What do you think of the idea of having a full check-up once you’ve had a baby? Not just that super-quick 6-8 week GP check for new mums. Well there’s now such a thing called the Mummy MOT in Plymouth, and around the country – and I tell you, it’s great!
I’m not usually one for the whole ‘new year, new you’ thing, but this January I decided it was time to sort something out.
And that something is the way my stomach looks. I’m not talking about just losing a stone (although I need to do that too!). I’m talking about finally addressing the tummy muscle separation (diastasis recti) my twins have kindly left me with. Annoyingly however much weight I lose, it makes no difference to those pesky muscles and tummy gap and how it makes my stomach look.
My boys were giants for twins – 7lbs 1oz and 7lbs 8oz. Some people don’t even have one of those sized babies inside them, so add on two placentas and you can imagine how bloody stretched my body has been. I think at the time the midwives said I had about 16lbs of weight inside me. Ouch!
My separated abdominal muscles have never recovered and gone back to where they should be. Leaving me with a stomach that can quite often still look 4 months pregnant – bikinis and tight-fitting clothes are no longer my friend!
In the past I’ve dieted and got back to pre-baby weight but it makes zero difference to how these tummy muscles look. I mean, it wouldn’t, would it? But I was kind of hopeful. So I just got used to wearing more floaty or baggy clothes and just trying to hide it. There was no way I had time or the headspace to do anything about it when the kids were young and I was in that foggy new state of motherhood. Three under three, anyone? Nah…
It’s never too late to do something about it
Now we’re six years on and I wondered if it was just too late to do anything about it. Had I missed my chance and just had to put up with this new body shape of mine? I’m not particularly into the whole body confidence movement. I know you should love your own body, and be grateful it’s given me three fabulous (sometimes!) children, but I just can’t buy into all that. It’s all a bit too ‘social media’ for me. I think it’s totally normal – and completely fine – to say that actually no, there’s parts of your body that you don’t like. It’s then up to you if you’re going to live with that or try get further help to change it.
I think I knew that there’s still a chance and it was a matter of getting expert advice, knowing the correct exercises and having a bespoke rehabilitation program. And not just haphazardly attempting a load of sit-ups and potentially doing more damage. I mean, I don’t want to put a load of effort in, only to make it worse! I also know that I could use a little help on the old pelvic floor muscles front. I fear it’s a three-baby, plus an age (I’m now 44) thing, and let’s just say I could be doing better.
Mummy MOT in Plymouth
So when Kate at Wilsmore Physiotherapy in Plymouth contacted me, telling me about the ‘Mummy MOT’ service she provides, I was really interested – if a little daunted.
The Mummy MOT is for women from 6-8 weeks postnatally, who may be suffering from any of the following symptoms since having a baby including:
- Leaking wee, poo or wind
- Rushing to the toilet
- Heaviness or dragging
- Tummy muscle separation
- Pelvic pain
- Back pain
The Mummy MOT assessments look at posture, breathing, pelvic floor, strength, flexibility, c-section recovery, advice on bladder and bowel health and returning to exercise.
And the best bit is, it’s not just for those mums who have recently had a baby – you can go (and still ‘fix’ things) no matter how old your children are. Which is kind of lucky for me seeing as my twins are now 6.5! It makes no difference how many kids you have, whether you had a vaginal birth or c-section delivery.
Mummy MOT starts with lots of questions
So the appointment started off with lots of chat and questions, firstly about the birth of your baby, so I had to test my memory! Yes the questions are personal ones, but they’re bound to be on this subject, aren’t they? It’s a Mummy MOT. But rest assured, Kate could not have been lovelier and she put me at ease instantly. Remember as much as this isn’t the kind of conversation you’d normally have with your partner or friends, Kate talks about this all day everyday. She’s a pelvic health specialist physio and has worked for the NHS and privately, so I guess there’s probably not much she hasn’t seen when it comes to pelvic floor dysfuction, muscle imbalances and the different ways women have been effected by childbirth.
I hopped on the couch and the initial assessment was Kate examining my tummy separation (sadly it’s still there!) and said it was about 2-3 fingers worth of gap. I remember the midwife straight after the twins telling me it was 4 fingers, so at least it’s improved a little!
She then got me to do a few specific movements such as bending forward to touch my toes, and a squat to look at the shape of my body and stomach. So make sure you wear some kind of exercise gear – I had to dust my trainers off before I went! You keep the bottom half of your clothing on, but tuck your t.shirt into your bra so Kate can see your tummy.
Kate then moved onto the pelvic floor assessment and showed me the skeletal model of the pelvic area, pointing out to me where the pelvic floor muscle is. Honestly I had no idea how big it was. I found this super useful to be able to picture when she was talking about it.
Tummy muscle separation and pelvic floor assessments
As part of the Mummy MOT, Kate also offers an internal pelvic floor examination (which you’re able to have a chaperone at if requested), but it’s absolutely not compulsory. I decided to go for it, I mean, I might as well while I’m here to check everything is in order. Again, Kate put me 110% at ease, so much so that I actually thought I might have got the giggles.
And as suspected my pelvic floor, or rather my ability to do the exercises correctly, is not quite up to scratch. I did kind of wonder this, as no matter how often I do them, I would still never be able to get on the trampoline with my boys without fearing the worst! Oh, and does anyone else have to cross their legs when they sneeze? Yup.
Kate taught me some new ways to do the pelvic floor exercises, different analogies to think of, and different techniques – not just ‘try to stop a fart’ as most midwives tell you. Way more in depth than this. She was also able to tell if I was doing them right and correct me there and then, which was great. I mean, what’s the point in doing them three times a day if you’re doing them wrong and it’s doing sod all!
It made me wonder wonder how many other women are just happily squeezing away trying to ‘stop a fart’ thinking they’re doing them correctly.
This analogy was a great one – ‘Try and imagine a lift inside your vagina that you are pulling all the way up to the top floor and all the way down again’. Have a go yourself!
Kate then showed me specific breathing techniques and exercises to do to try and bring my stomach muscles back together. After the appointment she sent me a full written report and a rehab programme on a separate app, written specifically for me. Now I just need to do them, but at least you can do this sort of thing in the comfort of your own home! I just now need to find a way of ensuring it all becomes a part of daily life.
Us women don’t talk enough about this subject
I found the whole Mummy MOT so useful and interesting. It’s so good to know that everything is okay ‘down there’ and be given help towards making a real difference to my tummy muscle separation. I can book in for further sessions if I want to, but I’m going to see how the treatment plan goes first.
If you’re experiencing any problems like this, you can self-refer to an NHS physio, but the waiting lists are 3-4 months, and they can only check one symptom at a time, rather than everything all at once. So you’ll basically have to choose which is worse – your hip pain, tummy muscle separation or your pelvic floor issues. As they won’t look at all of it together.
The other thing that’s glaringly obvious is that none of us talk about this stuff, do we? I mean I might joke to my mates about it now and again but none of us chat seriously.
But according to Kate, so many of us are experiencing problems since having children. No matter how long ago we had them. Check out these startling stats:
- 1 in 3 women suffer from incontinence
- 1 in 3 will still have diastasis at 12 months postpartum
- 1 in 2 will have a prolapse at some point in their life (although not everyone will have symptoms)
- 40% of women report having at least one pelvic floor symptom
A recent survey asking women about pelvic health dysfunction found that over half of women who had experienced a problem did not seek help from a healthcare professional, because 40% thought it was normal and 20% were too embarrassed.
We all know that the whole pelvic floor and bladder control issue is something we don’t talk about, but how many of us are still shying away from joining our kids on the trampoline or crossing their legs when they cough or sneeze?
40% of women report having at least one pelvic floor symptom which is huge. Half of all women will have a prolapse at some point in their life. Wow!
Symptoms are common but not normal – so seek help
Kate says that symptoms of leaking, urgency, heaviness or pain are common but they’re not normal and you certainly don’t have to put up with it or be embarrassed. No matter the problem, be it pelvic floor dysfunction, bowel weakness, poor core strength, urinary incontinence or sexual dysfunction – you can bet Kate as a senior physiotherapist has seen and heard it all before.
So if you feel that things aren’t right but not sure what to do about it, go and see her for a Mummy MOT in Plymouth. It’s such an important thing to do. She is literally the nicest, loveliest person, and made me feel so comfortable. Which was handy considering the subjects we talked about!
Kate is based at Wilsmore Physiotherapy at Langage, in Plymouth and can be contacted here. But there are physios all over the UK who offer the Mummy MOT. Check out the Mummy MOT website to find one near you.
Now I just need to make sure I do what she’s told me and continue with the right treatment and fitness goals. Although I still think my bikini days are long gone!
Kate offered me a £90 Mummy MOT session in return for some Instagram coverage – but I thought this topic was so important I’d write about it on here too!
How did I do?
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