My name is Vanessa Ast Biller, I am a wife, mother to two young daughters, adventurer, fun lover, womens fitness expert, founder of Vastfit, and now ... a fierce advocate for womens pelvic health. I am pelvic health obsessed!
There is a lot of biz and buzz about pelvic health recently and I could not be more thrilled about it. Even Gwyneth is touting the benefits of a sound pelvic floor, as published in her recent #goopdo blogpost. As a female fitness expert and mother of two, I became very focused on pre & postpartum fitness dos and donts during my pregnancies: what is safe, what is not, and how to maximize my health and fitness during pregnancy.
Then, after the birth of my second daughter, I developed a condition called Diastasis Recti Abdominus (DRA, or diastasis). Diastasis is the over-stretching of the connective tissue of the abdominal wall. For many women healing and reconnection occurs naturally in the weeks after childbirth, but for others, symptoms persist for years, as characterized by a weakened core and pelvic floor, lower back pain, pooched belly (or mummy tummy), loose skin, plus a host of other unpleasant knock-on effects if not treated correctly. 66% of women experience diastasis during their second pregnancy and for 36% of these women, the lasting affects will sound all too familiar (Boissonnault & Blaschak (1988), via Diane Lee).
I began an extensive search for knowledgable practitioners and methods to heal and bring myself back to strength, which proved difficult, costly and lengthy. I soon noticed a gap in the womens health industry. Diastasis and other related pelvic health conditions (prolapse, bladder incontinence, sexual dysfunction) go undiagnosed because the symptoms are ones we do not want to talk about, get swept under the rug, or are believed to be just part of having children.
As an avid athlete: lover of running, triathlons, yoga, Pilates, cardio of all sorts, and mother who prides myself by my physical strength, the loss of functional core strength I experienced was initially devastating. However, my journey with diastasis has fueled a passion in me to help educate other women how to prevent and treat the condition effectively. Postpartum pelvic health is admittedly outside the mandate of doctors as the conditions are not life-threatening although for many are life-altering. We need to be our own advocates and seek knowledgeable practitioners ourselves, should treatment be required.
Demand an assessment with you doctor at your 6-week postpartum check-up.
In the case of any separation, symptom of prolapse, or bladder leakage whatsoever, book an appointment straight away with your local pelvic health physiotherapist (yes, there is physiotherapy for your core & pelvic floor!)
Your pelvic health physiotherapist can guide you in your best practice in returning to exercise and can likely refer you to a fitness practitioner with specialized training.
Begin your journey to pelvic health, delay aging, and prevent related conditions from arising later down the road. Remember, everything is connected.
START YOUR HEALING
Luckily there is a rapidly growing group of compassionate and educated physiotherapist, chiropractic, osteopathic, and fitness practitioners who are specifically trained to treat women with diastasis and other pelvic health conditions. They are swooping in to fill this gap in the womens health industry and even partnering with one another to offer you the highest, most holistic, and complete standard of postpartum rehabilitative care available yet in Canada (look for the Bellies Inc. standard of certification).
In certain countries around Europe - most notably France - this high standard of postpartum rehabilitative care for mothers is expected and paid for by the government. My dream is that this will become a reality in Canada as well -even if it takes years. Wouldnt you agree that we deserve the opportunity for a more complete recovery than that which is currently offered by our medical system?
I urge every women who is expecting, or has just had a baby to build a relationship with a pelvic health physiotherapist, as a first point of call, before returning to exercise. The results can be excellent and will most definitely be enlightening.
It has been two years since having my youngest daughter, Anya, and gradually I have returned to core strength and functionality. I wish I had these answers sooner that I offer you today. I have restored excellent tone to my pelvic floor, I feel great in a bikini (even if my belly looks a little different) because I am strong, and I enjoy a healthy sex life again with my husband. I run and have returned to my former methods of fitness with awareness, empowered with the knowledge of how to modify safely. But I admit, it has been a journey.
Take good care, dear Mamas, pay close attention to your pelvic health after babies. Help spread this valuable message to your fellow beloved Moms. Research, knowledge and specialization is at your fingertips and now you know how to find it. You are - most definitely - worth it.