the many reasons I call Bullshit on a recent NPR article…

Sep
2017
06

posted by on From Charlotte, Pre/Post-Natal

Below is my response to an article NPR released on healing an abdominal diastasis which is common during pregnancy. I’ve already posted my response on my Facebook page and heard from a few people who said they resonated with it even though they’ve never given birth so if you were just thinking you’d stop reading because I mentioned pregnancy, I actually invite you to keep reading. (Also because I get super riled up and sassy.)

So, a few weeks ago NPR published this article on “Flattening the ‘Mummy Tummy.’”

Before I share why it made me cringe, let me start with what’s good about it.

First of all, I am SO GLAD that more people are talking about abdominal diastasis. And a big fat YES to NPR for featuring a story on one woman’s journey toward healing her diastasis.

(Don’t know what an abdominal diastasis is? It’s the separation of your rectus abdominus (“six-pack”) muscles that often occurs during pregnancy and doesn’t always heal itself after giving birth. It can cause back pain, pelvic floor issues, and abdominal pain and is not talked about widely among doctors, OBs and even Midwives. When it comes to the abdominal diastasis, it’s way past time more women know how to heal and prevent it and I’m so glad to see it’s starting to “get out” in the mainstream more.)

And now, I have a few things to say about it, which had me screaming “no, no, no, NO, NOOOOOO” while reading it in my little Pilates studio in NYC last week. (It’s ok, the neighbors already think I’m crazy so — nothing new to see here, folks!)

In short, this article didn’t come close to exposing the truth about healing a diastasis and it further encouraged fear mongering and disempowering women. Here goes my full take…

Can we stop calling it the Mummy Tummy?
Why must everything be a “mom or mommy or mummy” thing? The infantilization of women who have children is getting old. It further isolates women who already feel isolated and it’s also just a ridiculous name. Who wants to have a nickname for their mid-section?!

I believe in calling the “Mummy Tummy” what it is, which is a diastasis. Everyone needs to know that word and how it can be prevented and healed. And if one has a diastasis, let’s call that what it really is, which is just a Woman ready to heal.

Stop telling women they have to be very careful.
I’ve had women email me, frantically, from around the globe saying they are panicking because some website out there is telling them they can’t slouch on the couch, or can’t bend over, or can’t ever exercise again because it might make their abdominal diastasis worse.

I talked with a woman once whose doctor told her she couldn’t work out once she got to be 7 months pregnant because it was “too dangerous” (she was not a high-risk pregnancy.)

And I work with women who walk into my studio in complete and utter FEAR because so many people (doctors, articles, specialists, etc) are telling them that they aren’t strong enough.

COME. ON

I’m sick of women who GO THROUGH BIRTH, one of the most grueling processes on earth, being told that they’re not strong.

Can we all agree to change the languaging here? It’s not about being careful.

It’s about being educated and knowing WHAT to do and HOW to do it for YOUR particular body (not anyone else’s.)

Don’t tell a certain demographic that they can never ever again in their life do a certain movement.
Seriously. There just can’t be universal exercises that need to be eliminated. Why? Because no body is the same.

End of story.

It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

There’s nothing to “fix.”
First of all, women, I’m sorry you were told that you can’t use your abdominals during pregnancy. Whoever said that to you set you up for a much longer recovery post-birth. They were irresponsible and misinformed. And if you are trying desperately to heal your body post-birth and are finding out that no one was actually real with you when it comes to what your body needs before, during, and after pregnancy, then you may be angry. And if you’re angry, I’d suggest throwing things. Maybe soft things into inanimate objects.

And then hear this: You’re not broken. You don’t need to be fixed. Your abdominals and your body are different now and you may need to make some adjustments, you may need to heal, you may need to spend some time rehabbing and you may need to get out of pain, but you don’t need to be “fixed.”

It’s never too late.

I do like that the article mentions women closed their diastasis some time after birth. However, I’d like to reiterate that it’s really, REALLY never too late. The article mentions one woman was a year out from giving birth. Personally, I helped my mother heal her abdominal diastasis when she was 26 years out from giving birth. So, let’s take this even further and encourage ALL women to explore the possibility that their back pain, pelvic floor issues, or incontinence could be related to having never fully healed after giving birth… however many years ago it was.

Oh yeah, and what about the Pelvic Floor?
You cannot teach abdominal activation and diastasis healing without mentioning the pelvic floor. Also, I’d like to hold all practitioners who work with the perinatal community accountable to speak about the pelvic floor (yeah that’s right, the VAGINA) in an open, honest, and straightforward way.

Need to be educated on how to do this? Check out my friend, Isa Herrera’s online program on the Pelvic Floor.

If you work with the perinatal community, it’s your responsibility to shed light on this issue. Millions of women live in the shadows and in shame about pelvic floor pain and weakness. If you’re too shy to talk about the Vagina, then the perinatal community might not be your demographic.

Don’t suck it in.
Who came up with the idea that muscles are suckable? And I’m always telling my community and clients that I don’t want them to have tight abs.

In the case of healing your diastasis and waking up the transversus abdominus, which is the key abdominal muscle in closing an abdominal separation, less is more. I’ve actually worked with clients who are so committed and desperate to heal their diastasis that they fall into the habit of gripping, or as the article suggests, pulling “tighter and tighter.” Pulling “tighter and tighter” can actually over-engage the obliques or the rectus abdominus (other ab muscles) and cause the diastasis to separate further.

Also, sucking in tighter and tighter could cause un-wanted pressure for the pelvic floor area. This would be detrimental (and I mean that in the most non-dramatic way) for any woman with a weak pelvic floor or prolapse.

Also, muscles don’t suck. So, there’s that.

Say no to flat back.
It’s a pretty well known fact that doing abdominal work with a flat back is old school. Using a flat back means you have to tuck your pelvis, which means you’re gripping your butt and hips. But more than that, it means you’re in spinal flexion (Interesting how the article tells you to never do flexion exercises again, yet by recommending a flat back, it’s contradicting this point. Because yeah — a flat back IS in flexion.)

Flexion utilizes the rectus abdominus which is the muscle that is separated in the first place. Flexion can also increase the abdominal separation, so frankly, I’m perplexed why flat back would be so passionately suggested.

The muscle that needs to be activated is the transversus abdominus which is activated when a person is in neutral spine, allows a natural arch to be in their low back, and utilizes diaphragmatic breathing. Your transversus abdominus acts as an inner corset — learning how to activate it (remember that less is more!) is how you activate inner stability in your abdominals. Maybe I’m being hippie-dippy here, but I think that learning how to use your low abs is a radical act of self-care and self-love.

Measuring tapes don’t equal success.
Yeah, so this is when I screamed many NOs in a row.

It’s true that activating the transversus abdominus tends to offer up very quick results. Once while leading a Pilates retreat in Mexico, a participant lost inches in days and she felt more stability in her core and pelvis than she ever had. However, not every body is going to respond in that way. Someone may have found their low abs and started to close their diastasis yet not see any change on a measuring tape.

Again, no body is the same and there’s no one formula that equals success when it comes to healing.

There is no standard number for “not having a diastasis anymore.”
Again, this is old school. And again I’ll say this:

No body is the same and there’s no one formula when it comes to healing.

One woman with a .06 inch diastasis may be completely fine and have no issues at all. Another woman may still be finding that her back or pelvic floor is compromised because of a .06 inch separation.

Integration is key.
I do like that the article suggests the exercises given can be done in many different positions (on the back, on hands and knees, sitting up, etc), however, I’ve seen the best results in my own body and from clients when they’ve applied low abdominal and pelvic floor activation during everyday movement. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of once in my career telling women they can just do their breathing ab exercises while they breastfeed their baby. Then I realized, nobody’s got time for that. Integrating strength and healing into your everyday life is possible and essential if you want to see real and lasting changes in your body.

I am curious how long women (with a 100% success rate, according to the article) experienced such success. In my personal experience, after closing my own diastasis and then just jumping back into the same movement I was doing before I had a diastasis (which mainly meant I wasn’t activating or waking up my transversus abdominus), it was mere weeks before the abdominal diastasis opened again.

In summary.
Women, you are your own body advocates and when it comes to healing, YOU know your body best. Even if it’s “backed by science”, if someone is telling you to only follow their method and nothing else and that all you need is what they tell you that you need, I would advise you to run far far away.

It seems to me that what this article offers has some good things to apply, and others to toss out (like calling it a damn Mummy Tummy, for instance). So know that when you’re on a healing journey, it’s important to follow your instincts, receive multiple opinions, do your research, and trust that it’s ok to have patience and go slow.

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