Is my ‘baby brain’ caused by my epidural?

Most new mothers have memory lapses and, in fact, scientists have labelled ‘mumnesia’ as a medical condition. This phenomenon has been extensively studied by researchers throughout the world, and the conclusions are that postnatal forgetfulness can be put down to four main factors: priorities, pain, hormones and fatigue. There are several factors at work here. Firstly, ‘baby brain’ is part of the way mothers subconsciously readjust their lives after giving birth. New mums are dedicated to serving that little infant, determined to keep him or her alive no matter what – consequently, less important matters get forgotten, or at least put into a less active area of the brain. Secondly, forgetfulness is part of women’s defence mechanism after the pain and rigours of childbirth. Thirdly, women’s oestrogen levels plunge from incredibly high in late pregnancy to virtually non-existent after childbirth. And while oestrogen plays a key role in fertility, it also acts as a neurotransmitter, sending signals in the brain. Lastly, new mothers – as any would testify – get tired. Researchers estimate that a woman can lose up to 700 hours of sleep in her baby’s first year. Women who breastfeed lose the most, and fatigue is crucial when it comes to ability to remember things. It is usually a short-term problem, lasting only a few months before things improve. The good news is that research shows that often women eventually find they have better memories and are more able to cope with multitasking than before their babies were born. There is no evidence that having an epidural affects the memory.

– Dr Rashi Gupta

Should I just accept I can never go on a trampoline again?

While urinary incontinence during exercising – especially activities that are hard on the pelvic floor like trampolining – is common in many women, it should not be accepted as the norm, or something to live with. The pelvic floor forms part of the intrinsic stabilising mechanism that also comprises the diaphragm, abdominal and back muscles. Incontinence can be an issue of motor control or how the brain perceives optimal recruitment of these muscles. Often Kegels are prescribed, but they can make things worse. This is where an analysis of motor control, trunk stability and other key muscles that may allow the pelvic floor muscles to either under-work or over-work is essential.

– Keith Littlewood

Should I wear a belly belt to get back in shape?

The use of belts or postpartum girdles is recommended by some doctors because it helps to reduce swelling and tenderness and provides more security for women to walk around, to cough, or while driving, especially after a C-section. On the other hand, though, many doctors don’t recommend the constant use of the belt because it can impede the movement of abdominal muscles and disrupt blood flow, for example during physical activity. It is very important that women speak to their doctors before using any sort of postpartum belt.

In terms of exercise, it’s very helpful to perform full-body kinetic-chain exercises to get the body working as a whole again, and not to focus only on abs. The body will naturally start to engage abs in a full-body workout. Most people won’t feel it at first as they are so stretched but they will be working.

You should also get yourself checked for diastasis recti (ab-muscle separation) before you do any ab exercising after childbirth – about two-thirds of women have it, and it can get much worse if not treated properly.

– Fernanda Baisch

Dr Rashi Gupta, gynaecologist at iCare clinics, www.i-care-clinics.com.

Keith Littlewood, health and rehabilitation expert, BalanceBodyMind.com.

Fernanda Baisch, regional fitness manager, Fitness First Middle East.