When my midwife told me I had a diastasis recti (separation of my abdominal muscles), as well as some pelvic floor weaknesses (I had a rectal prolapse, which is just as lovely as it sounds), I thought I was a bit of a postpartum freak show. I mean, there couldn't possibly be anyone else who came out of childbirth as wrecked as I was, could there?
Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that diastasis recti and pelvic floor issues are actually quite prevalent. A study from 2016 found that 60 percent of women six weeks postpartum had a diastasis recti. And although some of these women’s issues resolved, a third of them still had the condition at 12 months.
Note that none of this should be taken lightly. Core weakness doesn't just lead to the dreaded "mummy tummy" look. It can also be the cause of back pain, constipation and leaking urine. Pelvic floor issues (which often go hand in hand with a weak core) can also lead to incontinence, hernias, prolapsed organs, sexual dysfunction and painful sex. Not fun at all.
These practitioners literally save countless women’s vaginas, pelvises, bladders and butts. Enough said.
Why aren't more of us talking about this stuff? I know a bunch of women who weren't even examined for these issues after childbirth. Don't you think a woman would want to know if she had any of these conditions? Plus, it's not like they just go away. Core and pelvic floor issues are often the sources of women's discomforts and ailments for many years after they've had kids.
What's most frustrating is that there are ways to fix these issues and, except in the most serious cases, they don't even involve surgery. And most of us don't even know this.
First, there are quite a few exercise programs out there that work specifically to heal DR and strengthen your pelvic floor. Just a quick internet search will take you to the most popular ones. I recently completed a program called Restore Your Core, and not only is my diastasis recti almost completely closed, but my rectal prolapse symptoms have decreased by about 75 percent. (Please note: No one is paying me to mention this program—I just think it’s awesome.) These programs definitely take commitment, but they work.
If you don't think you can tackle the whole thing on your own, there are actually healthcare providers out there called pelvic floor therapists who will help you work on your issues. They are often (but not always, unfortunately) covered by insurance. I know several women who have sung the praises of their pelvic floor therapists. These practitioners literally save countless women’s vaginas, pelvises, bladders and butts. Enough said.
I recently came across an article in Today’s Parent about how France handles the issue of core and pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth. Get this: Every single postpartum mom in France is entitled to a prescription of 10 sessions with a pelvic floor therapist. Yep, that's as awesome as it sounds. The program is offered for moms starting at six weeks, and although it is certainly not a requirement, most French women partake. They have friends, moms or grandmas who have done it and told them to do it.
Can we please bring this kind of thing to the U.S.? Every postpartum woman should be examined for any core or pelvic floor weaknesses after birth—and she should be given easy access to exercises and therapies to fix any issues that may arise. We all deserve to feel well and strong, inside and out.