A new campaign is aiming to empower and inform pregnant women to help them feel more in control of their experience. #IWishIKnew by MUTU System, a digital support programme for pre and postnatal care, asked new mums to share the advice they wish they’d been given, and the stories range from postnatal depression to urinary incontinence.
They also polled 3,349 pregnant women in the UK and USA looking into the level of postpartum preparation and awareness during pregnancy, and the impact this has on mental health. They found that 91% of women believe they were not given enough advice during pregnancy about how to prepare for post-birth recovery, with 92% admitting that they felt their midwife did not outline the importance of developing an approved recovery plan.
“#IWishIKnew is a clarion call to empower pregnant women to feel more in control of their experience, ensuring they are dealt all of the correct information and support to ensure they are fully equipped to navigate their postpartum recovery – which can be extremely daunting without the correct guidance,” said NHS Innovation Accelerator Wendy Powell said.
“We want to remove the feelings of regret for women, who quite simply lament the fact they ‘wish they had known’ what to expect with their recovery stages in hindsight.”
These are their empowering stories…
- Kay – “#IWishIKnew about painful postpartum sex that continued for months and months after birth, the causes and how I could better prepare to avoid it. My best advice would be to get used to engaging AND releasing your pelvic floor during pregnancy. A too-tight (hypertonic) pelvic floor is what can cause painful sex so learning to relax those muscles that were constantly switched on was a game-changer for me”.
- Nicki – “#IWishIKnew about Diastasis Recti. I had no idea what it was nor how common it is after birth. It came as a huge surprise postpartum and was actually quite worrying to not know what was happening to my body or why. Nobody told me anything about how to prevent it and recover post-baby. With hindsight, I would tell mums-to-be to not skip core exercises during pregnancy! Not the traditional ab crunching type but gentle, pregnancy safe core strengthening exercises. A lot of women are too worried to exercise during pregnancy because they are unaware whether it is safe.”
- Kate “#IWishIKnew about prolapse. I had no idea about pelvic organ prolapse until it happened to me post childbirth. Learning about prolapse and doing effective pelvic floor exercises can help lessen the chances of developing one, or increase your recovery time if you do. Just having a general understanding during pregnancy would have helped me to prepare for this better than I did.”
- Surinda – “#IWishIKnew about Incontinence. I knew about urine incontinence but I had absolutely no idea about faecal incontinence. My friends also reported similar issues but it just isn’t one of those things you talk about – when really it would help to do so, so that other mothers know this is a symptom of postpartum health. My best advice to pregnant women would be learn how to correctly contract and release your pelvic floor muscles and how to integrate that into your daily movements and exercise. It doesn’t really take long and you can do these exercises anywhere without the need for equipment. The sooner you start to apply it, the better”.
- Caroline- “#IWishIKnew about the realities of postpartum depression. In the lead up to my birth, the majority of time was spent preparing for my antenatal health, whether that be coping with the stresses or just general check-ups to ensure the safety of both myself and my unborn baby. I received wonderful support and the delivery of my baby was a beautiful moment without complications – but the real challenge for me started after this. I had no idea how I was going to feel mentally nor whether what I was feeling was natural. I was in denial about the way I was feeling and delayed seeking any form of help. I know now what I wish I had knew then – that there is support available and it is crucial. If you need support, reach out to your doctor or PANDAS for pre and postnatal mental health support”.
- Jessica – “#IWishIKnew about lower postpartum back pain. Nobody spoke about lower back pain that can last after pregnancy. My core was completely shot after birth. I wish someone had told me that doing core strengthening during my pregnancy would have benefitted my recovery greatly. The stronger you core, the less likely your back is going to be painful”.
- Jess – “#IWishIKnew more about my pelvic floor and the things that could put my weak pelvic floor at risk. I did too much in the first weeks postpartum and suffered the consequences. My biggest piece of advice for pregnant women would be to start from the foundations first in those early months postpartum. Instead of going for a high impact run, go for a gentle walk instead, instead of squatting down low to pick up something up, do a shallower squat. If you have to lift something heavy, make sure you engage your pelvic floor first. Above all, during pregnancy, really focus on daily core and pelvic floor exercises. Take it from someone who knows.. You will thank me later”.
- Sarah – “#IWishIKnew before I gave birth that I might not feel that immediate connection with my baby. There’s no right way to feel but nobody spoke about it beforehand. I would say for a while I felt really alone, until I started talking to my partner and close friend about it. My advice would be to talk to someone and know that it’s totally normal and okay to not have that instant connection with your baby”.
- Pippa – “#IWishIKnew how long recovery can take. I was really active during pregnancy and wasn’t prepared for how long my recovery would take. I had no idea that 6 weeks postpartum isn’t a realistic time to be feeling fully healed post-birth, as so many women seem to believe. Mums-to-be should ditch the societal pressures of ‘snapping back’ and connect with the right muscles during pregnancy so your healing can be quicker and more effective post-birth.