How to Build Foundations to Stay Active Postpartum: Podcast Episode #165
Kristin chats with Dr. Karlie Causey, co-founder of a postpartum activewear brand called Jen & Keri, a sports chiropractor and certified strength and condition coach who is passionate about providing practical tools to moms and moms-to-be, helping them restore their bodies and continue exercising after their babies are born. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello. This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas. I am so excited to chat with Dr. Karlie Causey today. Dr. Karlie is the co-founder of a postpartum activewear brand, a sport chiropractor, and a certified strength and conditioning coach who is passionate about providing practical tools to moms and moms-to-be, helping them restore their bodies and continue exercising after their babies are born. Welcome, Dr. Karlie!
Dr. Karlie: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Kristin: So excited to start chatting about your company, called Jen & Keri, and also really getting into how to build foundations to stay active in the postnatal time. I know that’s a big topic for a lot of our doula clients is really getting back into fitness.
Dr. Karlie: Yes, totally. And I’m just so excited to talk about it. I love, obviously, love to talk about this topic and try to give people the helpful, practical tools as far as staying active, getting active again, especially after that baby comes and joins your world.
Kristin: Exactly. Big change.
Dr. Karlie: Yeah.
Kristin: So let’s chat about Jen & Keri. So obviously you saw a need and you filled it?
Dr. Karlie: Yeah. So after my first son – I have two boys, one who is just about three and one who is five months old. Right after my first son, I was – well, I will call it complaining. I was definitely complaining to one of my close friends and now business partner at Jen & Keri, Jess, and I was just telling her that, you know, I was really excited to get back into the gym. I have a postpartum rehab plan that I use with my patients. I’d done my plan, and I was like, okay, I’m getting back in the gym. But for me, I really felt like the nursing bras that were available were just not cutting it. I wanted something without clips, without Velcro, without the zipper. You know, all those things, while very useful, they just sort of scream nursing mom, which is wonderful, and I was so happy to be a nursing mom, but I wanted this hour where I could go to the gym or I could feel like myself, try to feel like an athlete again, and have it just be me and not focus on the baby while still being able to race home and feed my baby. So we started looking, and my friend Jess is just so good at research, and so she’s looking everywhere for me to try and help, and we couldn’t find anything. And so we sort of just started on our own, cutting up bras and seeing, what would it look like if we made it like this. And our goal was that it just would look like a regular sports bra. Yeah, and so that’s what we’ve come to now. We have a high impact sports bra that’s developed for nursing and pumping, which we also felt was really important to support moms who are pumping, as well, and give those options. And also fill that need of, you’re an athlete. You can still do these things that are important to you for your mental wellbeing, your physical wellbeing. And maybe that little bit of confidence, too, of feeling more like yourself helps you get back into the gym and helps you do some of these things that maybe you want to do and you’re feeling nervous or anxious or whatever the case might be.
Kristin: For sure. So not only are they stylish, but also functional, and as you said, it’s so important to have that normalcy and feel like your old self versus, again, thinking about your leaking breasts and all of the things and how it’s just not comfortable to get back into a workout routine.
Dr. Karlie: Yeah. And we wanted something that was really for high impact. So the bra that we have now, it’s not designed to be worn all day. It is really trying to hold the girls down so you can run, so you bike, so you can jump, do all that kind of stuff. But you can size up. I’ll often wear a size bigger and kind of wear it all day, you know. And we’re working on another one that’s more of an all day bra. But that was the need was saw that was so – I’ll use the word urgent. It felt urgent to me. And yeah, we’ve had good feedback. And the other thing that was important to us is we make it in a small to a triple XL. We really wanted to feel inclusive of all sizes and really make sure people know that it doesn’t matter your shape or size or where you are in life. You still can be an athlete. You can still do those things that you want to do and support women of every size.
Kristin: I love it. And then I saw on your website that you accept most health savings and flex spending, so that’s awesome!
Dr. Karlie: I’m a chiropractor, too, and so when we were researching, I was like, wait, you can use health savings to come see me. I bet you can use it for our bra, and turns out you can. Yeah, all you do is enter it. It’s pretty easy. Just enter is as a credit card. We felt like that was important, too, to just try to help out as much as we can. You’re buying so much stuff, you know, when you have a new baby and it just feels never ending, so that’s another piece. Okay, if we’re going to make this bra, we want to make it feel like you can wear it even after you’re done nursing. So we have some friends – it’s funny. When we were making the bra, you know, and kind of testing different models and stuff, we had some friends try it on and play beach volleyball in it, who are actually not moms, and they were sort of confused about – they just thought it was a regular bra. They didn’t know it was a nursing bra, and we were like, yes. That’s exactly what we want. We want you to not know. You don’t know you just said the right thing, you know?
Kristin: Yes. I love it. So do you ever get moms who want to use the bra in labor? I have this issue with my birth doulas clients where they prefer to wear a sports bra, but them I’m talking to them about the fact that it might need to get cut off, and you don’t want to lose that great bra that you had at one point. So have you thought about that labor time of having something that’s, again, not necessarily high impact, or do people use those bras for different reasons, whether it’s a home birth or in the hospital and just wanting to have something that’s not necessarily a nursing bra yet but give support during labor?
Dr. Karlie: Yeah, that’s so funny. I did that exact thing when I was having my first son. I had this bra, and my midwife was a really good friend of mine. She’s like, I think we need to cut this off. I was like, no, we have to save it. But yeah, we’re working on just – we call it a no-impact bra, and it’s sort of for that purpose, right? You can just, like, wear it any time. It’s just sort of holding things in place. We haven’t launched that yet, but that’s also in the works, and that would be more of a fit for that kind of thing. And I think so often women have the idea of that and then I think just end up with nothing, no bra on.
Kristin: Yep. That happens.
Dr. Karlie: So yeah, we thought of some of those things, and we’re like, okay, we have all these things we want to develop, so they’re in the works, but everything takes more time and more money than you want, so we’re working on it.
Kristin: Yes, exactly. So I’d love to hear your tips, Dr. Karlie – I know you have custom plans for your patients, but what is your advice for our listeners who are prepping for that postnatal recovery time and want to get back, whether it’s running or spinning or Pilates, whatever it might be, but to get into some sort of routine?
Dr. Karlie: Yes. Okay, great question. So there’s a couple of suggestions I always give, and one is, even if you have multiple kids, but especially if you’re a first-time mom, I always recommend to start this plan before the baby comes. Like, you know, plan out, okay, who is my pelvic floor PT going to be. Do I have a sports chiropractor? You know, all these things. Same as with, like, planning your doula, you know, you just want to have these things in place because once the baby comes, your brain is mush and life is so different, and you forget all these things that you had planned. But if you already have them set in motion, then I find women are much more successful in general after giving birth. So that’s one. Two is that I always recommend not waiting until six weeks to start something. So, obviously, that doesn’t mean you’re jumping into working out immediately after birth, but you can start with breathing exercises as early as in the hospital bed. And what we see is that during pregnancy, that diaphragm just gets so crammed up, and we really lose a lot of the endurance of it, and so even just starting some deep belly breathing and trying to see, okay, can I start to feel my transverse abdominis engage, you know, within a few days of giving birth? I have women try – the cues I like to use are, you know, you take your breath in, and then as you breathe out, you try to just lightly pull the two hip bones together in front, you know, and that will sort of start to engage that big transverse abdominis, that big flat abdominal muscle that gets so stretched out during pregnancy. It’s really important to stabilizing our core. So starting on some simple breathing exercises. I actually made – it’s called a postpartum restoration plan a few years ago, and I started using it with my patients, and it’s now available online. When COVID hit, so many people weren’t coming into the office, so I had to try to figure out a way to give people the rehab they needed when they couldn’t come and see me. And it’s an eight-week plan, and basically it just starts with breathing exercises, with bracing, with some really simple diastasis recti healing exercises and then progresses from there. So I always like to recommend that people either find a plan similar to that or they find a PT, like I said, or a postpartum exercise specialist to work with, someone that can just help, even if it’s not like a big, huge plan, someone that can give some guidance and just set them in the right direction of, here’s where you start. Where do you want to go? Let’s help you build some steps in between.
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Kristin: And do you have a different plan for your patients who have surgical births or any other medical conditions? I’m sure it’s adapted based on the individual’s needs?
Dr. Karlie: Yes. My second son was breech, and try as we might, every single thing that you can think of, natural, medical – we tried two fail versions. The guy would just not flip.
Kristin: He was there for a reason. We just don’t know what it was.
Dr. Karlie: Totally. I know. And so I am actually really grateful for that now, as much as I didn’t want to have a C-section. I really wanted to try and have an unmedicated birth and all this stuff, but I’m so grateful for it now because I really understand both sides of the story, both the vaginal birth and C-section. So I’m working on right now actually making the modifications because I don’t think I really could have – you know, as much education as we have and as much research, until I think sometimes you go through something, then you really, really understand how to change things for people you’re helping. So I’m going through right now and making some of the modifications. Like, for example, in my just regular plan, there’s some supermans where you’re laying on your stomach trying to engage the low back muscles, which is a super important part of our core. But I could not do that for the life of me six weeks. There’s a big surgical scar. So that one is a little bit obvious, but there are some more that are not quite as obvious that I’m grateful now that I know and I realize and I’m kind of making those changes. But I’ve had a few people who’ve had C-sections just kind of work with me. They tell me that, hey, I want to do this plan, but I had a C-section or had some other – you know, a little bit more traumatic tearing, that kind of thing, and then I usually just can email back and forth with them or jump on a call and try to help them that way for now.
Kristin: That makes sense. So how can our listeners work with you to come up with a plan or download a plan? How does that work outside of a course in your online store?
Dr. Karlie: I try to post stuff on Instagram as much as possible. It’s less right now with a little baby. You know, trying to really soak in the baby snuggles and all that stuff. But yeah, my plan is available online, and then people can reach out, again, of course, on Instagram either at Jen & Keri or Dr. Karlie, and I’m always happy also to help refer. I have a lot of friends and colleagues in different states, both physical therapists and chiropractors and strength coaches who work with women, so I’m always happy to help people make connections, too.
Kristin: Wherever they live. I love that. And so I’m all on board with coming up with a plan in advance, because otherwise it just doesn’t happen, and it can be overwhelming whether it’s baby number one or baby number five. So what are your tips, Dr. Karlie, on really asking for help, whether it’s the partner or family or hired care, a nanny, to really carve out that time that is so important?
Dr. Karlie: I think there’s a few things to think about, and one is sort of knowing yourself and how you operate best. So if you’re the type of person who is used to having that hour and a half, whatever it is, three, four, five days a week that you’re working out, then maybe what’s best for you is to set aside 20 to 30 minutes to do your rehab, to work on your breathing, to really get in touch with your body again because as you know, it just feels so foreign once the baby is out. You know, now you have this whole new body that you didn’t have before. It’s not the body you had while you were pregnant. I just even personally remember feeling like, whoa, what – you know, how do I move this thing? And so just trying to figure out, okay, do I like to have time set aside for myself? If so, can I talk to my partner and plan that out? You know, and it’s not perfect, but if you make that plan, then at least you kind of set that standard, and I think explaining to your partner the importance of it and why is also really helpful. Or are you the kind of person who that’s just too overwhelming, and what would be better for you is, here’s three or four exercises. You’re going to do them in five minute increments throughout the day. And I like the term habit stacking, which comes from the book Atomic Habits, if you’ve read that. I love that book.
Kristin: Oh, yes. It’s a great book.
Dr. Karlie: But I use that with my patients a lot because – well, I always joke, don’t stack anything to brushing your teeth when you’re a new mom because you might forget and it might not happen in those first couple weeks. But every time you nurse and then, let’s say, if you hand the baby to your baby to burp them, then you do a set of breathing exercises. Or every time you go to the bathroom, you do a set of five squats. If that’s more kind of congruent with how you are most successful, then make that plan and just come up with those exercises or get on board with someone who can help you with that and then sort of make your plan that way. But I think learning about how you are going to be most successful and then building from there is best, rather than trying to squeeze yourself in some other kind of box that maybe isn’t the most successful for you.
Kristin: That makes sense. And I think again, like, some people just don’t want to ask for help, or they just – they’ve moved to a new area and don’t have it and can’t afford to hire out, so I love having those five minutes. Are there any – as far as that six-week appointment, what are the key physical activities that people need to get that permission from their OB or midwife to engage in other than, obviously, running and things like that, that are more high impact?
Dr. Karlie: Right, yeah. So that six-week appointment can just be so helpful or so useless, you know, just depending on where you are and who you see and that sort of thing. I’ve had patients where they just got no guidance. They just basically like, six weeks, you’re cleared. And I think there just has to be some more education around, like, what that means, what you’re actually cleared for, whether it’s working with someone like me or someone like you or a midwife. I don’t know. There has to be – I feel like it’s so much better when people can get a little more guidance. So what I like to tell people is, if you’re doing your breathing, you’re doing your bracing – I like people to remember that the glutes and the low back are part of the core, and the glutes are connected to the pelvic floor, right? So it’s really important to start just some light exercises that are safe, like glute bridges, you know, whether you’re holding those or kind of doing reps. Squats, even like hip hinges or good mornings with just a band, something that’s working the posterior chain. Even just walking hills is an easy one that I tell moms they can start with if they want. If they’re out walking, that’s one good one that can get the heart rate up a little bit, and that really works the posterior chain, so they’re sort of getting a two for one there, which is good, and just starting some of that basic rehab. And then after the six weeks, sort of being a little more intentional about, okay, what is it that you want to get back to? Is it weightlifting? Then we need to start off with a blank barbell and a PVC pipe and starting slow. Or is it running? We need to make sure that you can jump on one foot for a minute on both sides for a certain amount of time. That sort of thing. And just what are those things that you want to work back into, and it’s all based on the person and what their goals are.
Kristin: That makes sense. And certainly – I love that you brought up pelvic floor therapists earlier and physical therapy. So that is something that is getting brought up more and more at those six week appointments, so it’s not just doulas talking about those options, so I’m very thankful for that.
Dr. Karlie: Yeah, and it’s so funny because I think, you know, back in the day, chiropractors and physical therapists were sort of a little more at each other and didn’t work together as well in some cases, and in my world, it’s not like that at all anymore. I work really closely with a lot of great physical therapists and a lot of great pelvic floor physical therapists, and I think we can work so well together. And the thing I think is most unfortunate is that it’s not as it is in some countries sort of required, you know, as part of the postpartum birth process. In other countries, you just like straightaway see a pelvic floor physical therapist. And they can help you see, okay, are things fine and you’re progressing just normally? Are things too tight? Are things – you know, like, what’s going on? How’s the alignment of your pelvis? And so yeah, we can work together so well. So I always recommend my patients – even if they’re like, I have no problems; no leaking, no pain, no nothing. I’m great. I’m like, just go for one visit then to a pelvic floor physical therapist. Just let them do a quick check over, and let them tell you that you’re all good. You know, and in most cases, they’re so busy that if you’re good, they’ll get you out of their office. They’re not trying to keep you there, you know. So I think it’s just – it can be really helpful for people to go that route, too, and know that, like, not all those visits are internal exams. They can do external, and there’s a lot of conversation around that. They’re not just like jumping right in, you know?
Kristin: Exactly. And I’m sure as a sports chiropractor, you’re also giving referrals to pediatric chiropractors if they’re struggling with latch or colic or other issues.
Dr. Karlie: Totally, yeah. Constipation is a big one. And even birth trauma because the way that babies come out of the body is pretty traumatic, as you know. So yeah, most babies can benefit also from a check, so I work closely with those docs, too. They’re wonderful.
Kristin: Great resource. So any final tips for our listeners and doula clients?
Dr. Karlie: Yeah. I think one thing that I always like to stress is even though I say you don’t need to wait until six weeks to be doing breathing and light rehab stuff, I always make sure people know that the slower you start off, the better, as far as those bigger movements and jumping back into maybe stuff that you were doing before you were pregnant. Slow and steady wins the race, and I always just make sure I stress that. It sometimes feels so boring to do the rehab work, the breathing, this kind of stuff first, but when you build that foundation and then you slowly ease back into whatever activities it is that you love, that’s where success really comes and where you make sure that you don’t cause problems down the road that are going to inhibit you getting back to the gym and getting back to even just running around with your kids, you know? So slow and steady wins the race, and I’ve never really heard anyone say, oh, I wish I would have started running sooner. Right? But I’ve heard many people say, oh, I started running too soon and I wish I would have waited. So that’s one tip that I think is definitely worth putting out there.
Dr. Karlie: Yeah, we’re on Facebook, too, of course. My own personal Instagram is @drkarlie. I guess we’re on TikTok, too, but I am just like – I don’t really know how TikTok works.
Dr. Karlie: My partner does that. But we’re there, and we’re always happy – you know, if you have a question or are looking for a provider or even have some feedback, if you have the bra – we’re always looking for feedback. You know, we’re a small company, and we really created this bra to empower women. It’s our small little corner of the world to help people get back to doing what they love to do and to tell them, like, hey, our motto is every mom is an athlete, and that means a couple of things to us. It means, one, the things that you do as a mom are very athletic, so even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, you know, you lower the baby into a crib. Well, that’s a hip hinge or a deadlift. You pick the baby’s car seat up and put it into the car. That’s a press. So just sort of honoring all the athletic things that moms do all day long. And then secondly it’s saying, you know, you can be that athlete again if you want, and we’re here to support you in doing that.
Kristin: Beautiful. Yeah, and I agree. I mean, even looking at birth, it can be an athletic event.
Dr. Karlie: Oh, my gosh, the most athletic event, arguably, right, that most of us will ever do!
Kristin: Exactly. Yeah, I compare it to training both mentally and physically the way that athletes prepare. Doing prenatal visits and supporting our clients is really getting into that mind-body connection that athletes have, so I love your slogan of every mom is an athlete. It’s beautiful.
Dr. Karlie: Thank you.
Kristin: Well, thank you so much for your time and your amazing tips, Dr. Karlie. I hope we can chat again soon. We’ll keep an eye on your updates bras as you release more options.
Dr. Karlie: Yeah, thank you. We’re very excited.
Kristin: And I will definitely share Jen & Keri with not only our doula clients but also our Becoming a Mother students.
Dr. Karlie: Awesome. Great.
Kristin: Thank you again!
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