FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
Oobermama is leading a national campaign for progressive post-natal care, calling for abdominal separation exams to be carried out at all 6-8 weeks postnatal checks.
Nine times out of 10, I am the first professional to identify a Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) in a client. It has been missed at earlier opportunities, as the examination is not included in NHS guidelines and medics are not trained in how to perform these simple checks. I decided to begin my campaign after working with two women in the same week in 2022, both of whom presented with a 4-5 finger separation of their tummy muscles. Both had clear red flags; they had four children within eight years, so pregnancies close together with little time for recovery. Both were small-framed ladies and had very large babies. All of these should have raised some concern but neither woman had their muscles checked with any of their babies. The clincher for me was that the first lady was 63 and had presented with a dual prolapse, complications stemming from the Diastasis she had no idea was there. Her youngest child was now 29. The other client had a one-year-old. So over 30 years, the postnatal checks have remained unchanged, despite huge progresses being made in medicine!
My argument is that this simple check in the first weeks and year after giving birth can pick up a problem that triggers a multitude of bigger issues if left to go unnoticed, or if it fails to close naturally over the months post birth. A mum who knows she has a Diastasis can take measures to avoid the exercises and movements that might make it worse and look for help to restore their muscles. Ignorance is not bliss; undetected a separation can lead to other complications including prolapses, back pain, bladder and postural issues which cost the NHS hundreds of thousands a year in avoidable later interventions.
Raising awareness about this issue should have a similar platform to menopause. Ultimately, it’s a money-saving solution for the NHS as a preventative tool for later complications. Put recognised experts in place (women’s health physios and registered PTs) to whom GPs can signpost their patients. Then ensure there is means tested funding or subsidies in place, so the help is available to all. This move would not put more pressure on an already overstretched NHS or its budgets, but rather move that extended care onto an external pathway, ideally governed by NICE/NHS standards. Long-term, this intervention would I’m certain, cost the NHS less than the problems currently missed are.
Women are the generation-makers. We are designed to give birth, but the price our bodies pay is often a high and complicated one.
The campaign is called FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! because that’s what my mum used to say when she’d had enough of us children; that’s what we are saying. Enough of putting women’s postnatal well-being behind everything else in the order of things. Things need to change.
Greater emphasis on pre and post-natal training at medical school.
Extend after-care beyond 6-12 weeks and into the first year so post-natal depression and other medical issues resulting from giving birth can be picked up earlier.
Make examinations for abdominal separation a prescribed part of the 6-8 week check.
GPs and midwives to be comprehensively trained in how to conduct this simple test.
Clear rehabilitation pathways offered to women who are found to have separated muscles.
I am convinced bringing in this check and extending postnatal care into the first year, will pay dividends in the long-term and actually save the NHS money.