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The incredible Claire Gleave, founder and CEO of the maternity and postnatal sportswear brand Natal Active, joins me on this episode of the New Leaf podcast.
I’d been following natal active for a while, especially as the instagram algorithm kindly picked up that I was pregnant and into fitness, and so naturally I started to be inundated with Claire’s advertising. Money well spent, Claire.
On this episode, Claire and I talk about birth injuries, prolapse, postnatal recovery and in particular, her own journey of discovery as to how exercise was so integral to her identity - and therefore how upsetting it was when this hung in the balance after a particularly bad birth injury. What happened afterwards was a journey to build an absolutely rocketing brand built on the premise of making women look and feel good when exercising, but pre- and post-natally.
Claire’s journey with prolapse and with some of the really disappointing interactions she had with healthcare professionals were a shock for me to listen to, but since researching more into this space it is so clear that the voices behind postnatal support are getting louder. There is a mantra that is beginning to be chanted: which is that birth injuries are common, but not ‘normal’, and I couldn’t agree more. Using partial or total incontinence as an example, your GP or healthcare system dismissing these to you as ‘normal’ can actually be really upsetting. Common does not equal normal or acceptable - and by using that language we are telling ourselves as a society that we don’t have to do anything about it. Oh you’re struggling with incontinence? Normal after a vaginal birth. This wouldn’t be so bad, if we had proper postnatal support. But, we don’t. You feel unheard and unsure of what you can do, if anything, about it, and the system in general provides very little - or nothing.
The French system has TEN pelvic floor rehabilitation sessions paid for, by the state as standard, after your birth, available to all women. In the US and UK, this then means that you’re at the complete mercy of ‘how severe’ your birth injury is, in which case you still may be waiting weeks, or - at the mercy of your own income. Postnatal private physio is expensive, and therefore not necessarily accessible to all. I was painfully aware of how lucky I was to be able to afford a postnatal physio for my abdominal problems and it was undeniably a) simple but b) life changing to fix with the right support. This shouldn’t be a luxury - basic health care is a human right.
Claire makes this point brilliantly via her own experiences, but also shows us what you can do with enough grit, passion and determination. Claire experienced plenty of adversity in her journey, but kept going and is CLEARLY building a much-needed empire which is exploding. I am obsessed with companies supporting women at the biggest change points in their lives - and natal active is doing just that.
So much more to say on this but… for another time. If you want to engage in the conversation around birth injuries or postnatal exercise, follow me on instagram @newleafpodcast.