I was excited when Girls Gone Strong announced their new online CPPC (Certified Pre & Postnatal Coach) certification. I’ve completed other certification and training programs in the past that touch on pre & postnatal health, generally only offering basic contraindications (typically a list of exercises to modify or avoid during pregnancy). It wasn’t enough.
As a fellow mom, I can offer my pre & postnatal clients empathy and compassion, which are helpful, but I knew it would require more specific coaching skills if I wanted to confidently support and coach them during their individual journeys.
The GGS CPPC certification was created by a diverse collaboration of women who are experts in nutrition, psychology, pelvic floor health, fitness, and midwifery. Their collective expertise expands beyond the basic training contraindications which is what I appreciated the most out of this certification. They break down effective ways to communicate, lead, and safely train pre & postnatal women in a supportive environment for their individual needs.
The textbook is well written with many pictures and graphs to help those who are visual learners process the information. In addition to the textbook, there is an online dashboard that provides short videos demonstrating different exercises, how to assess diastasis recti, and postural assessments.
The workbook is fabulous and I highly recommend using it with each unit. There are 5 units total and at the conclusion of each unit there is an online test to complete before moving on to the next one.
I read each unit, highlighting points I found important and answered the questions and case studies associated with each unit in the workbook. Then I’d take the test without using the materials to see what I absorbed without relying on the books. I marked the questions I wasn’t sure about and would revisit that section until I felt more confident with my understanding of the information.
In the dashboard you’d hit “complete” on the videos, reading requirements, and test for each unit, holding you accountable for completing all of the material before moving on to the next one.
I was ambitious and studied one unit per week. You can break it down even more and go at a pace that works for you and your schedule. There is no deadline. Go at your pace and allow yourself to process the information.
In addition to the online dashboard, textbook, and workbook, GGS offers a Facebook group but I am not on Facebook so I did not take advantage of this service. However, if you are, then I think it would be a great way to connect with other participants in the program and get more support from the GGS team.
When I graduated from the CPPC certification I received a certification with a 2 year expiration and a sweet gift in the mail. Their customer service is on point!
OK….so now I want to share 3 actions I have taken that have been a big success since I’ve become a CPPC.
3 Actions I’ve taken as a CPPC
1) Ask Questions
The questions in the forms and PAR-Q’s CPPC provides for your clients to answer go beyond traditional intake forms offered in the fitness industry. Learning more about pelvic floor health and how to ask the right questions surrounding the function of the pelvic floor has helped me gather more information from clients (even one’s who have had children decades ago). Asking the right questions has helped me cultivate more conversations with my clients and build a deeper level of trust between us.
When I started asking more questions I discovered that one client was struggling with incontinence and was too embarrassed to bring it up and felt that it was something she had to accept with age. She confessed that she never would have voluntarily provided that information but when I asked her she felt relieved to finally talk about it. She felt safe because I didn’t laugh about it, I didn’t judge her, and I reassured her that it’s common but not something we need to normalize and accept. She was excited when I told her that there are exercises you can do to improve the function of your pelvic floor. She said it made her feel more empowered and in control of her body again.
Since our conversation I have integrated more pelvic floor exercises into her training and she has started a conversation with her health care provider (without feeling embarrassed) for additional testing and treatment. Her symptoms have improved and she feels so much better in her body.
My take - away from asking more questions (and the right questions) is that a postpartum body isn’t just 6 months after labor. When you’ve had a child you are always postpartum and that it’s important to not exclusively ask new moms about their pelvic floor health and it’s not exclusively for pregnant and postpartum bodies either. Clients who have never been pregnant can experience pelvic floor dysfunction. So always ask the questions and provide a comfortable, confidential, and supportive space to have these conversations together. And refer out when necessary.
2) Pregnant women are not a special population
Did you know that nearly 9 out of 10 of your female clients will either become pregnant, are pregnant, or are postpartum? I didn’t know that. I didn’t realize that over 85% of women will have children at some point in their lives. That means the majority of the women you work with will experience pregnancy or have been pregnant. That’s the MAJORITY, not a special population like some certification bodies classify them as.
I am more aware of the statistics and have encouraged my colleagues who work with women to also take a course specifically for pre & postnatal training. Some of them were like me and didn’t realize how likely it is to work with a woman who has or is pregnant and they are pursuing more education as well. This awareness has facilitated more conversations about pelvic floor health/dysfunction and normalizing words like vagina, anus, prolapse, and incontinence within my fitness community.
3) Every pregnancy is different
Every pregnancy is different. Every postpartum body is different. Every birthing experience is different. Every woman is different. Every breastfeeding experience is different. Every. Single. Pregnancy. Is. Different.
This was very timely for me because I started working with a couple of first-time pregnant mothers while studying for my CPPC and I’d catch myself interjecting my experience during our conversations about their pregnancy. It’s so easy to want to share your pregnancy stories and labor experience but this sharing may be more harmful than good. Why? Because Every. Pregnancy. Is. Different.
For example, one woman may love being pregnant so she projects her positive experience onto other new moms with the assumption that because she loved it so would everyone one else. But this isn’t always the case. Some women are not happy while pregnant or after giving birth. And this is OK. All feelings are valid. Listen to your clients and validate their feelings. Let them know that whatever it is that they are feeling it is OK and that you are there to support them without judgement.
(If you sense depression or any other serious mental concerns you can refer them to seek help. CPPC helps you to navigate this space and how to have these conversations without projecting your feelings onto them and how you think they should feel.)
Now with more knowledge on how to coach pregnant and postpartum clients, I can be the confident coach I’ve wanted to be for women who have, are, or will become pregnant…and that is a lot of women!
I encourage fitness and health professionals who work with women on a regular basis to seek more education on how to communicate, coach, and support pre & postnatal clients. This extra bit of time and investment will come back in the long run. Your clients will appreciate your commitment to growth and you’ll be more likely to help your clients safely and effectively enjoy her training experience with you while working towards her individual goals. It’s a win-win for all!