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In this episode, we talk with Gina and Roxanne, the sister duo behind MamasteFit about how fitness can keep you comfortable and pain-free during pregnancy and birth.
Gina Conley and Roxanne Albert are the sister duo of MamasteFit. Together they offer childbirth education, specializing in labor and pelvic biomechanics and pre and postnatal fitness programming. Located in Aberdeen, North Carolina, you can train with them in person or you learn from them all over the world with their Instagram account and online classes. Additionally, Gina, has her master’s in exercise science, runs the MamasteFit in-person perinatal fitness training facility and she discusses how she supports families as a birth doula. Roxanne, is a labor and delivery nurse, recently serving as a birth assistant in a freestanding birth center and tells us how being a student midwife influences her understanding of the body in birth.
Today, we talk with Gina and Roxanne about their own experiences being pregnant and how it inspired the creation of MamasteFit. They explain how an understanding of one’s body during pregnancy and birth can impact the birth experience. We talk about fitness and how movement and pelvic biomechanics can minimalize pregnancy-related discomfort and prepare your body for labor.
Resources and References

Resources:

Find MamasteFit on social media:

For more information about their courses and offerings, check out their website here

Listen to EBB Episodes:

EBB 256 – Top 3 Recommendations for Preventing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction after Birth with Dr. Sarah Duvall, Found of Core Exercise Solutions here

EBB 155 – Pelvic Floor Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum with Dr. Juan Michelle Martin here

EBB 196 – Pelvic Biomechanics and movement in Labor with Brittany Sharpe McCollum here 

EBB 224 – Failure to Progress or Failure to Wait with Ihotu Ali, Erin Wilson, and Rebecca Dekker here 

 

Transcript

Rebecca Dekker:

Hi, everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Gina and Roxanne, the sister duo behind MamasteFit, about the importance of health and fitness during pregnancy.

Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’m a nurse with my PhD. I’m the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.

Hi, everyone. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. Before we get started with today’s episode, if there are any content or trigger warnings, they’ll be detailed in the show notes for this episode. And now I’d like to introduce our honored guests. Gina Conley and Roxanne Albert are the sister duo of MamasteFit. Together they offer childbirth education, specializing in labor and pelvic biomechanics and pre and postnatal fitness programming. Gina, pronouns she, her, has her master’s in exercise science, runs the MamasteFit in-person perinatal fitness training facility in Aberdeen, North Carolina and supports families as a birth doula. Roxanne, pronouns, she, her, is a labor and delivery nurse, recently serving as a birth assistant in a freestanding birth center and is now a student midwife.

Gina and Roxanne are located in North Carolina, US where you can train and learn with them in person at their MamasteFit facility in Aberdeen, North Carolina, or you can join them from all over the world online with their MamasteFit Instagram account and their online classes. I’m so thrilled that both Gina and Roxanne are here to talk about their work. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast.

Gina Conley:

Thank you for having us.

Roxanne Albert:

We’re so excited to be here.

Rebecca Dekker:

So Gina and Roxanne, can you tell us each what inspired you both to go into birth work and when you introduce yourself, just let us know who’s speaking at first so that our guests can learn your voices.

Gina Conley:

So my name is Gina. I actually never imagined myself being in the birth world had 10 years ago when I was still in the Army. So I was active duty Army and transitioned off of active duty into the civilian sector after my daughter was born. So I essentially was leaving a full-time career to become a stay-at-home mom.

As I was navigating this early part of postpartum and motherhood and trying to figure out my new identity, I founded MamasteFit with the help of some friends and family. And we started our prenatal and postpartum training facility. And after about a year of training people in person, we started doing these birth prep workouts. And the birth prep workout was a 10 to 15 second cardio output, so something to get the heart rate up, get the respiration rate up, so essentially exercise-induced stress. And then we would spend one to two minutes relaxing in a labor position, trying different comfort techniques, using different relaxation techniques.

And so it was essentially practicing for birth. And so we’re using this little burst of exercise to create a simulated contraction essentially. And I would encourage the partners to come and do these workouts with them. And one of my prenatal clients, her husband was doing the massage technique and it just wasn’t the same as me. And so she pushed him off of her and was like, “Gina, I need you to be my doula.” And so we had our perinatal training facility and then we expanded to birth support about a year after starting the gym. And it makes total sense where we’ve come with MamasteFit, even from being in the Army and then moving into this, what felt like a really different environment.

It was still pretty similar because the biggest roles that I played in the Army were all about supporting women and supporting other people within this perinatal timeframe. And so it made sense that after I got out of the Army, I eventually just took on another role that was supporting women and folks within this phase of life. And it was just in a little bit different of a way. So it was pretty interesting to come into the birth world.

Rebecca Dekker:

Have you always been into fitness and exercise? And what gave you the idea to use exercise to simulate contractions for rehearsing labor?

Gina Conley:

So I’ve definitely always been into working out. Both Roxanne and I were collegiate runners in… Or I guess in college, that’s what collegiate means. But we ran in high school, we’ve always been really into sports throughout our lives. So I was definitely more into the fitness aspect. I had never taken a personal training program or really understood how to write programs until after I left the Army and got my bachelor in master’s in exercise science and took some personal training certification courses. But it was always something that made a lot of sense to me, and I was really passionate about was helping folks with their physical fitness. And so the prenatal workout or programming that we had established at first was definitely very much about keeping somebody in shape throughout their pregnancy to support their labor, ensuring that they were comfortable throughout their pregnancies. And it was definitely a lot of movements that were, quote, unquote, “safe for pregnancy”.

And a few months after training clients, I realized that our prenatal programs needed to be more than just safe prenatal exercises and strength training throughout pregnancy and needed to be something that was also going to prepare somebody for their birth. And our programs now have really expanded on that a whole lot more. I mean, after doing it for five or six years, you learned some things, but I wanted to incorporate something that was going to help my clients actually prepare for their labors. And so that’s where we came up with this birth prep workout.

And so I wanted something that was going to help them practice labor positions and comfort techniques. And the way that we figured out doing it was to have this quick burst of exercise to get them tired and create this exercise and do stress to where they can then focus on relaxing and figuring out what positions they felt most comfortable in, which positions they felt like they can relax more easily into which comfort techniques they really liked. So it was a rehearsal essentially before their labor. And we got a lot of really good feedback from our clients that it was really helpful for them because they knew what positions felt best for them, their partners knew what comfort techniques to do in different types of positions. And so it just ended up making a lot of sense.

Rebecca Dekker:

Almost creating a bit of brain or muscle memory so that when you go into labor you can quickly relax in between contractions and get the most rest possible.

Gina Conley:

Absolutely.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. And Roxanne, tell us your story. How did you get into birth work?

Roxanne Albert:

So it was during nursing school, I think I was just mostly interested in the maternal health portion of the curriculum. I thought that I was in college in nursing school intending to go into the Army. So I was like, “Oh, you’re going to be an Army nurse.” That’s everyone thinks of trauma nursing or intensive care nursing. So I was dead set like, “Oh, I’ll just be an ICU nurse.” But I always had this, I feel like calling towards maternal health, I guess, in a way, that was always something that intrigued me. So in nursing school, I did my capstone at the end. The last semester you do three to six months of just working on a unit. So I was like, I’ll just do an ICU because maybe I’ll just do it and I’ll absolutely hate it. And it was interesting, it was definitely using my brain in a different way, but I was like, this is not something that I feel pulled to because I had done… The Army sends you to a similar thing like a capstone for a month during the summer between your junior and senior year.

And so I did labor and delivery for that portion so I could try both of them. I was so excited to go to clinicals every day and it just really excited me to be able to support people during labor and birth. And it’s an exciting time, 99% of the time in birth working when you go to work, it’s like people are meeting their babies and changing their families, so I liked that aspect as well. And then just after I got out, we started in postpartum, which I loved postpartum because it was all about the education, but I still just had this calling to go to labor and delivery and go to the birth side. And then I loved being at the freestanding birth center because that was a completely different experience there. So now I’m just super obsessed with just birth in hospital and out of hospital and making it as similar as possible. That makes sense.

Rebecca Dekker:

Mm-hmm. And did you two have your own birth stories? And if so, how did they intertwine?

Gina Conley:

So this is Gina. For me, I’ve had three births now. My first one was a hospital birth. I was induced. I got Pitocin at some point to augment my labor and then I had an epidural. But ultimately, the thing that really affected that birth for me was not feeling very supported by the midwife that I had and the nurse that I had. And it definitely affected how we created MamasteFit and was using MamasteFit at the beginning to help heal myself, to help other people have better birth experiences, to have better pregnancies. Then my two following births were both home births and they were completely different experiences. Not that being at home was necessarily the better aspect, but the provider that I chose to support my two subsequent births just was so much more what I needed.

And I felt heard, I felt respected throughout my experience. I felt like everyone there truly believed in me and my ability to have the type of birth that I was wanting. And then I also trusted them that if I did need any sort of intervention, that they were doing it with my best interest in mind as opposed to they were annoyed with me or I was being inconvenient for them. And so for me, my first birth, I felt really unsupported. And then my next two I felt so much more supported, and it was also Roxanne’s introduction to supporting birth that was with a family member. So all of her previous births had been with patients and so my birth was her first one as with this emotional connection to somebody. And so we both started to realize that there was a lot more to birth than just this is what a contraction is, this is a comfort technique to do. There’s so many more aspects to it that were really important to help educate other folks on and help them prepare for their own births.

Rebecca Dekker:

So Roxanne, what was it like to be at Gina’s birth? Were you at home birth or the hospital birth? When were you supporting her?

Roxanne Albert:

So I was at all three of her births. The first one was at the hospital. I had just moved from Tennessee to North Carolina. We were really excited that Gina was still pregnant when I got there, but I was like, it was so weird being not the nurse, if that makes sense, being on the supportive side because I felt so confused the entire time about what was happening. But she also had hired a doula, so I’m like, well, I don’t want to step on any toes. So I’m like, this must be what it feels like to be family members when people do not explain anything that is happening. And then also it’s really hard to support family during labor when they are yelling at you or things aren’t going right because you just want everything to go perfectly for them, especially as a nurse, I just wanted her to have this amazing birth, but I had zero idea how to do that, if that makes sense.

I had been a labor nurse for two and a half years at this point. So not super experienced, still early on in my labor experience. But I mean, I’ve been at a ton of births at this point, so I felt like I was going to walk in there and know exactly what to do. But it was a different hospital. I didn’t know how they run things. I didn’t know any of the nurses, or the doctors, or midwives or anything. So it was very weird walking into her labor because she went to the hospital against my advice. And it’s really hard when it’s your older sister. I think it’s different when Gina supported me because she’s my older sister. I’ll listen to anything she says regardless if I don’t really want to do it. But as the younger sister, it’s a different dynamic too.

So I’m telling Gina like, “Hey, your contraction started one hour ago, you probably don’t need to go to the hospital.” And she’s like, “Nope, I’m going.” And I’m, “I think based on the way that you’re talking to me on this phone, you probably should stay home.” But it’s hard to be like, “No, you need to stay home.” I’m going to come over and we’re just going to nap together, which probably in hindsight might have been the thing that she needed. She didn’t need her younger sister, she just needed more like, “Hey, this is what benefits you because you’re still in early labor, early, early labor.” So it was just a weird dynamic.

And then I’ve also doulaed for another close friend, and it’s still weird to me to be a labor support instead of the medical person. I always will like revert because that’s my muscle memory in a way to look at the monitor to make sure baby’s doing well and looking at all of the other medical things that we look at with birth, but also remembering to look at the birthing person because they’re really the best key of what’s going on. And I didn’t know that with Gina’s birth, so that was just really weird to be a part of. But I feel like I’ve improved hopefully a lot as a labor nurse since then, especially with my birth. Gina was able to support me, and we learned we have very similar labors, and so we learned what we need to do for our bodies after both of our first births. I wish I could do home births.

Rebecca Dekker:

I was going to say, when you went to Gina’s home births, how did that compare to the first time?

Roxanne Albert:

Oh, it was incredibly different. I mean, she was way more relaxed, and we all understood what was happening because the midwife would give us updates of something like, “Oh, this is what Gina’s doing right now.” So it wasn’t just like Gina knew exactly what was happening in her body. She understood birth a lot more, but also we felt up to date and aware of what was happening more. Whereas with her first, we literally got to the hospital thinking Gina was in labor because that’s what the midwife had told them that they were being admitted because she’s in labor, but it was not really the case at all. So we were just very confused. Whereas at her home birth, it was a very calm environment, and everyone was really happy and excited to be there. But also, what’s the word I’m looking for? Everyone was on the same page of what was happening, if that makes sense.

Rebecca Dekker:

And what about your own birth experiences then when you had babies?

Roxanne Albert:

So my husband is not for home birth. He’s like just, “We should just go to a hospital.” And I’m totally for that too because I feel like being a labor nurse, I understand that things can happen out of nowhere and I think that that just freaks me out a little bit. So I would just never go into labor I feel like because of the stress of the what ifs. I would love to not have to drive to the hospital, but I got over that fear.

So we did do hospital births with her my first, but I was also active duty. So it’s near impossible to not deliver at the hospital. You have to get a ton of waivers. And I worked there so it wasn’t that bad. I had my one midwife who I’ve worked with for the past three years, she was my midwife. She came in for the birth during her lunch hour because I just happened to deliver at lunch, which was really convenient for her. So I had one of my friends who was my nurse, and then I had my midwife who I had saw my whole pregnancy come up for the birth.

So it was just the perfect situation, and I felt supported my entire pregnancy because everyone knew I wanted to go unmedicated. I wanted to try to not have any interventions if possible. And everyone was like, “Yeah. Whatever you want, and we’ll do whatever you want, Roxanne, whenever you come in. If you want to pick your nurse when you get here, go for it.” But they were super full when I got there, so I didn’t necessarily have to choose, which honestly would’ve stressed me out a little bit. But the hospital, I felt super supportive because I think that I worked there so I knew everybody and then everyone was super supportive of me. And then I knew I had Gina on my side, my mom came to my birth. So my hospital experience was a lot different than Gina’s because I think that I had this really supportive team.

And then for my second birth, we had just moved to California in the middle of my pregnancy. In California, freestanding birth centers I feel like are a lot easier to find. And there just happened to be one five minutes down the road from the house that we were moving into. So of course, I was like, I’ve always wanted to deliver at a freestanding birth center. This was the dream because it was the perfect medium, I feel like between home birth and hospital birth where it still feels like home and the room felt like just the nicest little Airbnb, but they still had resuscitative measures. They had the warmer, they could do PPV and CPAP and they had medicines if I needed it. So that just made me feel more reassured and it was the most amazing experience at the birth center.

Again, I knew that they believed in my ability to birth and go into labor naturally. And they didn’t push anything on me that I didn’t want to do. Honestly, I didn’t even get a vaginal exam when I arrived. They just believed that I knew that I was in active labor, which was really cool. And that I birthed in the tub, which unfortunately I can’t. I am pregnant again with baby number three and we are going to a hospital this time and they don’t do water births, which I am sad about. But the waterbirth experience was just super cool to experience in general.

So we have different birth experiences where we delivered, were different. So Gina was at home in a hospital and I was at home in a birth center. But I feel like the basis of the birth after Gina’s first was like we felt very supported and that people believed in our abilities and our bodies, and if we had an opinion on anything, everyone was very supportive of our opinions.

Rebecca Dekker:

And so it sounds like, in addition to all your education, you had a lot of really valuable life experiences with your own pregnancies and birth experiences and sharing those as sisters and family members. And how does that play into what you do at MamasteFit? Can you tell us about the different ways you’re supporting both pregnant families and professionals?

Gina Conley:

So we definitely offer a lot with our Instagram page and our blog because we want to make sure that the education and our expertise is accessible to all, regardless of whether somebody ever buys one of our courses. We have plenty of people that’ll DM us and be like, “I never bought anything from you, but I religiously followed your page, and I had an amazing birth.” And that by itself made it all worth it to us.

But we also do have a lot of online in-person offerings as well. So we have our in-person training facility here in Aberdeen, North Carolina. We exclusively train prenatal and postpartum fitness clients. And then we also offer childbirth education in person and then birth support. After COVID happened, our gym was shut down for several months and so it gave us this great opportunity to make tons of online courses. So now we have online childbirth education courses that we also offer virtually via Zoom for folks that don’t have an in-person option in their area, or they just feel really passionate about learning from us.

And so our courses are really focused on teaching the science of birth because we want you to understand what is actually happening because it makes birth so much less mysterious. I tend to find that we’re afraid of things that we don’t understand. And so helping our clients and our students actually know why they’re having contraction, what is happening when they move their body in a specific way makes it a lot less mysterious for them and helps them feel a lot more confident and empowered during their births. And so our coach, our childbirth education course is really focused on helping you understand pelvic mechanics, how the pelvis actually opens, what kind of movements will do that. And then teaching the science behind laboring positions and pushing and helping you understand what all of your birth options are in a fairly unbiased way. Obviously, we all have some bias, but we want people to understand that you can pick anything to support your birth and it doesn’t matter to us as long as it was the best decision for you and your family.

It doesn’t have to be the same that I would choose for myself personally because what I would choose personally is not the best for everybody. And you can see just between Roxanne and I, I chose to gave birth at home, but giving birth at home is not the best option for her. It’s not the best for her mental sanity during her labor. And so it’s okay to pick different things than us and we want folks to know what all of their options are and the risks and benefits as best we can of those options. And then how to talk to your provider about these different interventions and options that are available to you so you understand what your provider’s recommendations are, why is this your provider’s recommendation? What other options do you have? Because it’s more important for folks to be able to make their own decision without being afraid.

And so that was something that really affected me from my first pregnancy and first birth was I took a childbirth education course, and it helped me understand that I had options that I didn’t even realize that I did, but it did it in a way that was really biased towards the don’t take any medicine, don’t go to the hospital end of the spectrum. And it made me really afraid of intervention. And so when my provider started offering interventions to me, I didn’t know how to ask questions, I didn’t understand how to have the informed conversation on my care, and I was ultimately really afraid of the intervention and didn’t understand that there could be benefits to it. In that situation, did I still need it? Probably not. But had I been more informed on both the risk and benefits and what situations it could be helpful in, it’s not an all or none, I would’ve been a lot calmer going into that birth. And it might have completely changed the experience for me as well.

So for us, it’s really important in our childbirth education course that folks understand what all their options are as best as we can explain them, understanding the risks and benefits, and then knowing how to ask questions to make the best decision for them regardless of what anyone else is doing. And we try to share that on our Instagram page as well, all sorts of different types of births. And then we also offer prenatal and postpartum fitness programs both in person or gym in Aberdeen and then online for folks that either can’t come to our gym or don’t live near us. In our programs, we have an app-based program where it’s a list of exercise with demo videos and we also just have a mini program as well, which is 15 to 20 minute workouts. Our longer program is like 45 to 75 and it’s definitely designed for the athlete in mind.

So I wrote the programs thinking about somebody like me who likes to work out. And so creating a program for the type of person that I am that likes to go to the gym and has an hour to work out was really important because a lot of the prenatal programs that I was finding during my first pregnancy were lacking in the challenge. It was a lot of breathing and yoga, gentle movement, which is important and something that we’ve incorporated into our programming as well. But it also has the squats, and the deadlifts, and the hip thrusts, and the lifting of the weights and doing it in a way that’s helpful for you throughout your pregnancy. And then we also have our full-length workout videos that you can follow and work out at the same time because we began to realize that everyone is not like me and they would like to work out in different types of ways.

So we have our short program for folks that don’t have that much time or longer program for folks who have a lot of time and really like to be in the gym. And then we have our video program for folks to follow throughout their pregnancy. And all of them have the same type of programming style where it’s going to support your comfort throughout your pregnancy, keep you strong throughout your pregnancy because both of those are really important. It’s not all about birth. We also want to spend our nine to 10 months pregnant comfortable and pain free. And then we’re also incorporating movements within our programmings to support you relaxing and connecting with your pelvic floor, helping you find internal rotations so you can open each pelvic level because things that contribute towards labor stalls could be your inability to open your pelvis because of common movement tendencies and postural habits that we have during pregnancy and due to our current modern lifestyle.

So we’re incorporating all that stuff within our program to keep you comfortable there at pregnancy, keep you pain free, keep you strong, and then also help you prepare for birth. And then we also offer our postpartum programs as well in a similar format. We have the short programs, the longer ones, and then the on demand too. For the professionals, we do have online courses, but our dark focus is definitely the expected family.

Rebecca Dekker:

And I saw on your website, I love how the videos change depending on where you are in your pregnancy, they can sync up with which week you are.

Gina Conley:

So our app-based program syncs to your current week of pregnancy. And so the modifications begin to adjust as we shift through the first, the second, and the third trimester. And there’s a little bit of leeway within it as well because even between my own pregnancies, I found that I needed certain modifications at different points. And so it’s like between these four weeks you might want to do this modification, or it is like the whole trimester, these are the general modifications that we find, but then there’s options for each of them. Because we train in-person clients, I’m able to see how other people navigate their pregnancies and the modifications that they need to take beyond my own body, because my body is just the one and there’s so many different types of bodies out there and so many different types of experiences.

So knowing all sorts of different ways to modify, knowing when the majority of people begin to need a certain modification has really allowed us to create this really in-depth program. For the on-demand videos, it’s per trimester because again, each trimester has general modifications required and certain things that we need. And so we’ve created these programs based on where you are within your pregnancy and then for postpartum, what type of sport you’re trying to get back to. Because there’s so many of us that have so many different needs, and so we’ve tried our best to create all the programs to support all sorts of different types of folks throughout the phase of life.

Rebecca Dekker:

And Gina and Roxanne, I’m really excited to pick your brain with this next question because I know research shows that exercise in general improves childbirth outcomes. And we don’t know exactly why, I don’t think research has really teased out exactly why, but could you give us your top three tips or ways you could use exercise in pregnancy to either prepare for birth or to prevent pelvic floor issues?

Gina Conley:

So for why exercise seems to help with labor, the biggest thing that I think is because you can maintain an upright position longer, it applies baby head to your cervix more, which helps with that feedback loop of the labor hormones. So that’s why I think exercise helps with labor specifically. And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff to it as well. But the top three things that I would say for using exercise in pregnancy to prepare for birth and prevent pelvic floor issues to be one, ensuring that your prenatal workouts include all sorts of different type of movements that open each level of the pelvis. And so this is going to include external rotation with both legs. So like squat tight movements where the knees are moving outwards, internal rotation with both legs and then also asymmetrical movements. So we need the hips to be moving in all sorts of different ways in order to create space in the different pelvic levels.

And then we also have to include thoracic mobility and rotation because the way that our ribcage is set up can also influence how we can open our pelvis. So you can be doing all of the hip movements, but if you’re thoracic spine is an extension, it’s going to really limit your ability to find that good internal rotation without compensation, which is what is going to open the bottom half of the pelvis. So within our prenatal program, we incorporate all that stuff for you in case anyone’s super overwhelmed and they don’t know what to do. We’ve got you.

The next thing in regards to pelvic floor preparation is we want to ensure that we can both lengthen and contract the pelvic floor. So Kegels are pelvic floor activation or contraction or shortening of the pelvic floor, but we need to be able to do so much more than just tighten our pelvic floor. And most importantly, the pelvic floor does not push your baby out. Because that’s sometimes while I’ll see folks say, “Do all the Kegels is to have a really strong pelvic floor so that you can push your baby out.” And then when I’m like, “Well, your uterus pushes your baby out, not your pelvic floor.” They’re like, “Oh no, I mean it makes your pelvic floor really strong so you can heal better postpartum.”

And so it’s important to understand that strength is not defined by a single range or a single point in the range of motion. So being super tight is actually a state of weakness. So being on either end range of motion is the state of weakness, just like being too long would be a state of weakness. And so we need the pelvic floor to be able to move through its full range of motion, which includes the contraction, the relaxation, and then also the lengthening or the stretching of it.

And so within our programmings what we do is we start all the workouts with breathing drills. And this allows you to learn how to move your pelvic floor as your pregnancy is progressing because it’s going to feel different. So first trimester pelvic floor movement is going to feel really different to third trimester pelvic floor movement where there’s so much more loading and just stuff going on with our pelvic floors at that point. So we want to learn how to move the pelvic floor. We can do that with breath, so inhales to move the pelvic floor down to feel it stretch and then exhales can be relaxation or exhales can be lift up, and then depending on the demand.

When we’re doing pelvic floor relaxation movements, we also want to do it in different hip positions because different hip positions are going to influence different pelvic positions. And the pelvic floor attaches to the pelvis. And so we need to do more than just deep squats and butterfly poses when we’re doing these pelvic four relaxation exercises. We also need internal rotation with the knees and ankles out. We also need asymmetrical type movement because the pelvic four has asymmetry, and so there’s different quadrants within the pelvic floor that are tighter than others. It’s not just front half back half. It’s also like left back half that tends to be a little bit tighter.

 So really what we should be doing to help prepare our pelvic floor is focusing a little bit more on the internal rotation side to release that back half of the pelvic floor, which tends to be tighter for a lot of us, not just deep squats and butterfly poses for pelvic floor relaxation. We also need heroes pose, or our knees and ankles out pose, or a 90/90 position breathing drilling. And if anyone follows our Instagram, we’ve already posted all of these example exercises as well. If you’re like, “I have no idea what that means.” Then we also have tons of blogs that have… If you just type in pelvic floor relaxation, you’ll see a bunch of different movements that are more than just external rotation.

And then the last thing I would say for your prenatal workouts is supporting your prenatal comfort. So pelvic floor pain is not mandatory during pregnancy, nor is low back pain. Being in pain is not a requirement of pregnancy. I know during my first pregnancy I had some SI joint pain and I brought it up to my provider, and they said, “Hey, when you give birth that’ll go away.” And that was the only solution I was given. And this was even something that Roxanne believed before. I was like, actually no, there’s a whole lot of research out there that support. So there’s things that we can do. And so ensuring that your prenatal programming includes things are going to help support your comfort is also really important.

So for us, we found that pelvis and pelvic asymmetry. So the fact that your pelvis sits a little asymmetrical can really influence your pelvic girdle function in addition to the mild fascial slings, which are these muscular slings that cross like your body. So you’ve got an X on the front, an X on the back, and they both cross right around those pelvic joints and they help support those pelvic joints during movement. And so during pregnancy we have a little bit more laxity and there’s a little bit more movement happening within the joints. And again, it’s pretty minimal movement. It’s not like your shoulder joint in your SI joint all of a sudden. It’s very minimal movement, but it’s more than usual. And if the muscular sling that supports that joint that’s supposed to help it close on itself during movement is not coordinated with itself or maybe there’s weakness along it, there’s going to be too much movement that is happening, which can cause that pain.

And so we found by focusing on how we’re one setting up our pelvic position and then ensuring that the muscles that support that pelvic joint are coordinated has really helped lots of folks feel so much more comfortable throughout their pregnancies and can really influence so much more. Because if you’re having tons of pelvic floor pain, lots of labor positions are going to be pretty painful too. And so it’s not only going to support being comfortable during pregnancy, but also support how you’re going to navigate your birth. So top three things that I would say to ensure in your prenatal programs to support your birth is one, make sure that you’re moving in lots of different ways and that you’re doing more than just lots of squats.

We need not only external rotation or those squat type movements, we also need internal rotation, and we need asymmetrical type movements, particularly the movements that are focusing on internal rotation because through our pregnancy and even during life, everything is very external and extended. So we’re in this very open position, but we really need to be finding ways to open the lower half of the pelvis, which are some things that can really contribute towards labor stalls as well. When we’re preparing our pelvic floor, ensuring that we can both lengthen and shorten it, but lengthen and relax are probably the most important when it comes to birth. And a lot of us tend to live in a very shortened state. So focusing on moving your pelvic floor can be really helpful.

If you’re feeling unsure on how to even do that or if you’re doing it correctly, you can also see a pelvic floor physical therapist throughout your pregnancy and they can let you know like, “Yes. When you feel this, this means your pelvic floor is lengthening. So they can help you with that mind body connection as things are feeling really different throughout your pregnancy.” And then the last thing again is going to be ensuring that you’re comfortable throughout your pregnancy. You don’t have to be in pain. And if you’re being told that these pains go away after you give birth, then you need to find somebody else to support you because you do not need to be in pain throughout your pregnancy.

Rebecca Dekker:

And I love how your YouTube channel, which you also have in addition to Instagram, has a lot of shorts and a lot of videos like demonstrating a lot of these different strategies like the asymmetrical movement, different hip movements, thoracic spine movements, pelvic floor. And I saw you even have a video on SPD pain for where people have pain near the pubic bone. And I think what you’re saying is spot on because my personal experience as well in the medical system is when you complain of different pain, whether it’s hip, or back, or pelvic, or pubic bone, a lot of times the response you get from your OB-GYN is just like, “Well, that’s just what pregnancy does to you.” But what you’re saying is there’s actually exercises we can do to help relieve pain.

Gina Conley:

Absolutely. You do not need to be in pain during your pregnancy. There’s a lot that we can do to help be comfortable throughout our pregnancies.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah. So tell me a little bit, you’ve mentioned using Instagram. What have been the most successful or your most popular videos? How are people finding you and what are they finding most useful on your social media channels?

Gina Conley:

So on our Instagram, we think about the questions that we get a lot from folks and then also introducing important topics that are maybe not well talked about. So the video that helps us go viral, we got 100 likes on it, we were super excited. And back in 2019 was I put the white dots on my sitz bones and then I showed how internal rotation visually opens the bottom of the pelvis. And so we do a lot of visuals like that because it really helps folks see and understand like, “Oh, this is how my pelvis moves when I do this movement.” And so we have lots of props. I’m a real big visual learner. I’m also a real kinetic learner where I learn by doing things. And so we’re trying to show things to people so that they can go try it in their own bodies and feel it for themselves.

So those videos tend to be probably our most popular, these are exercises to do, kind of quick tips of things you could action right now. And then we’ll link you to a blog that has way more in-depth information on why this is really helpful. Because it’s important to not only understand what to do, but also why we’re doing it because then you can apply it to other things in your life too as opposed to always needing to come to us for what to do. It empowers you to know how to apply it yourself without constantly having to go to somebody else to ask for the answers. And I think that probably contributes to more confidence as we navigate parenthood motherhood because we’re always looking for other people to give us the answers. But when we understand why those are the answers, we can then create our own. Hopefully that makes sense.

And Instagram has been super cool with being able to connect with so many people too in a really similar phase of life to us personally. So I had a ton of people that were due around the same time as me last year for my pregnancy and my birth. And so it created this little community and we had folks that were messaging us throughout their pregnancies and we created these little relationships with people. And then you get to connect with so many other professionals that are in the same field as you and learn from each other, which has been really cool.

And then as professionals able to share our information and our knowledge to so many people so quickly is also super cool because I don’t have to keep all these great ideas to myself or only be able to support the folks in my local community or my in-person clients. I can share this information with people in other countries and then they can go and have more comfortable pregnancies, feel more confident as they navigate their pregnancies and their birth and then feel stronger as they navigate postpartum. So social media has been really cool for us.

Rebecca Dekker:

And Roxanne, you mentioned you are pregnant right now. So do you feel you’re living this in addition to teaching it? What’s been most helpful for you with this particular pregnancy in terms of exercise?

Roxanne Albert:

In terms of exercise, I always get really bad SPD pain at some point during my pregnancy, but my first one, it was terrible because I was working, I didn’t have the time to really work out as much. And then Gina was also tweaking the program still to develop the pelvic stability program. So it’s cool to be able to compare each subsequent pregnancy that I’ve had to that one because that one, it was 20 weeks, I was debilitating pelvic pain. I had to wear braces or walk around with a ball to just help the pain go away. And then with my second pregnancy, now this pregnancy, I’m really more proactive to be able to strengthen the things that I do have imbalances. And then I think it’s also important to know we do share like, “Hey, we do have pelvic pain too.”

Gina and Roxanne also had some pelvic pain during pregnancy. It is common, but it doesn’t have to be normal, and you can do things to prevent it from getting bad. And I think that with these two past pregnancies, to include this one, I even start feeling it a little bit and I’ll just do some pelvic stability work really quickly that day and I’ll feel better. So it’s really cool to be able to apply all of the knowledge that Gina has about that pelvis and being able to treat that pelvic pain in a way that’s more, I guess, experience and hands-on knowledge versus just being reading it from a textbook to be like, “Yeah, this is what this book tells me to do.” Just being able to actually do it.

Gina Conley:

It’s definitely been a really cool part of my pregnancies as well is my first one, MamasteFit was not created. I just was making it up as I went. And then for my second pregnancy, I had more knowledge, more understanding of pelvic stability exercises to do, more understanding of how the pelvis moved and incorporating those movements.

And then during my labor, it was really cool to understand what was happening because it was my first labor after creating MamasteFit and gaining all of this new knowledge about birth and on prenatal fitness so I could feel different things and different sensations in my body and I could feel myself moving in specific ways to intuitively create that space, which was something that I observed with my doula clients towards the beginning was someone would move in this one particular way that was including all of the movement patterns of opening the top of the pelvis and they would get a cervical exam and baby station or how high a low baby was within the pelvis matched their movement pattern.

And it was a really cool observation for me that to that really connected a lot of the dots. And so in my own labor I finally got to experience it for myself where I was like, “Oh, I’m really swaying side to side because my baby’s engaged, my baby’s rotating and I could feel myself moving in a specific way.” And then for this last pregnancy with even more knowledge and understanding, incorporating even more of that internal rotation work to open the lower half of the pelvis, that I think really made a big difference in my third birth as well. And I just feel more and more connected with my experiences, the more and more that I learn and it’s cool to experience it for myself and then be able to share a deep your understanding of it to others.

Rebecca Dekker:

Yeah, there’s something about that experiencing it physically while you’ve been developing. That’s so cool that you’re able to incorporate that into your program. And you mentioned connecting with your pelvic floor. We do have a podcast from February, 2023, episode 256 with Sarah Duvall all about just finding that connection with your pelvic floor. So I want to encourage our listeners to check that out. But in terms of your projects, do you have anything coming up you want to share with our listeners or how can people follow you and support your work?

Gina Conley:

So for us, the next projects that we have is creating postpartum support courses. So we’re definitely really heavy on the prenatal on the birth side, and we are a little bit more lacking in the postpartum aspect of things. We have all our postpartum fitness programs, which seems to be where we start with everything with the fitness. So we’re creating some postpartum preparation courses, some newborn courses so that our folks can have that full spectrum support throughout their pregnancies, their birth, and into that postpartum period.

Rebecca Dekker:

That’s awesome. And you are on Instagram at MamasteFit and your website is mamastefit.com spelled M-A-M-A-S-T-E. Are there any other ways people can follow you?

Gina Conley:

So yeah, Instagram, we do have a Facebook page. We have a YouTube channel, and then our website as well. So those are all the ways that people connect with us. There are ways to email us. We answer all of our DMs, so happy to connect with folks through our DMs as well.

Rebecca Dekker:

That’s awesome.

Roxanne Albert:

We love hearing stories and just feedback from all of our followers or answering any questions that they have via DMs or emails. That’s one of the things that brings us joy.

Rebecca Dekker:

That’s awesome. Well, Gina and Roxanne, it’s so nice meeting two sisters who are doing this work together and making such an impact on pregnant people around the world. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing this info with our listeners.

Gina Conley:

Thank you so much for having us. We’re definitely really excited.

Roxanne Albert:

We love Evidence Based Birth®. We share it with everyone too.

Rebecca Dekker:

All right, everyone, thank you so much for joining us today as we listen to Gina and Roxanne of MamasteFit talk about the importance of exercise during pregnancy and share some of their best tips. And I hope you enjoyed their sister story and birth stories as much as I did. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next week. Bye.

Today’s podcast episode was brought to you by the online workshops for birth professionals taught by Evidence Based Birth® instructors. We have an amazing group of EBB instructors from around the world who can provide you with live, interactive continuing education workshops that are fully online. We designed Savvy Birth Pro Workshops to help birth professionals who are feeling stressed by the limitations of the healthcare system. Our instructors also teach the popular comfort measures for birth professionals and Labor and Delivery Nurses Workshop. If you are a nurse or birth professional who wants instruction and massage, upright birthing positions, acupressure for pain relief and more. You’ll love the Comfort Measures Workshop. Visit ebbirth.com/events to find a list of upcoming online workshops.

 

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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