It's time to get talking about our post-baby bodies
I’m not talking about the aesthetics - the slim waist, the stretch marks and the other imperfections which certain media, social media and societal stereotypes could have us believing we are worth less than we are. I’m talking about the physical symptoms including urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, painful sex and diastasis recti.
That’s a bunch of technical words for; wetting yourself when you jump, laugh or sneeze, feeling like your insides might fall out when you go to the loo, sex that hurts, or a tummy that bulges and feels unstable. Real problems, for real women. After all – it’s no good looking like a runway supermodel in your skinny jeans or summer bikini if you wet yourself every time you giggle.
So no, when I say let’s get talking about our post baby bodies, I’m not referring to the size of our waistline. Though shifting unwanted, stubborn weight is a collateral benefit, the real problems facing women and their mental health are the daily hurdles we face as a result of feeling completely disconnected with our own bodies. This is not an issue which only impacts women years after they give birth, it happens to new mums as well – meaning we are all in the same boat!
The stats don't lie - you're not alone
In a recent customer survey, MUTU System found that 87% of women said that dealing with pelvic health issues had affected their mental health at some stage and certain studies have looked into the deeper impact on quality of life. Women living with urinary incontinence have been shown to have a significantly lower quality of life compared with those who are continent, and it’s far more common than you might have thought.
Incontinence affects almost half of all women, while 50% of postnatal women experience pelvic organ prolapse with symptoms of bladder and bowel dysfunction. Perhaps this could go some way to answer why approximately 68% of women with mental health problems are mothers.
So, whilst we’ve established that mothers are not alone with their problems, and that pelvic health issues are not uncommon, it doesn’t take away from the fact that every woman deserves the dignity and pleasure of a body that works and that feels good. These issues are common, but for us as women to simply accept as a price to pay for having a child.
Our pelvic health is our mental health.
Our pelvic health is our mental health. In an era when women’s voices need to be heard more than ever, far too many talented and brilliant females are being held back from becoming their best selves by avoidable physical symptoms and low body confidence.
Women are putting up with issues and feelings they shouldn’t have to, whilst striving for unrealistic ideals. This impacts every element of a woman’s life, including their career. In a MUTU System study of 150 women, 41% said they have taken time off work for health issues that they did not feel comfortable discussing with their boss, 30% said pelvic health affected their performance or focus at work and 36% felt anxious and embarrassed in the workplace due to pelvic health issues.
Conclusion: it’s very hard to be a badass woman when you’re worried you’re going to wet yourself.
Learning the hard way
Let me tell you a little about my story. I find that women take comfort taking advice from somebody who knows exactly how it feels to be completely alienated from their body. To go from a fit, active and healthy woman to a woman who felt they couldn’t do the simplest of tasks. Bitter, sad and devoid of all confidence.
The births of my own children are why MUTU System exists. My first birth was incredibly difficult and involved medical intervention after a 28-hour labour. Haemorrhaging had required an emergency transfusion and my body felt completely broken. Less than two years later my second son was born, and the haemorrhage returned, this time taking me close to the point of death as I was rushed to a different hospital via helicopter. I thought I’d never see my family again.
I eventually recovered, but my mind didn’t. I felt physically and emotionally broken. Powerless and useless, as if nothing felt instinctive or natural. Many women feel like this are hurried by well-meaning others to ‘get over it’ or move on.
Many women struggle to see their beauty, strength and power. Whether it was recent or many years ago, and however it plays out, our births stay with us, part of us, part of our bodies as well as our identity. We may feel battered and broken, disconnected. We love our babies fiercely, but we know that the impact on our bodies can cause a serious loss of confidence.
This is when MUTU System was born. I built what I had needed, but couldn’t find. It’s not about changing outcomes, but about shifting mindset around expectations, learning new tools and strategies, and empowering true confidence and the body we deserve.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Our pelvic health needn’t define our lives as women. The truth is, it is not an irreversible issue and we do have the power to make a change. 94% of MUTU System customers on the postpartum recovery programme claimed to feel better in and about their bodies, including 97% who said they could now find and engage their pelvic floor muscles.
Here are some beginner tips to follow at home to start your journey to remedy urinary incontinence.
Inhale and let your stomach muscles and pelvic floor relax. Let it all go and enjoy a complete state of relaxation. This part is really important. Your muscles can’t work properly if they’re ‘switched on’ all the time. The relaxation phase is just as important as the engagement so avoid squeezing repeatedly and give space to both phases. You can do these exercises sitting on the floor, kneeling, or lying on your back or side, depending on whatever feels most comfortable.
Next, exhale as you lift and gently squeeze your pelvic floor. To find the right muscles, imagine you’re trying not to pass wind by engaging the back passage muscles. Imagine that your vagina is a straw and you’re sucking up a smoothie through it. As strange as this may sound, it’s a very effective method. Refrain from being too forceful and maintain this as a gentle squeeze and lift.
Then breathe in and fully relax and release those muscles, being careful not to push down or away. Again, this isn’t a forceful movement, just release and fully let go.
Repeat five times, in time with your own breath, always relaxing and releasing on the inhale, drawing upwards and gently squeezing on the exhale. Do these five breaths at least a couple of times a day, every day and in doing so 92% of our customers who had experienced bladder symptoms (urinary leakage) saw improvement. It is important to schedule in a time every day to complete these exercises. Gently squeezing on a small ball as you exhale and engage increases the contraction and makes your pelvic floor muscles work harder!
You can now engage and release your pelvic floor properly. So the next step is to apply your new skill to everyday life! Whenever you pick up a heavy load, like a child or car seat, prepare, inhale and release first, then engage and exhale as you lift to protect your pelvic floor and core.