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Episode 215

Jana Pittman

In this week’s bonus episode I chat to retired Olympic athlete, doctor and mother of four, Jana Pittman. Her story is a colourful one and honestly, we could have talked for hours! She generously takes us through her motherhood journey which began when she was at the peak of her athletic career. After her marriage breakup she opted to have two more children with a sperm donor and navigated medical school with solo parenthood. Most recently, she shares her experience as a junior doctor, her hopes to become an OBGYN and the very quick birth of her fourth baby. But most importantly, she shares her advice and experience as a doctor and a mum and discusses so many common issues for pregnant and postpartum women; incontinence, holistic birth, exercise after birth, IVF, varicose veins, breastfeeding challenges (including breastfeeding with implants). You will learn so much from Doctor Jana!

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Jana married her training coach when she was in her early twenties and fell pregnant as soon as they decided to start a family. She admits she knew very little about pregnancy and birth and went into labour with very little information and even few birth plans. She trained right up until her birth and the day after birth, was walking the stairs in the hospital. She was back to running one week later.

“I was 39+4 and induced with cervigel. They told me to rest overnight and at 2am I started getting niggly pains in my back and that was the first sign of a posterior birth which is quite common for me as I have an android pelvis. I birthed very quickly, in two contractions, and burst all the blood vessels in my eyes and while I did tear internally, I didn’t tear on my perineum and I believe that was because of all the perineal massage I did in the weeks leading up to birth.”

If you are interested in learning more about perineal massage, you can access my FREE GUIDE here.

“I was back to full time training and racing within three months…I had an amazing return to athletics and won the world championships. But it was the worst decision I could have made for my body. I was peeing everytime I went out on the track, I started having issues with prolapse and discomfort during sex. As a budding doctor and future OB, I know I just pushed my pre and post partum body too hard. If I had done that in my 30s I probably would have done damage for life but I was in my early 20s and I saw an amazing physiotherapist and worked with her for 12months but it was fairly invasive to retrain my pelvic floor after the damage I’d done.”

She expected breastfeeding to come naturally and when it didn’t, she struggled. Multiple bouts of mastitis, a baby not gaining weight and her return to training saw her switch to formula at six weeks. Initially she was relieved to know that her baby was content but at four months she felt absolutely devastated that she had given up so easily. It was the catalyst for her to encourage women to get the support they need, so they can do all they can to continue breastfeeding. Indeed, she has been challenged with a low supply with each baby and she has to dedicate many hours to establishing a supply in the early weeks so she can maintain it past the fourth trimester.

In 2011 she separated from her husband and met a new partner in 2012. After multiple miscarriages and the break up of her relationship, she decided to focus on medical school as a single parent but couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to have more children. She had all her fertility checks at her local IVF clinic and was told that her AMH levels were love (the measure of how much your ovarian reserve is) and was advised to consider solo parenting.

“I went home and spoke to my parents and I told them I would need their support if I was going to go ahead with a pregnancy. My mum had experienced a lot of miscarriages so she knew what it meant to me but she was also so willing and excited to help me parent.  There were lots of ups and downs but we did it.

“Emily and Jemima have the same sperm donor. We have a very big rainbow family…I’ve donated to two families – one women who couldn’t conceive herself and my best friend who is in a same-sex family. Their daughter knows that I am her biological mother and that my daughters are their sister.”

When it was time to birth Emily, Jana was further into her medical studies and knew much more about birthing than she did with her first. She was induced again and her contractions intensified quickly.

“I ended up climbing the walls and asked for the epidural but I felt like I could have emotionally coped with the stress of labour better, even though I birthed her completely on my own. It was a major turning point for me and it changed my whole philosophy on birthing…I want women to know that they can be comfortable and confident in birth. I knew then that I would learn and study how to birth more effectively and more comfortably. There’s nothing better than being in the room with a birthing woman.”

By her third birth she was devoted to OBGYN and experienced a beautiful, holistic birth where she practised hypnobirthing throughout. She admits that it required practise but it proved to her that birth can be joyous, empowering and amazing.

You’re totally in control of your body when you’re listening to it and not fighting it

Jana was dedicated to breastfeeding for a long time and did everything she could to prepare during pregnancy.

“I breastfed to age 3 with Jemima, I started Qiara to prevent mastitis, started antenatal expressing at 38weeks and from birth I let her feed whenever she wanted, I co slept and I expressed but it was still a lot of work. I needed to work very hard to build and maintain that supply.”

Jana met her husband Paul and they knew almost immediately that they wanted to have a baby together. Despite her low AMH levels she fell pregnant naturally and worked right up until that day of her birth, assisting other women as they brought their babies into the world. Baby Charlie was lying transverse so she had a controlled rupture of her membranes thinking that she would be labouring for a good 8-12 hours afterward. Charlie had different plans – he was born 90minutes later and his dad missed the entire thing!

For her last three births, Jana has only done very light walking in the six weeks postpartum and hasn’t experienced any incontinence or prolapse issues, proof that the pelvic floor can be healed and retrained.

Topics Discussed

Four babies, Exercise in pregnancy, Breastfeeding and implants, Varicose veins, Sperm donor, IVF

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