In this episode, sports chiropractor, certified strength and conditioning specialist, pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach, and level 2 Crossfit coach, Dr Karlie Causey, talks about exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Today, Dr. Karlie talks about planning home exercise programs and preparing athletic women for the postpartum exercise phase, and the idea that every mom is an athlete. What are some postpartum conditions or barriers to getting back to fitness?

Hear about setting expectations about postpartum conditions, the story behind Jen & Keri, and get Dr Karlie’s advice to her younger self, all on today’s episode of The Healthy, Wealthy & Smart Podcast.


Key Takeaways

  • “You don’t need to wait to the 6-week mark to start doing what we consider rehabilitative exercises.”
  • “Tie small rehab activities into your daily life.”
  • “Just ask the patient what works best for them.”
  • “Walking in the postpartum phase is exercise and it does count.”
  • “Starting off slow to get back to where you want to go is always the right choice.”
  • “You can continue being who you were before motherhood.”
  • “If I would’ve had more fun, I probably would’ve been more successful, but also maybe it would’ve been a little bit of a smoother ride.”


More about Dr. Karlie

Headshot of Dr. Karlie CauseyDr. Karlie is a sports chiropractor, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach, and a level 2 Crossfit coach.

More importantly, she is a mom to two, who is ridiculously passionate about helping postpartum athletes and moms-to-be restore their bodies and move with confidence. This obsession led her to establish Jen & Keri, a postpartum activewear brand for athletes, and create her wildly successful Postpartum Restoration Plan.

Beyond being a mom and a competitive fitness lover, she has spent the last 17 years of her life studying the human body and learning how it moves. Earning her doctorate of chiropractic and a master’s in human biology were just a start; she doesn’t plan to stop learning any time soon! She is certified in the Webster technique and BirthFit, and has served as the team Chiropractor for the Seattle Seawolves and as the local medical director for AVP Seattle.


Suggested Keywords

Healthy, Wealthy, Smart, Physiotherapy, Pregnancy, Postpartum, Motherhood, Exercise, Rehabilitation, Athletics, Training, Empowerment,


To learn more, follow Dr. Karlie at:


Instagram:       @drkarlie



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Read the Full Transcript Here:


Hey, Dr. Carly, welcome to the podcast. I am happy to have you on and excited to talk about exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. longtime listeners of this podcast will know that that this is a topic we talk about a lot here. So I’m really great to have you on to get a fresh perspective of things. So welcome.



Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited for for our chat.



So before we get into the nuts and bolts, can you give the listeners a little bit more insight into you and as to why you chose this sort of subset or niche of folks to see?



Sure, yeah, well, I’ve been a sports chiropractor now for Gwent, this is a will be my 12th year. So I’ve been doing that for a while. And I’ve always loved working with women in general, all walks of life, all stages of life. But when I became pregnant, I really as I feel like it happens for many, many healthcare providers, you really start to embrace the stage that you’re in a little bit. So I really started to learn a lot about how how women progress through pregnancy, how they can continue working out how we can minimize, sort of, you know, things that can happen to that are detrimental after the baby comes. So I just really, really dove into that area of expertise. And it just hasn’t stopped since then. So I found it very helpful to to have someone walk alongside me during my pregnancy, pelvic floor pt. And so now I try to be that person for a lot of my patients, too.



That’s great. And listen, the more help we can give to women pregnant, and especially in that postpartum period, or that fourth trimester is, as it is called, I think the more people who can offer help, the better because it’s not like people are not going to ever get pregnant again. So yeah, have that help. It’s really important, and a lot of women just don’t know. Right? They don’t, I don’t know what you don’t know. And so if you’re not in the healthcare field, there are so many questions, the body changes so much you’re feeling maybe Weird Things You Didn’t feel before. So getting back to exercise can be a little nerve racking. So



Oh, go ahead. No, go ahead. I think that, um, you know, it’s becoming much more common to talk about this, and that women are wanting to work out more. And what’s one of the benefits of social media, you know, is that we’re seeing some of this stuff and able to get more info, you know, I talked to friends who had kids 10 years ago, and it just, it doesn’t exist at all really, you know, and as far as like, information that was readily available. So I’m happy that, that we’re trending in that direction, at least.



Yeah, absolutely. And now, let’s get let’s get into the nuts and bolts here now. So can you give us some practical ways to introduce rehab, introduce exercise, after giving birth, and I love the that were practical, right? Because we’re talking about women who maybe don’t have a whole heck of a lot of time, because they have a newborn to take care of. So I’ll hand the mic over to you.



Yeah, exactly. Um, I think one of the things that I really liked to stress is that we don’t need to wait until the six week mark, to start doing what we consider, you know, rehabilitative exercises. So if with an uncomplicated birth, I often have women starting, you know, day two, day three, especially with just breathing exercises. And what what I see very often is, as women are pregnant as their belly is growing, what happens a lot of times is that diaphragm really gets crammed up there. And so we start to see that they’re not breathing as deeply, they’re not able to belly breathe. And that diaphragm, we have to remember is the top of the quote unquote, core, right? So their pelvic floor is the bottom, we have our diaphragm on the top, and then all the muscles surrounding but I just like to remind women of that, because that muscle getting so kind of constricted throughout pregnancy is really a big deal. And really, starting on the breath work early on can be really, really helpful. So that’s one thing that I really like to emphasize is, you know, at day two, day three, even if you had a C section, you can be laying in your hospital bed, doing some deep belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and you’re actually doing a lot more than than you think you are, you know, you’re actually starting your rehab journey right there. So that’s my first tip that I always like to give. I’m sure you as a PT would would agree with that, right? Like there’s just so much we can start with so. So yeah, that’s number one. And then the other thing that I really like to emphasize is time small rehab activities. into your daily life. So getting away from the mindset that we have to like set aside 3045 minutes an hour, whatever you used to do, or whatever you think you need to do, and say, Okay, I’m going to do 10, diaphragmatic breaths, and 10, air squats. And every time I set the baby down, or every time I change the baby’s diaper, or whatever it is, you know, you can kind of pick what works for you. But I like to do that. Because then it’s, it’s adding in movement throughout your day, it’s giving you a sense of control of like, having these pieces of rehab that you can add into your day and feel like you’re working towards a goal. And it’s taking away the stress of like, okay, you have to have this time set aside, everything has to go perfect, you have to have the perfect workout outfit on and your water bottle ready and the right tunes and like it just doesn’t happen with a newborn baby, you know. So I think taking that stress off is another helpful tip.



Yeah, it’s funny, I just did a social media post about this subject when it comes to a home exercise program that, you know, ask your patient in front of you, I because I have a woman who said, you know, I can squeeze in a couple of five to 10 minutes a day. So if you give me two exercises that I can do in between patients, she’s a psychologist in between patients, I’ll do it. Right. She’s like, but if you say, Oh, you have to set aside, like you said, half an hour, 40 minutes to do that. She’s like, it’s just not gonna get done. Yeah.



Yeah, it depends on the person, right? Because then you also have people who want that 30 minutes, like, give me, I am used to working out an hour every day, whatever it is, I want my 30 minutes of things to do. And so it’s yeah, it’s just knowing your patient and like taking the time to ask them those questions of what’s going to make them more successful. And the other thing I like is, if you’ve read the book, habit stacking, that’s basically what I’m recommending to is, you know, tying an exercise to something else that you’re already doing. So you don’t have to think about when am I going to do this when you know, it’s like, I always tell new moms don’t tie it to brushing your teeth. Because sometimes that doesn’t happen, you know, if we’re being honest, sometimes doesn’t happen on a on a day, but, you know, tie it to something like, okay, when you pick up the baby, change the baby’s diaper or hand the baby to your partner, those kinds of things that you’re you know, you’re going to be doing, then that seems to be a recipe for



success, too. Yeah. And like you said, most importantly, just ask the patient what works best for them. Right? We’re not them, we’re not in their shoes. Maybe this woman gave birth, and she’s got a ton of help at home. Right? We don’t know. Or maybe it’s a single mom who gave birth who doesn’t have a ton of help. So always just ask, that is the easiest way to come up with a realistic and like you said, practical home exercise program. Okay, anything else, any other practical tips to introduce exercise in rehab after in those first couple of weeks or months, let’s say after giving birth?



Yeah, I think another one is, you know, include the baby is always a good one, right? We tend to forget after we have a baby, depending on the activity level of the person beforehand, we tend to forget that walking is actually exercise, especially in the postpartum period. So I like to remind my patients of that I have a lot of patients who are pretty active, pretty high level of athletics prior to being pregnant. And so I have to remind them that walking in a postpartum phase is exercise, and it does count. And you should be finding time for it. Whatever that looks like with a stroller with a front pack, you know, even if you can get out for a little bit on your own is always nice, too, but not often as doable. But so I like to I like to remind people that and also that we don’t necessarily need to jump into walking right away. So it’s not something that you know, day 234, walking, probably still doesn’t feel very comfortable, whether you have a vaginal birth or a C section. And so remembering that that’s just like anything else, you want to work into that slowly, just like any other exercise program, you wouldn’t jump right into lifting super heavy weights or, you know, join a competitive athletic league of some kind. So, starting slowly there, too, I think is important. Yeah. And



you hit on something that I want to kind of circle back to is, you said a lot of the women that you work with tend to be really high level athletes. I know you’re also a crossfit coach, right. So you’re seeing a lot of these high level, athletic women. So how do you kind of prepare them for this postpartum phase where they’re not really going to be able to go back to that heavy lifting right away? Because from a psychological standpoint, I would think that would be can be quite difficult.



Yeah, it is yes, good question, I think what I tried to do is really lean into what I sort of call the negative side of it. And I try to stress to them that the things that are going to get them back to where they want to be, are really boring. And they’re really slow. And they’re going to be annoyed by them. But if they do them, in the short term, it’s going to pay off in the long term. So starting off slow to get back to where you want to go is always always the right choice in postpartum with postpartum women. So yeah, that’s, that’s what I start with. And I really explained the breath work because again, that sounds like boring and sort of silly to a lot of people. And before I had a baby, I think I was less, I was less into the breath work, because I just found it so boring. And I would listen, you know, to pts and chiropractors, and, you know, ortho, all kinds of Doc’s talking about how important breathwork was. And I was always like, gosh, it’s so lame. But then once you feel how that diaphragm really doesn’t expand like it used to, and you can’t connect your breath with your body, like you use, do you realize, okay, this is actually where we have to start. And once we get this down and get this kind of Mind, Body breath connection down again, then we can start to progress from there. So yeah, I always start off people really slow. I developed a postpartum restoration plan. That’s eight weeks. And it’s more developed for the type of person that needs like, you know, they need their 20 to 30 minutes of like, here’s my rehab, here’s my, this is going to substitute for my workout for the day, you know, since I’m not doing a cross a workout or, or hit workout, or whatever they do. But I think that’s been helpful to have those exercises, have kind of a game plan. And then, and then I can kind of shift those things around for people that want to like, you know, kind of fit things in here and there. So,



yeah, yeah, great advice. So really setting those expectations even before the baby comes so that they know what to do. So they know what’s coming. And that’s huge expectations are everything. Okay, so how about any conditions or barriers to getting back to fitness that maybe some postpartum women may experience?



Yeah, I always like to talk about this. Because there’s, there’s some things that people aren’t really anticipating, you know, I think a lot of women during pregnancy, they sort of anticipate, okay, maybe a little bit of low back pain, maybe some pelvic pain. Even if they’re thinking ahead, some upper back and neck and shoulder pain from being sort of hunched forward and nursing and that sort of thing. One thing that people don’t anticipate that obviously isn’t like a, you know, life ending condition or anything, but I’m sure you’ve heard of it, and seeing patients with it is the mommy thumb, you know, mommy wrist, however, we want to call it but that’s when it really catches people by surprise. And basically what it is, is, can be pretty severe pain and either the wrist or the thumb and it comes from the forearm extensor muscles, and just from holding that baby and kind of that flexed position. So often, women are generally carrying a lot on the on the same side, if you bet shear, they end up sleeping kind of with the arm curled around the baby often, so then they can kind of get stuck in that position. And those muscles get really, really tight. So I like to tell my patients sort of warn them about that prior to giving birth and have them start on some wrist roller, you know, some eccentric, concentric strengthening of both the flexors and the extensors. And nothing crazy, you know, couple of minutes a day, four or five days a week will make a huge difference in that area. So that’s one thing that I like to warn about. And if they with new moms that they’re starting to feel that right away, I have them try to start some of those loading exercises, because that will, you know, if we catch it early enough, it can nip it right in the bud. But if we let it go, it can be pretty severe, you know, and people end up getting cortisone shots to take care of it and and there’s a time and a place for that. But if we can take care of it beforehand, then let’s do that.



Yeah, absolutely. I once had a woman who she was like, I think in her early 50s. And she started experiencing you know what they call mommy thumb or deeper veins. And hers was from they just gotten a new puppy. So her kids were grown and she’s like, it feels like it does. She’s like my thumb feels like it did after I had my second child. And so I look at how she’s carrying this dog around the whole time. That’s why



Yeah, there you go happens to the best of them, I guess. Yep,



absolutely. So even even to the moms of new moms of our furry, furry children, our little fairy children, it can still happen. So be prepared. What else what other complications or errors have you seen?



Yeah, I think one that gets a lot of you know, buzzword right now gets kind of a lot of play is talking about diastasis recti time and I’m glad I’m glad that it becomes So much more common to talk about it talk about what it is how it happens. But I think there’s also a lot of fear mongering that goes on with that. Again, on social media, there’s, you know, whoever can post whatever, right, so I do see a lot of stuff about about diastasis recti, what not to do. And what I always like to remind people is that it’s, it’s a normal, natural thing that needs to happen for that baby to grow and for the abdomen to expand. So I think that’s really important to tell our patients and make sure that they know that it’s supposed to happen, it’s going to happen, you know, some studies show up to 100% of women have diastasis, recti, I think, like, week 36. And so, so just reiterating that, like, it’s okay, it’s gonna happen, we’re gonna, we’re gonna rehab you out of it, you know, but I think, you know, learning about it is great, and then understanding, okay, it’s the separation of those abdominal muscles, what’s gonna cause more stress on those? Okay, well, any of the flexion exercises, of course, so sit ups, and across the world, toes, the bar, that kind of thing. Any sort of kipping motion, anything where you’re losing control, right down that linea alba down the center of the core, so are dancenter the abs. Also with heavy weights, like that’s another thing that a lot of people don’t anticipate as heavyweight overhead. Can Can just overstrain that tissue. And so there, I usually recommend people switch to dumbbells, you know, that’s a pretty common recommendation, switch to dumbbells from a barbell, if you’re using a barbell, they’re just more forgiving, and allow you to, you know, move a little bit more efficiently and keep your core a little bit more stable. And then talking about in the postpartum phase, what we’re going to do to rehab that. And understanding that, you know, nothing you do during pregnancy is going to, it’s not going to hurt, it’s not gonna hurt the baby, it’s not going to hurt you, it just potentially makes it harder to rehab it later. Right. And so, we’re always talking about minimizing those activities, seeing what we can substitute in, so you can still keep moving and doing what you want to do. But, but, you know, kind of playing that game of like cost benefit analysis, like, is it worth it to be doing this exercise? Is there something I could do that’s a little bit safer, and just sets me up for a little bit more success down the road? So yeah, I think it’s important to really talk during the pregnancy about that. And then in the postpartum phase, talk about where do we start, you know, and again, it goes back to the breathing, I hate to harp on it, but it does. And then there’s some really simple diastasis recti exercises, that sort of work on engaging the transverse abdominus, you know, that big flat abdominal muscle that kind of wraps around and, and then from there, kind of retraining your core that okay, we can stay stable. And we can keep, you know, a nice pressure throughout while we start to learn to move our extremities and move a little bit of weight. And just like anything going through kind of progressive overload. But with with the core.



Yeah. And would you mind giving the listeners maybe a quick example of an exercise that you might work with a patient postpartum? Like, let’s say that now, like you said, like 99% of women will have a diastasis after pregnancy? So would you mind giving a quick example?



Yeah, of course. Yeah. So there, there’s tons of them out there. And it really depends on what phase of postpartum she’s in. Right. So if it’s really early on, like I said, we’re going to work on some breathing, and we’re going to have her one of the cues I really like is, when we’re thinking about kind of trying to, to create tension throughout the abdomen, I like to think of kind of pulling the hip bones together, that’s one that seems to work well for a lot of people. So you have them take a breath, and let’s say they’re lying on their back on the ground with their knees bent, have them take a big breath in, feel right on the inside of their hip bones. And then as they breathe out, they’re gonna think about trying to pull those hip bones together. And that can start to help engage that transverse abdominus. And of course, you want them in like a neutral spine, in this position. And from there, then we can progress obviously, you know, with some, like heal slides with the leg lifts. Those are pretty sort of traditional exercises. I also like to incorporate when we start talking about, you know, healing through the entire Corps, I like to incorporate some glute work because that’s one thing that gets missed a lot. We, we forget that the glutes are connected to the pelvic floor. So when we’re trying to heal this whole barrel that is our core, it’s really important to, you know, start with some really basic just even if it’s glute bridges, some hip thrusts, those sort of things. I think those need to go hand in hand as we work that posterior chain along with the anterior abdomen.



Perfect. Thank you so much for those examples. Just gives people a little taste. So let’s talk about Jen and Carrie. I will throw it over to you. Why don’t you talk a little bit about Jen and Carrie and your company’s logo?



Yeah, thank you. So my company is called Jen and Carrie, and it’s sort of funny. My name is Carly, obviously, my partner my business partners name is Jess. So Jess and Carly. But whenever people get our names wrong, which is a lot they call us, they call her Jen. And they call me Carrie. And so as we were talking about what we should name the company, we were like, Jen and Carrie, they sound like you’re fun mom friends that like know all the deets and have all the advice. So that’s, that’s our company name. And unfortunately, it’s only further that probably problem a little bit because now you know, email and correspond with people. And they just immediately cost Jen and Carrie, but that’s fine. We started the company after my first son. And I was, I believe it was, it was a couple months two or three months postpartum. And I was just getting back into the gym and trying to go back to CrossFit class, I’d done all my rehab, and I was really slowly kind of reintegrating, and I was complaining to her that I just hated all the nursing sports bras out there, I hate the clips, I hate the zipper, the button, like all this stuff, I just hated it. And you know, and across the class, let’s say you’re doing you’re working with a barbell you like kind of dig the barbell into those clips with a PowerClean or a front squat or something or you’re running and they pop open. It’s like, you know, everyone every mom’s worst nightmare. And so we started kind of looking scouring the internet for a sports bra that didn’t look like a nursing sports bra, we just didn’t find one. So we started kind of toying around and, and playing with a bunch of sports bras, cutting them up and, and it grew into basically the sports bra that we developed, which looks just like a regular sports bra, it has a sort of different technology that you pull up the top layer, pull down the bottom layer, so there’s no clips, no zippers, none of that stuff. And really, the reason was, I just wanted to be in my workout class and feel like everyone else, like I wanted to have that hour of time for myself, I love being a new mom, I love being a nursing mom, but I just didn’t feel like I needed to be advertising it to the world and my like, one hour class, I just wanted it for me. So that sort of spawned our company. And our goal is basically to just empower women to get back to whatever activities they love. And this is just one way we’re doing it, we just feel if if a sports bra is gonna make you feel more comfortable and more confident in your postpartum body, and that’s gonna get you moving then that we’re all for it. So that’s sort of how we started.



And, and the logo, every mom is an athlete. So controversial take may be right, some people may think I totally get where you’re coming from, but go ahead and kind of explain that.



Yeah, so we have a couple of different reasons for are a couple of different meanings behind our logo, every mom is an athlete, we, first of all, we want women to feel like they can be whatever they want to be. So they can continue being an athlete, if they were before having kids, they can become an athlete, if they want to, you know, whatever that means for them, you know, whether it’s running or Jiu Jitsu, or strongman competitions or whatever, we don’t care, we just want to support you in whatever you want to do. And we also the other thing that we think about that is that being a mom is a really athletic job. So when you think about the stuff that moms do, you know, you think about the mom, carrying the car seat on one side with the toddler on the other hip with the coffee and the hand with the backpack with the all the stuff and that takes a lot of athleticism, whether you consider yourself an athlete or not. Putting your baby down in a crib is a hip hinge, right? Picking your baby up to put them into the car and the car see is is a press and a lift. So everything that we’re doing, we try to we try to think about okay, what, what our moms doing and how can we support them in active wear, you know, as just one of the many ways to support them. What can we do to help support them in in this really athletic endeavor? That is motherhood?



Yeah, I love it. I think it’s great. And I agree I do. I do think every mom is an athlete as well. So not so controversial, although I could see where people are coming from on that. So currently, as we start to wrap things up, what would you like the audience to take away? What are your takeaways from our discussion?



Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, I think I would love for them to take away just that. You can continue being who you who you were before motherhood in whatever context that means for you And, and, you know, an entirely different version of that maybe, but like you can continue all the athletic pursuits you had before. That I want women to feel to feel empowered in the postpartum phase. And I try to do that in a lot of different ways, right? Like in my clinic, with my postpartum plan, but doing things like these to just like, talk about, here’s some simple things you can do to help reintegrate your core and start building your strength back and just feel stable and confident, comfortable in your new body. That’s my goal, really. And so that’s our goal, Jen and Carrie, that’s my goal, personally, and I think that would be my takeaway.



And where can people find you? You can list social media websites, where can they find Jen and Carrie?



Yeah, so Jen and, it’s JdN and ke ri. We’re also on Instagram at Jen and Carrie. And then I’m also on Instagram at Dr. Carly, it’s KR, li e. Those are probably the best places. Perfect. And



we’ll have links to all of those in the show notes for today’s episode over at podcast at healthy, wealthy So if you forgot you didn’t write it down. Don’t worry, just hop on over. And we’ll have direct links to everything. So, Carly, last question. And it’s one I asked everyone knowing where you are now in your life in your career, what advice would you give to your younger self?



Yeah, I know, you asked that question. And I’ve been like really thinking hard about it. Um, I think I would give the sounds so cliche and sort of silly, but I think I would tell myself to have more fun, because the research shows when we’re having fun is when we actually enter that flow state more right? We can talk about that for hours, I’m sure. But I think I would tell myself that because I look back and see the hard work of school, you know, education, but also in sports athletics, through high school college. I just think I if I would have had more fun, I probably would have been more successful. But also maybe, you know, maybe it would have been a little bit smoother ride. So that would be my advice.



Yeah. And, and as an entrepreneur as well, right? So sometimes, yeah, gets so wrapped up into the day to day that we’re like, all stressed out and forget, like, wait a second, we got into this as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, to do things our own way. So why can’t that involve having some fun every day as well?



Yeah, exactly like this. Right? We get to just sit and chat about stuff we love to chat about. This is a good time. This is fun. So yes, great point. Even in the entrepreneurial life, especially.



Yeah, especially anyway, and you’re Listen, I’d love to have you come back on to talk about that aspect of, of your life as well. Because I love having successful female entrepreneurs and talk about their business and, and how they got things off the ground. Because I know people are always interested in that. So you’ll have to come back. I love it. Yeah, I think you’ll have to come back. And you’ll have to talk about your sports Cairo business as well as the Jen and Carrie. So you know, being in that space of a retail space, which I know is not easy. So, so much to talk about. So we will put a pin in that and we will discuss that maybe in a couple of months. So Carly, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. This was great. I think you gave people a lot of practical easy tips that they can start integrating whether you’re a postpartum mom or someone who cares for them. So thank you so much for coming on.



Yeah, thank you so much for having me. My pleasure. And everyone. Thanks



so much for listening. Have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.

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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.