It’s something many moms might be embarrassed to talk about, but childbirth can wreak havoc on the body, especially the pelvic floor, resulting in a range of lasting physical discomforts.
Uterine prolapse, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction are among the unpleasant conditions some women may face post-partum. In hopes of reaching out to those struggling in silence, Sabrina Turnbull is speaking frankly about her experience after childbirth and what she did to alleviate her symptoms. After the North Vancouver resident had her second child, her midwife told her she had a prolapse. After her third child, things got worse.
“I had a third-degree prolapse at that stage; I was incontinent,” she says. “I ended up buying Poise pads.”
“I just sort of assumed that was me,” she continues. “I’m a mom. This is what I deserve. Part of being a mother is that your body’s not the same.”
Turnbull had her three children with the Midwifery Associates, who operate out of Canopy Integrated Health in Lynn Valley. They suggested she see physiotherapist Cheryl Leia, who works at the same health care centre. Outside her regular practice at Canopy, Leia runs a program at her Westview home studio called Coretiques, which she developed to retrain the deep core. The classes combine rehabilitation and strengthening exercises and hypopressives – a set of breathing and posture exercises designed to minimize the effects of gravity aging, birth trauma and pelvic floor weakness.
Leia launched Coretiques a little over a year ago not just with post-partum women in mind, but any woman whose core has become weakened due to high-impact activities, injuries or age.
Turnbull was apprehensive at first. She doesn’t normally do physiotherapy and wasn’t sure how effective the class would be, but ultimately decided to give it a try.
“I came to the class and what I wasn’t expecting is that it would be such a great environment,” she says.
She quickly met other moms in the small group who were in the same boat as her and realized just how many women experience pain and discomfort post-partum, but are too shy to seek help.
After attending a few classes and doing the take-home exercises, Turnbull saw results.
“Within two weeks I had stopped peeing myself,” she says. “I did not expect that.”
On top of reducing her urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse, Turnbull says she also saw other benefits: she lost inches off her waist, and her nagging back pain and seized hip started to feel better.
Her kids are now 6, 4 and 2, and she continues to do the exercises she learned at home to sustain those benefits.
Leia, who has been a physiotherapist for 30 years and specializes in pelvic health, says Coretiques goes beyond the Kegels and squats many people associate with deep core training. Instead, her program integrates all parts of the body and is meant to retrain the deep core muscles so women can resume all the same activities they once enjoyed.
“The idea behind this is it just resets things so if you go back and do Pilates or if you want to go to CrossFit, or whatever you do, you have a real sense of where your body is,” she says. “The goal is that you can become your own teacher.”
Coretiques is covered under most extended health plans and childminding services are available for a fee. Next up, Leia plans to launch a similar core reset program designed for men. Visit physiotiques.com for more information.
Cheryl Leia will give an educational talk about the pelvic floor and core on Friday, May 27, 1 p.m. at Yaya Baby, 399 Mountain Hwy., North Vancouver.