March 14, 2018
Life Remedy offers a helping hand to expectant and new mums
A Plymouth charity set up in 2017 to provide fitness and wellbeing support to perinatal women has helped over 100 young mums and mums-to-be in its first year.
Life Remedy offers free specialist group sessions for women who are pregnant or postnatal to stay fit and healthy. It’s also is a vital support network during what can be period of anxiety, exhaustion, loneliness and depression.
Initially funded by the National Lottery and Sport England, Life Remedy has just received a grant for another 12 months from the Postcode Lottery to offer support to women who might otherwise not have access to wellbeing facilities.
The organisation is led by Danielle Mathers, a qualified antenatal and postnatal exercise instructor with counselling skills. Danielle and the charity’s team of instructors offer a range of fitness classes at venues across the city.
Already, Life Remedy is making a big impact. On the comments page on the website, one woman said the postnatal classes changed her life. Another said the fitness classes after she’d had her baby helped her to “regain my confidence, strength and socialise with other mums in the same boat”. And another mum added: “Not only is it helping me with my fitness, it’s helping mentally as I’m interacting with other mums.”
Now, the charity is keen to reach more women: “The reason it was set up was because we identified that there was a massive gap in support,” said Danielle. “Plymouth has a high rate of postnatal depression, but we also know there is a need for pregnant women to access support, too.”
Danielle outlined some of the issues expecting and new mums face: “It’s very common to have feelings of guilt – am I doing things right? Am I doing enough? – and low self-esteem and self-criticism are massive issues. Sleep deprivation and not spending any money or time on yourself, all of these are factors that can build up. You’ve got all this responsibility, 24/7.
“In the end, the whole ‘I can’t cope’ feeling can be overwhelming, especially for women spending a lot of time at home on their own. A fifth of women are affected by mental health during pregnancy or in the postnatal year – and loneliness and isolation is often a cause. Financial worries are also a factor because they’re unable to work. But it’s not just about them, it’s about the whole family, because if mum is struggling, that has an impact on everyone.”
Danielle knows, because she’s been there: “When I had my son six years ago, I thought ‘I can’t cope’ but I didn’t want to tell anyone because you’re not supposed to feel bad when you’ve just had a baby. I noticed a gap in the right sort of support and I felt passionately that I wanted to do something about it.
“Once you chat about it, you find that you’re not alone, there are lots of other women feeling the same way. And if you get the right support, you’ll get through.”
Life Remedy’s classes are carefully designed to meet specific fitness needs. For example, pregna-cise is a gentle exercise session aimed at strengthening all the important muscles during pregnancy, while mood-boosting circuits and Pilates are for postnatal mums wanting to rediscover their old selves. The exercises gently rehabilitate the core and pelvic floor allowing an easy return to exercise for those who’ve been away from fitness for a while.
“Being fit in pregnancy is really important,” said Danielle. “Not having the right exercise is like turning up for a marathon without doing any training! My advice is to come to the antenatal classes because it doesn’t just prepare you for having your baby, it helps afterwards, too. And with the postnatal classes, you can access all the support you need throughout.
“But it’s not just an exercise class,” she added. “It’s a nice friendly, social environment, away from prejudice, with women facing the same issues. It’s designed for them. Come along, exercise, make friends, have some ‘me’ time. Some have become great friends, and that’s lovely to see.”
At the time of writing, Nico Hileson-Perrett was due to have twins in three weeks’ time. She was attending an antenatal Pilates class led by instructor Aly Forrest at Tothill Community Centre in St Judes: “Coming here gives us the confidence that the exercises we are doing are right for us and for our babies,” said Nico. “It has also been nice to meet other mums-to-be.”
There are never more than 10 in any class and at postnatal sessions, childcare assistants look after the babies in a creche equipped with sensory toys. “It’s not intimidating, it’s somewhere that the women can feel comfortable. And afterwards, they stay for a chat, which is great,” said Danielle.
The charity works closely with local health providers and some women will require their GP’s clearance to do the exercises. Women can self-refer by contacting Danielle direct, or ask for a referral from their GP or midwife.
Classes are held at various times and days at Tothill Community Centre in St Judes, the Salvation Army Hall in Whitleigh, Keyham Methodist Church Centre, and Emmanuel Church Hall in Mannamead. Visit the website or call Danielle for more information.
07455 198 380
First published in the Plymouth Magazine – March 2018