BIRTHFIT Isn’t Just For Pregnant Women
My Personal Recovery Journey
By Dr. Meagan McGowan
Core Therapies recently had the pleasure of hosting the BIRTHFIT Professionals Seminar, individuals from across the country gathered to hold space together. Chiropractic doctors and students, Midwives and Doulas, Physical Therapists and PT Assistants, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists, Yoga Instructors, and Functional Medicine practitioners were among the professionals represented. We share a common love of supporting women throughout their motherhood journey. Despite the resources and care available today, there are still many shortcomings in support, education, community and beliefs. BIRTHFIT recognizes all stages of motherhood, creating integral values stated as the Four Pillars: fitness, nutrition, connection and mindset. Encompassing all of these values, BIRTHFIT seeks to create a standard of care that far surpasses the current state, especially when it comes to postpartum care.
How I Discovered BIRTHFIT
I was first introduced to BIRTHFIT through a podcast featuring its founder Dr. Lindsey Mathews. I related immediately to the passion I heard in her voice and dove a little deeper into BIRTHFIT’s message. Coincidentally, one of my patients had someone she wanted me to meet…someone who was equally passionate about working with women. This woman happened to be the BIRTHFIT Regional Director for NJ and co-owner of Crossfit SOAR. We met, we talked, we laughed, we shared our frustrations surrounding the state of readiness specific to motherhood. I signed up for my first BIRTHFIT Professionals seminar immediately. I thought this would be a great addition to my practice at Core, but it was so much more than that!
My Journey With BIRTHFIT
My husband and I have had two welcomed pregnancies, both boys birthed with the support of Midwives. I felt prepared, heard and supported beginning pre-conception through delivery. My postpartum care consisted of a pelvic exam at 6 weeks postpartum and was told everything looked good. I was happy and went on my way. Admittedly, my second pregnancy was a bit different and slightly more difficult than my first. I felt pressure and heaviness much earlier on, and Matt was kinesio taping my belly for extra support. By 8 weeks, I experienced pressure equivalent to eating a Thanksgiving dinner every night. What I did not know then – and was not discovered until 10 months after my second birth – is that I had Diastasis Recti which was palpated and measured during the BIRTHFIT Professionals seminar. Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal fascia. This happens to every pregnant woman at some point during her pregnancy. Some women are left with minimal separation postpartum, others – like myself – have a much larger gap. When this happens the core muscles are not equipped to counter the abdominal pressures created with movement. This is a sign of core and pelvic instability. Most women have no idea when this occurs during their pregnancy, but I distinctly remember the moment I bent down to put a piece of paper in our shredder and felt a surface level burning discomfort go up the middle of my belly. That was with my first pregnancy. Recalling that occurrence, then the peaking or tenting I saw in my belly after delivery with our first son, and then the exceptional pressure I felt while pregnant the second time, it became apparent that I went into my second pregnancy severely separated and with an unstable core and pelvis. I had no idea.
The BIRTHFIT Professionals seminar was the first time in almost 10 years I felt like all of my worlds were coming together. My love for treating and holding space for pregnant woman, learning movements that aren’t modified for the pregnant woman but rather adapted to their changing body, the importance of mindset and strength of connection…all while learning how to help myself recover. It was as inspiring as it was emotional. I knew I could become part of this community that was striving to better care and awareness, but at the same time I was suffering with the current standard of postpartum care. The planks and pushups I was doing to better myself were actually reinforcing and exacerbating my diastasis. I had no idea I should have been working on foundational movements to create stability in my core before taking on load and gross movements. Note: Every baby is born with a diastasis and the movements we observe them doing while on their backs, rolling over, and crawling are all innately done to help them close their diastasis. BIRTHFIT teaches a functional progression of movements adapted from the workings of DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization), all created by studying the movement patterns of babies and children.
I am very pleased to report that through my own recovery journey I have reestablished a stable core and have closed my diastasis to one measurable finger width. Although there is always more room to strengthen and stabilize ,I am well within normal limits. I have used my education and my own recovery to relate to women and their stories. I willingly field (and ask) questions about sensitive topics such as pain, discomfort, incontinence, painful sex, urgency, etc. because although these feelings may be typical, they are not normal. Having a practitioner who knows how to support a woman through the full motherhood journey is so empowering for her because the support doesn’t stop 6 weeks postpartum, nor should it. BIRTHFIT supports functionality within your body and your life, connection within your own tribe and in your community, and a healthy mindset open to support especially when underlying causes of depression are present. At first I thought…“BIRTHFIT, great! I’m going to get back into shape.” Today it holds such a presence in my life because BIRTHFIT is much more than just strengthening movements. It is a mission, a community of likeminded individuals striving to reshape the thoughts and conversation surrounding childbirth.
“The pregnant should not be thought of as weak or diseased, it is a time of power! Postpartum is a time to recalibrate the system mentally and physically.” – E.B.