­mies of the rich and fa­mous ap­par­ently a nonosec­ond after push­ing out a baby is part of the prob­lem.

‘ That’s fine for a celebrity or fit­ness pro­fes­sional with all the re­sources. Their job is to get their body back. But for 99% of the pop­u­la­tion it’s added pres­sure they don’t need,’ Leonie com­plains. ‘It’s much, much health­ier to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on in your body and why you need to take some time. I made all the mis­takes and learned from them. My thy­roid went crazy after I had Beau. I had re­ally bad gut is­sues, I lost weight, I put on weight. I got gas­troen­teri­tis, pso­ri­a­sis. My hair fell out, which is an­other is­sue with the thy­roid. None of that does any­thing for your men­tal state. When you’re breast­feed­ing as well that takes so much out of you so nu­tri­tion and hy­dra­tion are so im­por­tant. Ev­ery­one has their own post­na­tal story.’

It doesn’t help that women are of­ten too em­bar­rassed to talk about some of the changes to their bod­ies in the days and weeks after giv­ing birth. ‘ There are big is­sues around in­con­ti­nence, pro­lapse, post­na­tal con­sti­pa­tion. But th­ese are all so taboo peo­ple don’t talk about them.

‘A girl came up to me and said she went back run­ning very soon after her sec­ond baby. Two years later she was still wee­ing her­self be­cause of it. There is no rea­son why she should have gone back run­ning so quickly. But at the six-week check up with the doc­tor they of­ten think you can do any­thing and you’re fine.’

She cau­tions new mums against train­ing with any­one who does not spe­cialise in post­na­tal care.

‘I love teach­ing the post­na­tal classes. The moms bring their ba­bies up to six months old and usu­ally they sleep through it. We do spe­cific ex­er­cises that are re­ally chal­leng­ing but they’re safe for women in C-sec­tion re­cov­ery or with pelvic floor is­sues. We just try to re­train the mus­cles. Moms are com­ing into class and they’re ab­so­lutely wrecked so you’re do­ing stuff that’s not

The idea that you should have your pre-baby body back in six weeks is a farce

go­ing to wreck them fur­ther. But ev­ery­one wants to feel like they’re well ca­pa­ble. It’s stage-spe­cific and we get them pant­ing.’

You imag­ine Leonie is a source of com­fort for moth­ers who were dis­ap­pointed with their birth ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘I’m a bit of a con­trol freak. I did the hyp­no­birthing, I had every­thing pre­pared for how I wanted the birth to be – but of course Beau had her own ideas. She was ten days over. When she ar­rived, I had a re­ally long labour and it ended up in an emer­gency sec­tion. After 30 hours I was 8cms di­lated. I was al­most there. I had done it and I wanted a nat­u­ral birth. Then they gave me an epidu­ral be­cause they thought that might help to move her along.

‘But when there was still no move­ment she had to come out the sun­roof as they say. I thought I would have been a lot more dis­ap­pointed than I was. But I had given it my best shot. I prob­a­bly would have been more dis­ap­pointed oth­er­wise. I was so tired, it was through the night. So I didn’t mind at that stage. I meet plenty of moth­ers who have bad ex­pe­ri­ences and who hold on to it for years after­wards.’

Now, seven weeks after the birth of her sec­ond daugh­ter Robyn, Leonie is do­ing things dif­fer­ently. Though she had hoped for a vagi­nal birth this time around, when that didn’t work out she made her peace again with hav­ing an­other Csec­tion. This time she is giv­ing her body plenty of time to re­cu­per­ate.

‘I need to com­pletely re­cover prop­erly this time. It’s only seven weeks in but I’ve done a few dif­fer­ent things. The main thing which is in­ter­est­ing is that I did pla­centa en­cap­su­la­tion. There’s a doula in Limerick called Pauline Gannon who is qual­i­fied in pla­centa en­cap­su­la­tion. I went to her for hyp­no­birthing classes too. Pla­centa en­cap­su­la­tion is where they take the pla­centa, dry it, put it into pow­der and then into cap­sules like the food sup­ple­ments you’d get in a health food shop. You can get any­thing from 150-300 cap­sules from the pla­centa,’ she says.

Though many women might baulk at the thought of swal­low­ing their own pla­centa pills, Leonie has a more prac­ti­cal ap­proach to this un­usual mod­ern prac­tice.

‘All an­i­mals eat their own pla­centa after child­birth be­cause of its nu­tri­tional value, mainly as a source of iron. This method of do­ing it for hu­mans has be­come re­ally pop­u­lar over the last few years. So I tried it this time.

‘My iron lev­els were re­ally low in the last trimester of preg­nancy and they were up to 13 shortly after the baby was born. I put this down to the cap­sules, or wake-up drops as I call them. You can take up to three a day but I take just one a day or I’m too hyper oth­er­wise.’

Leonie is nat­u­rally blessed with ex­tra­or­di­nary en­ergy and ad­mits that she ‘can’t sit down for two min­utes’. But she is still con­vinced that the pla­centa tablets have made her less tired than last time round.

‘I haven’t felt the need to nap dur­ing the day once. The C-sec­tion re­cov­ery went re­ally well. The only thing that hap­pened were a cou­ple of strange in­fec­tions be­cause I was run down. I got a lump un­der my armpit the size of a golf ball. But it was all hor­mones and it came and went away in a week. My sister gave me a man­i­cure one day and the nail got in­fected and blew up. Other than that, so far so good,’ she says, of her post-na­tal health.

‘I’m a lot more clued in this time around. Pro­tein is hugely im­por­tant for post-na­tal re­cov­ery. You know how some peo­ple when they come out of the gym have pro­tein shakes to re­pair the mus­cles? If you have a C-sec­tion, they are cut­ting through mus­cles, if you have a nat­u­ral birth you are tear­ing your pelvic floor. Child­birth is the big­gest work­out you’ve ever had so you have to re­plen­ish after­wards. Mums are too tired to think about it but you need to take pro­tein. You also need loads of fi­bre be­cause post­na­tal con­sti­pa­tion is a huge is­sue.’

Now Leonie is tak­ing time out from her phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing Pi­lates classes in Em­body Fit­ness Castletroy and the Delta Sports Dome.

In­stead she is study­ing for an en­tre­pre­neur course with En­ter­prise Ire­land and hopes to de­velop a food prod­uct for new moth­ers. She is also get­ting her on­line busi­ness off the ground, record­ing some short ex­er­cise videos for her web­site.

‘I read some­where that new mums only have 17 min­utes to them­selves ev­ery day. So the pro­grammes I’m do­ing will be 17 min­utes each and you can pick dif­fer­ent ex­er­cises for strength, flex­i­bil­ity and mo­bil­ity.

‘ There’s no point in ex­pect­ing any more time than that to ex­er­cise, es­pe­cially from home,’ she muses.

‘Ba­bies usu­ally nap for around 40 min­utes, enough time for mums to wait un­til they’re sure the baby is asleep, get changed, do the ex­er­cises – and still have a cup of tea.’

Leonie Lynch be­lieves women are do­ing more dam­age to their bod­ies by rush­ing post-na­tal re­cov­ery

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