I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and post-natal care are all feminist issues. In this country, right now, we aren’t doing enough and we are letting our women, our babies and families down. If we didn’t live in such a strong patriarchy, if we had more women in parliament and politics, then perhaps ‘women’s health’ would have the funding it so very much needs.
One area we are badly letting women down is post-natal care. It makes me so sad, and mad, when I hear so many women make jokes of how often they pee their pants when they laugh or sneeze or jump on a trampoline. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! This isn’t just the way things are when you have had children. We don’t have to resign ourselves to post-natal pelvic floor issues. There are so many things that can help you heal properly.
In France, every single woman gets a course of postnatal physio/rehabilitations sessions following their 6/8 week check-up. Studies show that ‘la rééducation’ significantly reduces incontinence and pelvic pain at nine months after giving birth.
I think it’s a travesty that we don’t have such a programme for women in the UK. Most 6 week check-ups here are abysmal (some trusts have stopped offering them altogether). At mine, no one even looked at how I was healing. They just said ok you can go have sex now if you want to, as I felt like my innards were trailing on the floor as I walked out the door thinking ‘aye right’.
It’s no surprise that 45% of british women have urinary incontinence seven years postnatally. With my daughter I had pelvic discomfort when I stood or walked a lot for the entire first year. I can’t help but think that perhaps if we had a programme like the French do, my first year could have been a lot easier.
Lately, I have been experiencing a few issues that led me to look up what kind of private postnatal physios we have in the area. I wanted to see if I had any diastasis recti as I’m exercising now and didn’t want to exacerbate any stomach issues I’ve had from my 2 pregnancies. I’m also experiencing a fair amount of hip pain at the moment, occasionally to the point where I’m limping. Occasionally, there have been instances where I’ve peed a little if I’ve left it too long to go to the loo. In addition, my C-section scar still hurts a little around my period and if pushed on every now and then.
My births were 6 years ago (traumatic emergency section) and 3 years ago (home birth that was healing emotionally but damaging vaginally) so I really should have seen someone sooner. The reason that I hadn’t was because like so many of us, I had assumed it was just all part and parcel of me being a mother to 2 children.
Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic
My internet search showed that there isn’t much in my area (actually in the UK as a whole) but I did find that the Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic specialises in the MummyMOT. Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic is a small but established clinic in Roker that has specialist women’s health physiotherapy services. It’s easy to find, I got the metro to Seaburn and then walked there in about twenty minutes.
They have two physiotherapists who were trained by Maria Elliot, a leading expert in women’s health physiotherapy in providing the MummyMOT programme. Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic are the only North East provider of the MummyMOT. They are also part of a growing group of specialist women’s health physiotherapists amusingly called #thepelvicmafia. You bring it ladies.
What is Mummy MOT?
The MummyMOT is a specialist post natal assessment. It is a thorough and in-depth assessment of all issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. It can be done from 6 weeks following birth (ideally) or anytime thereafter. The MummyMOT is a national franchise so there are clinics all over the country offering it. The only one we have in the whole North East is at the Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic.
What happened during my session?
In the session I met (a heavily pregnant) Lindsey Graham, the founder of Sunderland Physiotherapy Clinic (yas queen) and leader of the MummyMOT. I immediately warmed to Lindsey, she was really warm but professional. I felt in safe and capable hands. The first part of our session was a very in-depth chat about me, my health. Be warned it gets personal, you’ll talk sex and point out your poo type on a poop chart. We talked a lot about my births and recovery. It was quite cathartic actually after 6.5 years to finally speak to a women’s health professional who cared about how my pregnancies and birth have affected my body and mind. Again, why isn’t this available on the NHS?!
Then Lindsey told me what the rest of the session would entail. I was surprised to learn that I would strip down to my underwear to do some exercises for Lindsey so she could observe how my body moved. Lindsey stressed that if women didn’t feel comfortable doing this then they could keep their clothes on but I was comfortable to do this. I wanted to get the best results I could. I did some squats, lunges and other exercises in my pants and then we moved to the bed so Lindsey could feel my stomach.
She checked for diastasis recti and felt the fascia around my c-section scar. She even felt the muscles on the insides of my thighs. Then she checked my breathing, and tried to get me to breathe from my lower abdomen. I found that very difficult! The whole time as Lindsey was observing she was talking me through her findings which was highly illuminating.
After this, it was time for me to have an internal (which again, was a surprise to me). Again, Lindsey stressed I didn’t have to do this and women can skip this BUT if they want the best results it really is a key part of the assessment. Lindsey popped out the room while I got onto the bed and covered myself up just like at the doctors or the waxists.
Then she came in, put on gloves and some lubricant. She described everything she was doing and used her fingers to press on areas of my episiotomy scar and my pelvic floor. She got me to tighten my pelvic floor while she felt different areas so she could see strength. It was really interesting to feel the different areas and find out from Lindsey what they do and how they are performing. It was fascinating and I felt totally relaxed with Lindsey.
After this, Lindsey left the room, I got dressed and then Lindsey returned and we discussed her findings further.
What did I find out?
Thankfully I do not have diastasis recti. I do have a little separation but it’s under one finger wide above and below my belly button. I had tried doing the tests for this at home with YouTube tutorials but I could never figure it out for sure so it was reassuring to hear this from a professional.
Lindsey told me I had reduced abdominal breathing and reduced control of my hips and pelvis during squats and lunges (despite doing them at the gym twice a week for the past 8 months). There was a lot of tension around the left side of my c-section scar. This didn’t surprise me as this has always been the bit that has bothered me (apparently this is the side the surgeon is likely to have tied off at).
Lindsey told me I had good pelvic floor strength but there was tension on both my right second layer and my left third layer (which felt uncomfortable when Lindsey pushed on it during the exam). So while I have decent pelvic floor strength these areas of tension are reducing my control.
Follow up treatment?
I was reassured to learn that there are things that can be done to treat issues like I have. Lindsey set up a follow up meeting for some treatment. She also emailed me her findings, along with a number of documents with exercises that could help me. They also contained links to demonstration videos on the MummyMOT website and a log in so I could access them. This was really helpful.
I have to say I have struggled to find the time to do the exercises. Some of them are twice a day and some once but I can see how they will be helpful so I’ll persist with them. The exercises include ‘core restore’ exercises to strengthen the core and pelvic floor, stomach massage and leg stretches.
I had a follow up treatment booked and as I was on the way to the session I got my period which was unhelpful. I called to see if there would be any internal work. Lindsey told me there would be and she would be happy to reschedule if I was. It was great that I would speak frankly about it and that Lindsey totally got it. She said it’s a common occurrence in her line of work and she was very understanding and accommodating.
For my follow up session I had to take my 3 year old. I was apprehensive about taking a pre-schooler to a 45 minute physio appointment that included an internal. But in a shock move, Lena was good as gold (bar dismantling one of Lindsey’s pens into 7 pieces). Lindsey was great at putting Lena at ease. It was not a problem at all taking her with me which should be reassuring to mothers without childcare options.
In my follow up appointment Lindsey did a lot of work massaging my abdomen, legs and bum. She also did some internal work trying to loosen off the areas of my pelvic floor where it was too tight. At the start of Linsdey working on them it was pretty uncomfortable. However, by the end it was much more comfortable when she applied pressure so I’m hopeful that will have helped.
I felt even more comfortable with Lindsey in the second session and felt totally at ease – even when we had a chat for a while before I put my clothes back on. I can’t speak highly enough of Lindsey. She’s a total powerhouse of a woman. I want to go keep going back just to see her.
Now I’ve been sent away with daily exercises to do myself at home and then to go back to see where I’m at in a month’s time.
Every mother should go do this. You owe it to yourself. All that wear and tear to your body during pregnancy and birth, the very least we should do is check back in with our bodies and get ourselves back on the right track.
Yes, this should be what we get on the NHS but while it isn’t, this is something worth paying for. I just wish I had done it 6.5 years ago! Screw jewellery for push presents, this is what every new mother needs. It’s the least we deserve. Let’s reclaim the bullshit phrase ‘get our bodies back’ and use it for something functional that we actually need more than a ‘bikini body’.
The 60 minute specialist assessment costs £75 and follow up treatment sessions are 45 minutes and cost £45.
Disclaimer: I received my treatment in exchange for this honest review. I received no instruction on what to write. For my full disclosure policy, please see my about page. Photos by North East photographer Fiona Saxton Photography.
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