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How to Advocate for your Maternal Health

Jul 9, 2016 BY Vanessa Ast Biller

Hello, it’s me again, Vanessa Ast Biller, a maternal– and pelvic health–obsessed Mom of two, physical trainer and postnatal recovery specialist. Today, I wanted to send a message to all moms, moms-to-be, and future mothers is simple and heartfelt:

I want desperately for my fellow mothers to have better access to the healthcare we require when recovering from childbirth. I want for us to have a fair chance at a complete physical recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. I want us to feel fully recovered in a whole way. I want us to feel less broken, less physically and emotionally vulnerable. I want us to feel empowered and knowledgeable about our bodies in the delicate perinatal period (the earliest stage of motherhood), including how to access the care we need for a full recovery.

I want to convince you we must demand higher maternal health care standards to achieve a higher quality of maternal health in the long-term.

Why do we need better a higher standard maternal healthcare?

Because we deserve a higher standard of maternal healthcare. We deserve to feel supported so that we are in a stronger position to cope with the demands of the earliest stage of motherhood, and beyond.

Let's answer a simple series of questions: 
1) As a mother, do you experience or do you suspect you experience symptoms related to

  • the limitations of life with diastasis recti?
  • the discomfort of pelvic organ prolapse?
  • difficulty coping as a result of physical limitations onset after childbirth?
  • the inconvenience of urinary incontinence?
  • the pain of pelvic dysfunction?
  • all of the above?

Answer: Fifty percent of mothers experience pelvic health conditions, including pain, pressure, incontinence, dystrophy or prolapse, and many of these conditions go undiagnosed – and therefore untreated.

2) Why isn't our healthcare system diagnosing and treating these conditions?
Answer: One fundamental pit fall in the maternal health care process is that there is no physical assessment of any kind that occurs during the six-week postpartum check-up, even though best practice standards for obstetric care recommend this.

3)What is the impact of offering care practices that don’t follow evidence-based recommendations?
Answer: We are missing valuable opportunities to offer important prevention, correction and resource navigation tools to our expectant and recovering mothers in a timely fashion.

New mothers are being discharged from care less emotionally and physically strong than we could otherwise be if we were offered direct access to resources we require through public healthcare.

4) Why are we given care that does not meet the recommended standard?

Answer: The answer to this is complex, however it is in part because we don’t ask for a higher standard.

5) What do we need to change?
Answer: We need to know help is available. We need to learn how to access the resources we have available. We need a dialogue to stop censoring the topic so mothers no longer need to suffer in silence.

I encourage all moms, moms-to-be, and future mothers to take note of the following list:

7 Steps to Advocate for Maternal Health

Be educated about the common, yet overlooked, symptoms of pelvic health conditions.

Listen to your body and address its signals. Your body does not lie. My next blog post, on "pelvic symptoms to not ignore" will be coming in August to help you recognize these signals.

Speak up, share resources and continue the dialogue! Let’s stop censoring the topic of maternal health issues and let our fellow mothers know they are not alone.

Demand solutions to your health concerns. Do not take “sorry, there is nothing we can do for that, have you considered surgery?” as the only answer.

Explore pelvic health physiotherapy. This is the group of women’s health practitioners who are qualified to address your pelvic health needs. Every mother should see one during pregnancy and after giving birth. Check out this link for access the help you may require.

Approach exercise with caution. Be mindful when selecting your postnatal fitness trainer or program. Ensure they are knowledgeable about the risks to pelvic health if exercise approached too early or zealously.

Pay it forward. Let’s prevent our fellow mothers from suffering and ensure our daughters are honoured with better care.

We have choices. We have solutions. We need support. We need access to resources. We need more awareness about the realities of the postpartum conditions that, if left untreated, may negatively impact our quality of life, physical capabilities, self-esteem, aging process, relationships, and overall resilience as mothers.

I implore you to join the new mothers, whose mandate is to close this gap in healthcare. Help educate other women about their pregnant and postpartum bodies. Refer one another to the services we know exist and are needed. Help advocate for one and other’s maternal health.

We deserve a more dignified recovery from childbirth. Let’s get there together!

xo Vanessa

Jul 9, 2016 BY Vanessa Ast Biller
2 Comments
Anna Earley   •   July 14, 2016

Hey Vanessa! Just wanted to say I loved your post & article. We were in the same Bellies Inc. Certification Program and share the same passion. Advocating along side you my friend. You're doing great things for women. Anna

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Meri Meloyan   •   July 29, 2016

Vanessa! Thanks for writing this article and bringing awareness to maternal health. Being a pelvic specialist myself, I see women's frustrations and struggle about postpartum health daily. It is such a neglected aspect of our Healthcare system. We need to continue this conversation and play advocates for new moms. Meri, Pelvica Physical Therapy

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