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Ashley James has opened up on the “traumatic” birth of her son Alfie and described how urinary incontinence left her feeling “embarrassed” after she was afraid to do “basic things”.
The former Made in Chelsea star, 33, welcomed her first baby in January with tech professional boyfriend Tommy Andrews and has described how motherhood with a six-month-old is "amazing" but “a whirlwind of juggling”.
Ashley, who previously feared she would lose her identity when she became a mother after prioritising her career and living in London for years as a single woman, also described how she has “become so maternal in herself” through lockdown since welcoming Alfie.
And in a candid and raw chat, the mum-of-one spoke exclusively to OK! about her battle with incontinence since giving birth.
She said: “I was terrified and embarrassed because while incontinence shouldn’t be embarrassing, of course it is.
“You just don’t know if you will be ok to do basic things like walk to the park especially when you have a baby."
Speaking about an incident in the park when she was alone with Alfie and dog Snoop, Ashley said: "You don’t know who will notice and you feel super exposed when it happens.
“I had to get Tommy to meet me and walk behind me on the way home and lot of public loos were closed because of the pandemic which adds to trauma of leaving the house."
Ashley continued: “It totally affects your confidence because, let’s be honest, you don’t feel like your sexiest self when you are having to deal with incontinence.”
The former reality star also revealed how the birth of her 9.5lb baby left her in fear that her body was "broken" and "ruined" with midwives at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London describing how Alfie was the second-biggest child they had delivered.
Reflecting on giving birth, Ashley said: "I had done hypnobirthing, run marathons and my mum was like, 'oh its fine'.
Ashley also described the "horrific pain" of Alfie "twisting on her pelvis" which was already "swollen" following pelvic girdle pains.
She said: "I thought at one point, 'I can’t do this [birth] anymore'. I think my whole labour was 18 hours of continuous pain and because I had done hypnobirthing and been really calm around it, I didn’t anticipate that things can still go wrong."
Ashley continued: "It was frightening especially as someone who considers themselves very mentally strong with a high pain threshold. I didn’t expect it [birth] to be such a challenge."
Speaking about her postnatal body, Ashley said: "It took me by surprise that I was suffering with foetal incontinence, prolapse and piles because I have always considered myself to be super fit and healthy.
"I have run marathons and I was lucky enough to have done physio throughout most of my pregnancy. I thought I would be wearing heels after giving birth and when I had all of these issues I thought, 'oh my God', why is no one talking about it?"
Ashley, who joins the likes of TOWIE star Georgia Kousoulou in sharing the reality of women's bodies after giving birth, said: "I found the only conversation about postnatal bodies was, 'are you going to snap back?' or, 'do you agreeing with snapping back?'"
"I think that is such a toxic conversation to have because I know loads of people who have given birth and have snapped back, not because of effort, that is just what their bodies did and they almost feel shame or embarrassment through showing off their body.
"But also my body has changed so much but from the outside and people only see weight loss and weight gain – they don’t understand the trauma associated."
However Ashley, who started using the £169 Elvie Trainer in 2018 to strengthen her pelvic floor, described how the tiny device, which aids bladder control and speeds up postnatal recovery, has “restored her confidence”.
She added: "There is a bit of a myth that incontinence only impacts older people and it is kind of an accepted fate that after giving birth you are incontinent.
"I was really surprised that through pelvic floor training you don’t have to endure these things."
Ashley James is working with Elvie as part of their #PelvicServiceAnnouncement campaign to help bust the taboos surrounding urinary incontinence in women of all ages.
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