Hey Moms – Ever Hear of Diastasis?

medium_8570833723Looking back on it now, there were so many things about pregnancy I didn’t know that I really wish I had! One of these was about diastasis. As with all women, my abs obviously stretched out while I was pregnant. After I had my baby, I noticed a line in the lower part of my stomach, right under the belly button. As I began to lose the weight, the line didn’t go away. In fact, it seemed like one side was actually lower than the other. I thought it was just a gross fat thing and that I just needed to do more cardio, but after discussions with a few friends in the fitness industry, they said that it might in fact be diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti is actually a protective response that often happens during the 5th month of pregnancy. The abs will split apart in the center since that area has less surface area to stretch. The split happens to help prevent the area from excessively stretching. However, if this occurs, the new mom should be focusing on specific exercises to help close the diastasis and shorten the abs back to their pre-pregnancy state. Without these exercises, the abs may not come fully back together and/or may come back together lopsided.

Typically, a postpartum plan* should first focus on the transverses abs and pelvic floor strengthening. Once these areas have begun to heal, you should then focus on closing the diastasis recti. During this time, it’s important to stay away from exercises that require a strain on the rectus abs (the center). This includes exercise or movements that require you to lift your head and shoulders off the ground and/or lifting both legs up in the air. (So don’t jump right into those sit-ups!) Once the diastasis is fully closed, then you can move on to more advanced ab work.

Be patient with yourself and don’t rush it. Debbi Goodman, MSPT,** states, “On average it takes most women (even extremely fit women) approximately 6 months to 1 year to regain full integrity of the abdominals. So, this is a slow process and one that should not be rushed. Advancing abdominal strengthening too quickly can jeopardize the joining of the recti and leave women with a central weakness.”

It can be frustrating waiting to get your body back, but trust me, it will be much more frustrating to have it heal incorrectly!

I know those first few months postpartum are so exhausting and finding the time for yourself sometimes seems impossible. But if you can, it is so worth it to work with a professional trained in these postpartum exercises to help you through and to make sure you are doing it the right way to properly heal your body. You could either work one on one with someone that has this specialty, or look for an ab rehab type of class or postpartum specific Pilates class taught by a qualified instructor. It will definitely be worth it in the long run, and at least this will be one thing that you won’t have to say, “I wish I knew….” for!

 

*It is important to talk with your doctor about any exercise program before starting. Be sure to discuss with him/her first!

**Debbi Goodman, MSPT is a licensed manual physical therapist with specialties in women’s health, dance medicine, and sports medicine. Debbi has had a private women’s health/orthopedic practice in New York City, and since moving to the Albany, NY area in 2004, she has developed a private practice in the Capital District. Debbi is one of the few physical therapists trained in internal evaluation and treatment of the pelvic floor muscles. In addition, she is specifically skilled in treatment of pregnancy problems including: sciatica, back/neck pain, pelvic pain and rib pain, and postpartum problems including: cesarean section recovery, urinary incontinence, pelvic/vaginal pain and post-delivery scars. Debbi teaches continuing education workshops for physical therapists, trainers and Pilates instructors focusing on exercise during pregnancy, and she is an instructor for prenatal and postpartum group fitness classes.

Source: Postpartum Recovery: Helping New Moms Get Their Bodies Back by Debbi Goodman in Pilates Pro

Another Interesting Article: Bigger Postpartum Challenges Than Just Baby Weight, by Sarah Nassauer in The Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: Kit4na via photopin cc

Letter to My Younger Self – It’s Not Perfect

medium_4698434786Hi, it’s me. Just thought I should check in. I know you’re busy right now. College classes, shows, activities, friends – you’re having a blast, aren’t you?

I know you’re thinking ahead – thinking about the “adult world” and having a family. Looks like a great plan, doesn’t it? Finish college. Get a job. Find the perfect husband. Have the perfect wedding. Buy the perfect house, and have 3 kids running around all while you keep your career, do your hair every morning, and all before you’re 30.

It won’t be perfect.
I’m not trying to shatter your dreams, because it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just want to warn you – It isn’t perfect. You can’t control who you fall in love with. The first house ends up being a lot more work than it seemed like it would. And you won’t get pregnant right when you want. In fact, it will end up being such an ordeal that you will almost be at the point of giving up. But don’t – it will happen. And when it finally happens, you’ll be a lot older than you hoped, but you’ll be ecstatic. You’ll treasure each moment so much more. You’ll be in complete awe of everything miraculous. Everything you will ever need in life will be wrapped in that little, tiny blanket in the hospital that day. But it still won’t be “perfect.”

You’ll be tired.
So. Very. Tired.
You’ll have feelings of extreme inadequacy. There will be many days that you won’t do your hair. Some days, you won’t even shower. It took so long to get the 1 kid, that the thought of 3 will go right out the window.

You are going to do a good job.
You’re a great mom and you find your way, but you will have moments of extreme Mommy guilt. You’ll feel like no matter how much time you spend with her, it won’t be enough. You’ll feel like this precious preschool time is just slipping away from you before you even get to experience it and you’ll want to hold on to each moment as tightly as you possibly can. You’ll try desperately to do anything you can to slow things down, to do it all right. You’ll make mistakes – you’re human – but you’ll do a lot of things right too. And you and her will have an incredible bond that will pull on your heart every time you look at her.

You won’t have the career you thought you would – at least not yet. You’ll feel torn by that one for a while – on one hand, you want to be home with her as much as possible to take full advantage of these precious first few years. On the other hand, you want to show her that women can do anything they set their minds to. They can be a great mom and still have a passion outside the home they can follow successfully. After a while struggling with it, you’ll realize that you’ll still have plenty of time to follow your outside passion later. For now, you’ll follow your heart’s passion and find a way to make it all about her.

You’ll be content knowing that you are doing all you can, but you will still feel like you’re making mistakes. Just remember that you’re doing a great job. Everyone can see what a fantastic kid she is. She’s so smart and playful. Imaginative, inquisitive, creative, strong, funny, and kind. And that’s because of you – she learned that from you! She doesn’t know that you’re making mistakes. She just knows that you’re mom – Super Mom in her eyes. You can see it every time she looks at you. And she’s happy and so full of love. Your heart will melt every time your eyes meet, and your soul will fly every time you hear her laugh.

No, it will not be perfect.

But the thing is, when you look at her,
It Is.

 

Photo Credit: Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/ via photopin cc

The Infertility Injustice

Insurance-money

Both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have classified infertility as a disease affecting the functioning of the reproductive systems, although many couples have no actual disease or explained reason for their infertility issues. Over 7 million people, or 1 in 7 couples of reproductive age, are afflicted with infertility issues. Yet, in the United States, only 15 states require insurance companies to offer any coverage for fertility treatments. And in many of the states that do require some coverage, insurance companies are able to use loopholes and restrictions to make access nearly unattainable anyway.

The result of these often arbitrary insurance guidelines is that for many couples and individuals coverage for infertility issues is as hard to come by as coverage for elective procedures, if not harder. Most insurance companies site cost as a reason to limit coverage; others argue that fertility treatment is elective because the inability to conceive does not threaten the overall health of the patient. But both arguments ignore the very tangible negative effects a battle with infertility can cause.

The effects of infertility reach beyond the inability to conceive. Infertility has been connected with increased rates of stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as strained relationships with partners, family, friends, and employers. For many, the inability to conceive has the same detrimental impact on psychological health as a sudden traumatic experience.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that infertility is a psychologically and physically debilitating problem for many, when the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent medical advisory board, met in 2011 to offer advice for the new state-by-state coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, their report made no mention of fertility treatments.

The report does emphasize the need for required maternity and newborn services, mental health services, preventative and wellness services, as well as chronic disease management. But the report also encourages insurers to weigh treatment costs with their effectiveness before providing coverage. Most companies cite costs as their primary reason for not currently offering coverage, and though the success rate of fertility treatments range from 59 to 85%, insurers could still argue that the costs outweigh the risk of ineffectiveness.

The potential for this report to further hinder the coverage of infertility treatments is especially tragic in light of some additional data: over 90% of insurers that cover fertility treatments (including fertility drugs and, in some cases, in vitro) report no additional overall health care costs.

It makes sense that health care costs would remain relatively stagnant despite coverage of fertility treatments. First, the availability of coverage does not negate the psychological and physical toll conception through IVF or similar treatments usually requires. For most people, the decision to go through treatment will still be a tough one, and the likelihood of a sudden, exponential increase in the use of fertility treatments seems slim.

Second, the availability of treatment for those who have spent years navigating the heart-wrenching waters of failed attempts at conceptions—weighing the deep, unshakeable desire to have a child with the potential of a string of physically taxing procedures, financial instability, and further disappointments—may lead to decreased use of mental and physical health services down the line. Much of the psychological stress (and resultant physical stress) fertility patients experience is directly related to the financial difficulties many face in trying to pay for treatment. Subsidized or fully insured coverage could relieve a lot of the stress-related medical costs associated with fertility treatments. And, in the face of something as emotionally and physically taxing as an infertility crisis, medical bills should not have to be an added stressor.

In light of the available information, resistance to fertility treatment coverage seems to have little grounding in medical or economic research. Yet we don’t seem to be any closer to guaranteeing access for the 7 million people suffering from infertility issues. One light at the end of the tunnel might exist, however: the same IOM report suggests that the coverage guidelines be reworked every year to fit the changing demands of the medical industry.

As responsibility for insurance guidelines shifts to the states in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act, the issue of infertility coverage will become increasingly political. And in this case, the politicization of an issue could be beneficial—because political means public, and public means public-influenced.

So now, it’s time to rally for the cause. Join (or start) a support group; write to your congressmen, state representatives, and senators; attend a National Infertility Awareness Week event; encourage your friends and family to learn about infertility. Whatever you do, make it clear to your local and national leaders that infertility treatments need to be covered, that those afflicted need support, not added costs and stress. Let’s spread the word, spread awareness, and make sure the next IOM report provides a little more justice.

-Jean-Ann Kubler

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc

New Features

As this blog gets rolling, you will see some new features popping up. Here are a few of the upcoming features we have to look forward to seeing soon:

  • From Your Personal Trainer – This section will feature articles directly from trainers and consultants. They will offer expert advice and tips on fitness, nutrition, and general wellness.
  • Recipe Corner – We will periodically post tried and true nutritious recipes that are good for the whole family.  Yum!
  • The Doctor’s Corner – Articles from licensed physicians regarding all kinds of topics for your personal and family health.
  • Activity Corner – Fun activities for the whole family!

Stay tuned – lots of fun things coming your way on The IF Factor! Plus, more articles and personal posts on the usual infertility, adoption, pregnancy, parenting, and family topics as well as new contributor posts as well.

Have a great week!

Structure Change

This blog was originally started to be specifically about infertility and all of the craziness that surrounds it. Unfortunately, soon after it started, we had to put production on hold for a while. This hiatus, however, also gave me the time to realize that focusing on infertility was not the right way to go. I wanted the blog to be a place that could offer some hope for others in this situation, and to provide a place that could offer not only advice and information, but just plain ole companionship too. Sometimes a couple can get so caught up in the world of IF that you begin to feel isolated. You feel like the only people in the world in that situation.

I realized that real hope is believing your life can move on from infertility in one way or another. The blog needed to reflect that. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere. So I have changed the structure of this blog. Besides the new design and formatting, we will now offer topics that not only include infertility, but pregnancy, adoption, parenting, family health, and all of life’s little IFs. There will always be uncertainties and fears in any situation, but there is joy too. Hope and determination can move us on to the next step at any time. The IF may always be there, but so will the light. We just have to keep moving forward…

More Sunshine = More Babies??

As amazing as modern medicine and science is, sometimes it really does just take something natural to make (or break) a miracle. And when you really think about it, it does make sense.

Take the sunshine, for instance. We know that on the one hand, it can make us burn and peel and feel miserable. And worst case scenario, it can give us cancer. On the other hand, we can’t survive without it.  It affects everything around us. Sunshine helps all the plants and animals to grow. It keeps our planet at just the right temperature so we can survive. It helps us differentiate between day and night. It is literally the center of the universe. So why shouldn’t it play a part in our own body cycles as well?

There has been increasing findings that the sun and the natural Vitamin D it provides can play a factor in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and even the body’s natural immunity. But what about fertility? Studies on the role of light in both women’s and men’s cycles started back in the 1960s. But not until recently are these multidisciplinary studies showing that yes, light does play a factor in fertility – perhaps a major factor.

In terms of the body, light keeps the “circadian pacemaker” (basically the body’s master clock) on track with the usual 24 hour day. If we don’t get the right kinds of light, our bodies go out of synch with the world, and our body systems go out of synch with our bodies. We need to have a very clear distinction between the light of day and the dark of night for our bodies to perform at its top notch potential. But in a world of increasing technology where many of us spend the majority of our week working inside with artificial lights and the glow of computer screens, and our nights surrounded by more artificial lights, blinking screens, glows from charging cell phones, IPODs, digital clocks, etc., how are we supposed to help our bodies stay on track?

Ann Douglas offers several tips in the winter issue of Conceive Magazine

1. Try to keep your body in synch with the solar day. To cue your body to stop producing the nighttime hormone, melatonin, take a walk in the morning (outside).
2. Enjoy the sunshine – That whole Vitamin D thing is currently believed to affect at least 1000 different genes in our bodies that control every tissue. Studies are showing that melatonin may act directly on the reproductive tissues – meaning that women are more fertile during the time of year when there is the most daylight.
3. Don’t leave out your man! Vitamin D is very important in male fertility as well.  Light also boosts the luteinizing hormone which raises testosterone levels in men.
4. Try to keep a regular schedule not only in your everyday life, but in travels as well. Flying across time zones can really throw off your body too.
5. If you’re in an area where you just can’t get enough sunlight, consider using alternative light therapies. There are devices to block blue light, to increase light exposure, and to mimic the natural rhythm of moonlight which can help regulate ovulation.

For more info on some of these options, check: lowbluelights.com and luness.com

Source: Douglas, Ann. Light and Fertility. Conceive Magazine Winter 09/10 Vol. 6 Issue 4 pp. 46-49.

The Reminder of the Holidays

It’s amazing how the holidays can add to your own personal emotional roller coaster.  On one hand, it is a great way to forget about some of the stress of planning for a family. There are a lot of other things that you are forced to concentrate on – getting the right gifts, decorations, parties, planning, travel, dealing with family, heartwarming movies and stories, the magic of the season.

On the other hand, the holidays are a time for children. They’re the ones that get to believe in Santa Claus.  They’re the ones that we help create the magic for. If you’re Christian, we celebrate the holiday in honor of the birth of the infant Jesus Christ. The baby who would change the world. When you’re at those holiday parties, often, everyone else’s children are there too. The discussion focuses on what they’re doing for their kids for the holiday.  The kids are talking about what’s on their lists. “Watch it, Santa’s watching,” is a term heard everywhere. When it comes to gift time, the kids open first. The kids have the huge stack of gifts.

If you have to travel, you realize that everything revolves around the family members who have kids. The timing of events, the days of travel, who’s house you go to, even the rooms where everyone sleeps are based around those with kids.

Frustrating when it’s never you, isn’t it?

New Year’s comes around and everyone else can’t wait to get rid of their kids for a night so they can go out and party the adult way. When that ball drops and the two of you kiss, the only thought on your minds are, “God, I hope this year is it.  This is the year it’s going to happen for us. What I wouldn’t give to have my baby with me right now.”

It seems like no one understands. And how can they really, unless they’ve been in the same situation as you?

I know I felt it more than usual this year.  Other years, I still had a lot of hope. The holidays weren’t a really big deal.  This year, it hurt more than usual. I guess because we’ve been trying for so long now.

I’m not saying that I don’t still have a lot of hope.  Because I do.  In fact, maybe even more. But I’m also more frustrated, and maybe that was part of it. The holidays have always been a magical time for me, even in recent years. So I know that despite what seems like kids being thrown in my face, I still have to hold on to that magic. I still have to enjoy that New Year’s kiss, and I still have to wish on the sparkly ball, or that sparkly star in the sky that this year IS going to be the year. This is going to be the year that changes everything!

Here’s to a hopeful New Year for all of us! (I’m tipping my pretend glass of champagne to you)

Happy New Year!