Iona Christian: Motherhood and Exercise

Iona Christian: Motherhood and Exercise

We welcomed our gorgeous little boy Lawrie in March, so I’ll be talking about becoming a mother and how I’ve found returning to exercise after birth.



Every pregnancy and birth is different, because every female body is unique and each person/family has different circumstances. But I hope by sharing some of my experiences I might be able to help others in the crazy journey of motherhood and staying active. I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time and after chatting to lots of other mums apparently this is very normal and children's needs are constantly changing, so I’m very much taking each day as it comes. I’m not much of a reader, but during my pregnancy I read ‘Why did no one tell me?’ by Emma Brockwell. I found this book super helpful and it gave me a much better understanding of what’s going on with my body and some of the things that can happen during pregnancy, birth and postnatally.



I spoke about the first part of my pregnancy in my previous blog. I was also very lucky to have a straight forward third trimester. Although I felt very heavy and a bit fed up towards the end I could still lift weights and go swimming and walking. I definitely got a few funny looks in the gym at 8/9 months pregnant, but after chatting to a female health physio she advised that because I have no pain I could still lift weights. I also learned you get an increase in testosterone towards the end of pregnancy so I could even make some weight gains in the last trimester! At about 30 weeks I started getting some pelvic pain after running/netball drills so I stopped any on court training at this point. But I loved being able to go swimming right up until the end - I definitely sank lower and lower in the pool each week aha! But listening to my body and taking advice from midwifes and physios was very important and helped me stay active and healthy.



Pelvic floor, pelvic floor, pelvic floor - something I’ve heard a lot about this last year. I only really took notice of what my pelvic floor was when I became pregnant but its so important to train and strengthen your pelvic floor whether you plan to have a baby or not. Especially if you play an impact sport (like netball) your pelvic floor can take a beating and if it doesn’t function properly this can lead to a number of issues. The exercises to train your pelvic floor are so simple and only take a couple of minutes, I usually do mine whilst cleaning my teeth or sat in the car. The main thing I leant was that it’s so important to listen to your body and there’s no need to push it during pregnancy…after all you are growing a human!


It can get pretty uncomfortable towards the end and definitely none of my sports clothes fit me anymore. Natal Active have some great exercise kit for pre and post pregnancy- the leggings and bras were some of my favourites. I was two weeks over due and some of the best advice I got given was to keep planning things to do past your due date, otherwise you can feel like you’re sat around waiting for a loooonnnng time (use the time to fill up your freezer with frozen meals too). I decided to fill a bit of time painting a mural in Lawrie’s bedroom.



Our Lawrie arrived at the beginning of March fairly dramatically. Without going in to too much detail, I had a long labour (almost 48hrs) which then ended in an emergency C section. I am in awe of all women, however they birth their babies, whether thats naturally or a section, or at home or in hospital. Although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, it is also one of the most incredible experiences, especially meeting your baby for the first time. Our world was completely changed and we are totally in love with Lawrie. The two/three weeks following the birth were a rollercoaster. Lots of hormone changes, cuddles, milk coming in, feeding, soooo many nappies, sleepless nights and just getting used to keeping a baby alive! There’s so much I can say but I don’t want to ramble on so I’ll just say this - Although extremely difficult those first few weeks were so magical and went super fast, so I tried to enjoy as many newborn snuggles as possible.




Getting back to exercise was a steady process for me. Again, its different for everyone and I had intentions of getting back to netball quickly but due to a late arrival and having a C section I was advised to take it a bit slower. A C section is major surgery and they cut through about 7 layers of tummy tissue, so taking some chill time initially was very important to allow things to start to heal (important after any type of birth). Breathing and basic pelvic floor exercises I started pretty much straight away, before progressing to very steady pelvic control exercises. I found getting fresh air and going on some little walks (literally round the corner) helped me mentally in those first few days/ weeks. We had quite a lot of lovely visitors which we enjoyed, but also making sure we spent a lot of time just the three of us was important. After the first month I started doing more advanced pelvic control and body weight exercises and went on some longer walks - living near the lake district was pretty dreamy for walking spots. Swimming and bike conditioning sessions helped build up my fitness again and at about two months I started building up my weights. Then getting back to some impact training, running and netball drills…whoo! It felt so good to get back on a netball court. At about four months I was doing ‘proper’ netball and getting ready for Thistles training over the summer. If I’m honest I find a lot of the ‘rehab’ exercises pretty boring and hard to stay motivated especially after some sleepless nights so its helpful to find some training buddies, a good series or playlist to watch/listen to and even using the sessions as baby entertainment - Lawrie loves watching me do my gym sessions (at least for the first half an hour!).



I decided to breast feed Lawrie which has been amazing and challenging. I found it relatively easy to breast feed and also manage to express milk if I want to give him a bottle instead, but there are lots of brilliant breast feeding support groups around. Before becoming a mother I never really needed to worry too much about what bras I was wearing but I found getting back to impact training and finding a good sports bra pretty difficult. I’m still trying a few different ones out and getting a proper fitting was very helpful. Being organised has hit a new level! Gone are the days where I can just walk out the house with one bag and I’m currently finding fitting in expressing milk around training quite a challenge, but I’m hoping to stick with it a bit longer.



Looking ahead to Thistles is very exciting! Kath our new head coach is starting in a few months so we are all really looking forward to working with her in this next netball cycle. She has a wealth of knowledge and has been involved in loads of netball over in Aus, most recently with the Swifts, so we will be learning from one of the best. I’ve been part of the Thistles for over three years now and seen the group come on massively both on and off court. It’s the start of the next four year cycle so I can’t wait to build on what we’ve done with Tamsin and Sara and see the impact that Kath will have. Balancing camps and having Lawrie I’m sure will be tough at times but he has plenty of willing netball aunties to help look after him.


The support I’ve had has been brilliant! This has helped a lot both physically and mentally over the last year. I’m so thankful to Netball Scotland, Sirens, support staff and the NPA for helping me through my pregnancy and the continued support juggling being a mum and an athlete. And of course I wouldn’t have been able to get through some of the more challenging moments without my lovely husband and support from family and friends. Having a good support system is really important and I’ve found being a new mum, I’ve needed to lean and rely on people to help me and that’s okay.



Thank you God for the gorgeous gift of Lawrie. We are loving being parents.


There’s so much great stuff out there but here’s a few links to some things I found helpful:

-‘Why did no one tell me?’ by Emma Brockwell

-Natal Active Clothing

-The Bra Professor

-@physiomumuk Instagram

-‘At Your Cervix’ podcast

-NHS website

-NetballHer website