"When you get up from laying down, it's always the Sexy Senior. Remember that, Sexy Senior," Nikki Bergen of The Belle Method, Pilates extraordinaire and prenatal expert, says as she leads a room full of women towards stronger pelvic floors and the reparation of abdominal separation after pregnancy.
Sexy Senior is the process of rolling on to your side and lifting yourself up from that position rather than pulling your body straight from your back into a crunch every time you get up. These are not the things you think of when you’re pregnant with your first child. Your vagina falling out. Your abs separating. Peeing a little every time you cough. Chronic back pain.
When I was pregnant with my first baby I thought of the labour and delivery. How is it going to go? Will I get the epidural in time? Will it be my doctor that actually delivers the baby or some stranger on call covering for her? I thought of the sleeplessness that I would endure because of what I’d witnessed being around my sister and her babies but it was sort of an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ type of thing. I was focused on getting this baby out and then figuring out how to care for him would come next. Doing kegels seemed about as irrelevant as the technique of rolling a tennis ball along my spine during labour. It wasn’t going to do anything. Or would it?
As it turns out, everything is connected, and kegels aren’t just performed to cure pee-when-you-giggle syndrome. They actually play a huge role in the process of healing Diastasis Recti, a.k.a. Mummy Tummy. The first eight weeks postpartum is the most critical time for healing DRA (as people in the biz call it) but it can still be fixed many years after pregnancy if workouts are done correctly.
Bergen says, doing kegels isn't just the motion of stopping your pee from coming out, there is a complete breathing technique that goes along with it. "Think of your core as a barrel. All around to your back, up top and down to your pelvis. Expand the breath when you inhale. Fill the barrel with wine and then release. The release is just as important as the inhale in term of kegels. You need the full contraction."
So, how do you know if you have DRA?
Do an ab crunch or get down into a four point kneel or simply just get out of bed. Do you see a tent going up for business on your stomach? when you’re standing, does your belly still look slightly pregnant even though you’ve lost all the baby weight? Sorry toots, you’ve got DRA along with the rest of the millions of women in North America who deal with the same issues. If you are French however, you’ve been educated on pelvic health right out of the delivery room.
In France the government pays for 10 pelvic physio appointments after the baby is born. Here in Canada, we don't so much as hear our doctors utter the words pelvic floor repair. Anita Vandenberg, Registered Physiotherapist-Pevlic Health and Orthopaedic, says that when we go for our six week post delivery appointment, most doctors don't even do a vaginal exam. We are told that we can go back to our regular exercise routines and life carries on. This is irresponsible. Hence why Vandenberg has made it her professional and personal crusade to educate women on the importance of taking care of our pelvic health.
And caring for our lady bits means getting informed. The first thing to note? If you’re going to do the work to correct the problems, do it right. Bergen writes in a recent Huffington Post article:
It turns out that a functional pelvic floor is pretty much the most important thing ever. Want to prevent pregnancy back pain and reduce your risk of mummy tummy? Want your body to bounce back after you deliver your baby? Want to avoid organ prolapse and incontinence? It comes down to keeping your pelvic floor — the base of your torso and centre of your stability — strong. It comes down to your "kegels," and whether you're doing them right (hint: most aren't).
It's also important to remember that just because you're leaking doesn’t mean you're loose down there. Women who are incredibly tense suffer in the same way. Their floors are hardly ever released which can cause the same issues as what Poise pad wearing women face.
So ladies, let's start doing right by our pelvic regions. See a physiotherapist and get assessed. Start doing the work to strengthen the area. And if you've just had a baby, check out the FITsplint to help with post baby recovery. Unlike corsets or other over-the-top materials, these splints are recommended by doulas in the postpartum period to help mama recover quickly, safely and comfortably.
Trish Bentley is the editor-in-chief and founder of thepurplefig.com.
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