Postpartum Fitness & Pelvic Health Tips: Nikki Bergen
Guest: Nikki Bergen
Podcast Release Date: 3/31/2021
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Steve Washuta: Welcome to the Trulyfit Podcast. I am your host, Steve Washuta, co-founder of Trulyfit and author of Fitness Business 101. On today’s podcast, we speak with the belle method’s Nikki Bergen. Nikki is a trainer who specializes in Pilates and pelvic health. She has both pre and postnatal programs for her clients, she goes to birth prep and recovery.
And this episode specifically, we talked a lot about her bump and belle method and what diastasis recti are exactly, and how to help that. Is it rare? Is it common? What do we do? We talk about exercise routines to help with other postpartum issues and prenatal issues. And we get specific and we get vague. We cover all areas surrounding this. It is fantastic information for the trainers out there. with no further ado, here’s Nikki. Nikki, thanks for being here with the Trulyfit podcast. Can you give the audience a background on your fitness life and your career, your credentials, and what you do in the fitness world?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Thanks for having me, Steve. So yes, my name is Nikki and I am a Pilates instructor, mom of two, and I’ve been in the fitness industry for a long time. I’m not going to tell you how long necessarily because it’s going to age me. But basically, I was a former dancer, turned Pilates instructor through an injury when I was in my mid-20s. And fell in love with the movement modality of Pilates. I used it to heal my own injuries so that I could get back to performing and traveling. I fell in love with it. And so it’s been, you know, I’ll just tell you, it’s been over 20 years. So it’s been a labor of love, really.
So I am like I mentioned, a former dancer. I’m a Stott-trained Pilates instructor. But I say that because, you know, that’s where I originally got my certification. But I think people need to know that in fitness. The best trainers continuously keep learning. So I did my certification maybe 15 years ago now for this particular type of movement modality. But then there were dozens of other courses and workshops and whatnot, beyond that. I also have a mentor who’s a Ph.D. and a researcher at the local university here. I live in Toronto, Ontario. So there’s a lot we need to do to keep learning. I think we will stay on top of our game.
Steve Washuta: I couldn’t agree more. I’m also Pilates trained. But my background in Pilates was I was forced to watch 500 hours of reformer training: I assisted during that time, but I never actually did a one-on-one until I made my 500 hours. It was fantastic. I learned so much then that I still use today as far as cueing and the verbiage that was associated with it. I love it and the people on this podcast, unfortunately, have heard me talk about it too many times how I believe that all trainers should have some sort of background in it.
Because it’s also important for all ages, all demographics, right, whether you’re working with a young mom, or whether you’re working with a 76-year-old, there are things and movements in Pilates that are important for you to understand that you can use in all genres. But not to go down a huge Pilates tangent because I’ve done that another. Let’s go into a little bit more about you, I want you to tell the listeners about your, your bump and belle method.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Sure. So the company is called the Belle method. And it started out, you know, Belle, in French, beautiful method. That’s the name, essentially the inspiration. But it’s a way of fusing Pilates with dance choreography, yoga, dance conditioning, and then it eventually started incorporating more pelvic health because I saw the need. And really now it’s really Pilates meets pelvic health. And then the bump method is a division within the umbrella of the belle method that really focuses on pre and postpartum women.
I realized that there was a huge need because I’d had more and more pregnant women come to my group classes, and I have to modify for them and offer them, you know, additional cues and they’d be having issues. So I thought you know what, let’s make something specific for you as a pregnant woman. Then of course that eventually led to postnatal. So it all happened quite organically, I have to say just from recognizing there was a gap in the needs that these women were having, you know, these women were coming to me and you know, I’ll tell you a quick story just to illustrate this. I remember, and I’ve taught everything I’ve taught step class swim, aerobics, spin class, Zumba, boot camp, I’ve tried everything, not just Pilates. So just people so they know that. And I was teaching a boot camp out outside.
This is before I had two kids. And I was in my mid-20s. And I remember doing the ladder drill and I think about most I’d say 85% of the women in that group were older than me. They all had children and they were like, oh, I can’t do that. And I was like, What do you mean? Totally naive. They’re like, I can’t jump like that. They’d laugh and there was like a mutiny. Like, I’d say probably 60% of the group basically refused to do that one move. Oh, it’s because I’m not wearing a pad. I can’t, I’m gonna pee my pants.
And I remember being like, wow, is this a thing? My naive 25-year-old self. I think at that moment was a catalyst. I realized that wait for a second, these are women, they’re not that much older than me. Yeah, they’ve had a kid or two. And they’re so many of them who are having this issue. Of course, I’m a nerd. And I immediately wanted to dive in. I already had my Pilates certification. At the time, I was still doing a variety of different fitness modalities. And I thought, I really want to get to know more about pelvic health, this is an issue and I can’t imagine if they’re 40, and they’re having this issue, it’s probably not going to get better when they’re 60, it’s going to get worse.
So what can we do preventatively to either reduce or prevent it? And what can we do to really help it if it’s already happening? Can we reduce it? Can we make it go away? So that’s, that’s sort of where I got started in the world of pelvic health. Then of course, from there, I dove more into things like pelvic organ prolapse and diastasis recti. And I’m sure we’re going to get into that. So I specialize in my team. And because I’m a team of awesome trainers, as well, in our group and private classes, we specialize in helping women with these issues.
Steve Washuta: Well, that’s fantastic. You know, it’s one of the most brought up topics amongst the National Academy of Sports Medicine, personal trainers, because, you know, unfortunately, there is only so much you can learn right away in your first levels of certifications. And that’s just not something they really hint at a lot. Right, there might be very vague information.
But to me, I’ve later found out while working with some of my private clients that some of that vague information was actually wrong, right? It was very outdated, sort of like wives tales, no pun intended stuff, that no longer really is in the medical jargon, and what’s the use. So I think it’s fantastic that this is something that you specialize in, and you’re kind of spreading the word. So let’s go right into it here. Can you define diastasis recti? And do you consider this something to be rare or common amongst post-pregnancy issues?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method): First, let me define it. So diastasis recti, also sometimes pronounced diathesis rectus abdominus means the same thing, essentially, every single pregnant woman, I’m saying this slowly, for a reason is going to get diastasis rectus abdominus. The question is, do we get injured through diastasis recti. And I’m going to just call it diastasis recti. Because it’s fewer syllables, or Dr. Okay, so everybody is going to get it. I did a video on my Instagram when I was recently pregnant with my second he’s now 10 months old. I am not a huge person, I pre-pregnancy have a 24-inch waist.
For in pregnancy, I was nine months pregnant, I had a 42-inch waist. So just think about this for a second. How is your tissue going to expand from being 24 inches to 42 inches, think of that’s huge, right? It’s a miracle that our bodies as women can accommodate a growing baby, but what has to happen is the fascia and connective tissue has to expand it has to give. So there’s part and really the definition of diastasis recti and Latins. diastasis means separation rec die of the rectus muscles, which are the two bellies of the six back muscles in the front center of your abdominal wall. So that has to expand. And the middle, the vertical midline of your six-pack muscles is called your linea Alba.
And it’s made up of connective tissue and fashion. It was never together to begin with. So people think it was always closed, it was never closed, there’s always even pre-pregnancy, most people have at least two fingers with distance in the midline of their six-pack muscle, it’s hard to tell on a lot of us, but it exists. And then it’s going to grow, it’s going to thin and stretch to make room right 24 to 42 inches in a relatively short period of time requires your tissue to adapt. And so everybody is going to have to thin and separating and widening of that tissue. But we don’t have to make it an injury.
And when I say injury, I mean when you need months and months of rehab or even surgery to fix it. So there’s a lot that we can do in pregnancy to manage what we call abdominal pressure. So think about that a baby is pushing out and creating pressure to pressurize system that your body needs to adapt to, we have to make sure that we’re adding unnecessary strain to that abdominal wall only train in pregnancy because the more strain and pressure you add to the existing pressure, which is the baby, the chances are greater that you’re going to have a larger diastasis which is then harder to repair and harder to come back from.
Steve Washuta : So a term that we use in fitness and you know Pilates is used to is sort of like brace your core, right? So we talked about how if you’re doing a core exercise, let’s say a plank, pretend someone’s going to come from underneath you and punch you in the stomach right so you brace those muscles and you firm them up Is that something you don’t want to do during pregnancy in order to because that’s that is going to further progress that issue.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : So I’m not a fan of the term bracing because it often causes downward pressure. So if you think about it, imagine someone’s gonna sucker punch you in the stomach, anyone listening to this, what’s the first thing you do you brace your core. But you also if you pay attention, you’re probably bearing down on your pelvic floor also. So not what we want to do when you’re pregnant, we have the belle method and I teach hundreds of women every two months, we have eight-week courses on Pilates and push prep courses.
And essentially, we teach women to hug the baby, that’s what we call it. So it’s an exhale, wrapping, you’re engaging your pelvic floor gently, and your transversus abdominis, to really reduce the pressure and to help stay connected neurologically, from your brain to your TDA. So we’ve got something called the law of specificity, if you’re going to go and train for a marathon, right, or if you’re a hockey player, whatever your sport is, you’re going to train for that sport. Correct.
When you’re pregnant, the same rule applies, you can train for birth, you can train your body to help better manage the load that you’re now carrying, by growing this human. And that marathon that is what you’re about to find out my friend because I hear you have a baby coming soon, you’re gonna find out it’s a marathon and you can train your body for it. And I really want more women to feel strong. You know, pregnancy is not an injury, it just requires adaptation and acquiring an intelligence-specific type of training to really improve your birth outcomes, as well as making it a faster, easier postpartum recovery.
Steve Washuta : I think that’s great insight and a great sort of analogy that you gave that you’re not treating an injury, it’s not a client coming in and saying, Hey, I pulled a muscle in my stomach, or, hey, I have an ankle issue or, hey, my feet are swelling. This is your training for an event. And there are so many interconnected issues happening at the same time not to mention hormonal things going on. Right, that is also in turn, then starting to snowball effect of other issues. Can you speak a little bit to those sorts of things, I would say other common issues associated with pregnancy.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : I mean, yeah, it really does vary tremendously by the person, depending on you know, what health issues they may have. I mean, there are so many things that can happen in pregnancy. But if I keep it high level here, ever something that every woman will experience, you’re going to experience, often a harder time getting a proper, deep diaphragmatic breath. And the reason I mentioned this is because breathing is so important to helping you manage I’m going to go back to that word intraabdominal pressure.
So I will say a couple things, if you are shorter in stature, you know, if you’re five foot two or under, say, if you have a very short torso, meaning the space between your bottom rib and the top of your hip bone. It’s actually your pelvic bone. But essentially, if you have a shorter waist and a shorter person, you’re often going to show sooner. If you’re pregnant with twins, you’re going to show sooner, and that usually means there’s less room, right? So why is it that someone a woman who’s five foot 11 often doesn’t show up when she’s six months pregnant, but someone who’s five for two is often going to show right away? So I’m saying this to say that I’ve noticed a pattern and there is no research to back this up.
But I’ve been doing this for a long time to say that, you know, I use this as a way of also telling women not to worry, they’re like, why am I carrying so big, doesn’t have to do with that it’s that your shorter torso is going to make that baby have to pop out further ado, I’m bringing this up because we tend to compare ourselves to everybody, right? Well, she’s her bump is bigger, and my mum is smaller that can cause a lot of anxiety, but the breathing, the shorter torso, you have also often you’ll feel maybe feel rib pain, it’ll be feeling like every time you inhale, you’re short of breath, your shoulders start to ache when you’re inhaling.
And that can cause dysfunction in your pelvic floor. Because if we lose the ability for the diaphragm to completely contract on your, on your inhale, it can cause a lack of function in your pelvic floor because your diaphragm and your pelvic floor are like a piston. They’re supposed to live on top of each other. And when you inhale, they both gently open and when you exhale, they both are meant to recoil back up. If you are feeling like there’s no room because the baby is taking up all that room, your diaphragm often gets impacted, your ribs can’t expand properly.
And you’re going to start to have poor breathing mechanics and that poor breathing mechanics can actually add to the intraabdominal pressure and create issues both with your pelvic floor and your diastasis recti. So the breath is really important and this is something that I think anyone listening to this if they want to do one thing to improve their outcomes in pregnancy and postpartum as well as in pushing. You have to learn how to really harness your diaphragmatic breath and improve your breathing mechanics.
Steve Washuta : Yeah, that’s good insight. And I like How both you and the belle method are, you know, obviously synonymous, but you, you talk about basically this, this is a wholesale program from pre-pregnancy to intro pregnancy, for lack of a better term to post-pregnancy where some people only look at treating one or the other, right? They’re like, Oh, I’ll go to some prenatal yoga classes. And then oh, like postpartum, I’ll look at these things. But if you, if you kind of look at it, from the start from the get-go about putting this all together in a wholesale approach, you’re going to come out in a much, you know, advantageous fashion.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Yeah, I mean, I, I taught a class right before I hopped on this podcast with you. And I had women in that class who had a one-woman had a five-month-old, and then they had some women in their 60s like everybody was benefiting from that class. Right? So it’s not just and that was a regular bout that was an art class. And you can continue to benefit because we’re talking about all these things like this is I love that you brought that up. It’s not just pregnancy and postpartum specific.
So a lot of people are like, Well, why do I care about what you know, I hate that I have to think about my breath so much since I’ve had kids. I didn’t have to think about this before. And maybe you weren’t having to think about it, because you didn’t have diastasis, and pelvic floor issues, or anything like that. But as we age, even if we haven’t had children, these become more important issues to really manage, right, like in terms of gravity, if you think about it, think of dogs and cats, they’re on their hands and knees, they don’t have the same our hands and knees are on four paws on the floor.
They don’t have the same gravitational force, as bipeds, we stand up. And I think the status is crazy. It’s like two-thirds of women are gonna develop some type of pelvic organ prolapse by the end of their life at some point in their life. And so we need to work proactively again, whether you’ve had children or not to really incorporate our pelvic floor into all fitness. So I wish the pelvic health wasn’t just relegated to pre and postnatal. I wish it was something that everybody felt comfortable talking about instead of just glazing over.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, yeah. I want to talk specifically, you mentioned earlier, my wife is pregnant. And one of the issues that she’s having now is she has sciatica very, very bad sciatica. It comes and goes, like most sciatica, the majority of my previous pregnant clients have encountered this at some point. Again, this is far from my expertise. But I would say typically, it seems to be more in those middle months middle to end, not not in the beginning, and I don’t know. And this is what I’m going to throw to you. Do you attribute that to things shifting? Do you attribute it to the front weight having sort of a messing with the pelvis, what exactly are the scientific reasons behind why the sciatica could be more activated during that second and third trimester of pregnancy?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : I mean, it’s interesting, you say that because I never experienced it. And in our classes, we don’t have any issues with sciatica, to be honest, I’m sorry that your wife’s going through that it sucks. And I know it’s painful. Our pelvis shifts less than we think I think that’s a bit of a myth that people think, Oh, your bones are shifting, your pelvis is unstable. And we’ve often used that as a reason for why women develop symphysis, pubis dysfunction and sciatica, and all these pain issues.
But it’s less of that type of an issue, it’s often could be a gait issue, the way she’s walking has changed. It could be just a generalized postural change, not that the bones are shifting, but she’s, again carrying weight differently. You know, also weakness through the glutes, because the weight of the belly is pulling you into more of an interior position, you often get weakness through the backside of the glutes.
And we know that the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis. So as you know, anything we can do to really floss that piriformis can be helpful, short of there, and we wouldn’t want her to be experiencing shooting pain down her leg when doing the work that we would prescribe. But rolling the piriformis lots of clams side like series bridges, anything we can do to really get that muscle firing is going to help her feel better than you know what she’s currently dealing with. For sure.
Steve Washuta : Yeah, that’s great information. And as far as you know, taking care of the sciatica once that arises, I have a good handle on that. But to make sure the sciatica doesn’t arise in the first place. Maybe she needs a little bit of the bump or belle method.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : I would mean, she’d have her give me a shout. absolutely happy to have her But yeah, it a lot of it is I think I would just as to answer your question. Weakness throughout the gluteal muscles. Because of those postural shifts, it is often like the real culprit, in my opinion.
Steve Washuta: Yeah, that makes complete sense anatomically. So let’s talk about maybe some specific exercises that people can do either at home or with very little equipment to circumvent the hdacis recti. Let’s just call it Dr. For now since the Dr. Or to help post Fordham dr issues, maybe get that three-finger back down to the one finger.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method): Yeah, and I want to just clarify a lot of us get hung up on the finger width. So we know now and the research is less about finger width and more about tension. Essentially, you might have someone and I’ve had clients with that only have one and half finger width, but I can want to test them literally put my entire finger inside, that’s more of an issue than someone who has a three-finger width, but I can only get my fingernail And so again, we want to make sure that you can’t get your finger in deep because that’s more of a sign of weakness and tissue laxity, then like the space width of the gap.
So anyway, to get that out there. But yeah, there are tons of exercises that you can do without any equipment. And that’s actually what our classes teach. So it’s Pilates-based, but we also incorporate a lot of stuff that you would see even in physiotherapy, sport medicine clinics, which is actually where I got my start teaching. As soon as I got my certification, I was at a sports medicine clinic. So I learned a lot pretty quickly about the things that people were being prescribed to do after they got injured. But there’s no reason to wait until you get injured, we can do these strengthening exercises, proactively.
And we make them fun in the context of a workout. So it’s not just boring physio, right? Like, we can make this interesting for people. And so that’s what we’re doing like I mentioned, I mean, I could list a bunch of exercises here. But I think the point is that we really want to be proactive. We want to work on a lot of those muscles that often need a little extra love, like piriformis, glute medius, glutes, in general, are really important to work in pregnancy.
And then that diaphragmatic breathing, people say, Well, I want to do core work, how do I do ABS when I’m pregnant? My answer is you want to do your diaphragmatic breathing, and you want to learn how to do the hug of the baby. I’ve got videos of this online, essentially, it looks like you inhale Oh, wow, she’s seven months pregnant, exhale, she’s gonna wrap her core, and all of a sudden, where did the bump go? It disappeared. She’s now four months pregnant. So it’s kind of a fun party trick as well. And that’s what we teach in her classes.
Steve Washuta : Don’t brace hug the baby? I have to say it one more time. Yes, myself. So that I remember that when I’m working with pregnant clients. Or if my wife, I want to talk about trainers. And if their drive their niche is in this field, if they want to do what you do. Do you have any advice for them? Do you yourself teach a certification to help them out? And if not, why not?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : I know I’m working on it. Actually, you can sign it, we have a waitlist. It’s called the pelvic health mastery course I’m building it. It’s an eight-week course. And it’s on the homepage of the bellemethod.com if people want to sign up for the waiting list there, they can it’s been delayed because of COVID. So we had 12 locations I was teaching and my team and I were teaching across the city of Toronto, a COVID happened I was 36 weeks pregnant.
And when I was 36 weeks pregnant in the middle of this pandemic, we had to cancel all the classes and I had to quickly pivot everything online. So the pelvic health course got pushed to the back burner because I had to serve the clients and create online courses for actual pregnant women. And so that’s the delay, I feel like I’ve been talking about this pelvic health course for a long time. I had to explain why it’s been so delayed.
That’s why. But essentially, if you are looking to start, I always suggest people get their basic certification First if they don’t already have that, you know, whether that’s through Ace whether that’s as a Pilates instructor or your you know, 200-hour yoga teacher trainer, get something and then start to really figure out what niche you want to work with and keep doing courses.
So like I said, I’ve done dozens of courses and my plan for this eight-week online pelvic health mastery course is to literally give all the information that I’ve learned across the board over many years and put it in in sort of the easiest digestible because I’ve found that if I do a new course, I’m lucky if I walk away with something that’s new 20% of the material is new, that’s a win, right?
There’s a lot of repetition in a lot of the courses that we’ve taken over the years, I’m sure you can agree. So if you get something good nugget of wisdom that you want to hold on to that you can actually apply to your clients, that’s gold. And so I’m hoping to create a course where it’s all the nuggets of wisdom that I have learned to really help people feel more comfortable dealing with the pre and postnatal population.
Steve Washuta : So forget about the official release from a doctor. If somebody is, let’s say, six weeks post-pregnancy, how do they really know if they’re ready to work out? What are the telltale signs that my wife can look for? And I know you know, obviously the vague general answers, everyone’s different but you specifically just give anecdotal experiences. How did you know that you were ready to start working out and then when you do start working out what sort of exercises are you doing to kind of climb back up that mountain?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : So let me just get this on record. Waiting six weeks is not smart. Because it’s arbitrary. And I have a good friend of mine who’s a euro gynecologist, an OB and I asked her I said listen, Doc, what’s up with this whole six weeks? Do you know And she said, you want to know the truth? I said, Yeah, I want to know the truth, it takes six weeks for stitches to dissolve. That is the only reason why there are six weeks, get your clearance.
And I have to be honest, having just had my second baby in this pandemic. Now, some of these checkups are virtual, okay. And they do not cover diastasis, they do not cover incontinence. It’s like, you’re good to go. And a lot of it has to do with, you’re good to go. You can go have sex with your husband again, which is not helpful, I have to say, when it comes to talking about, what’s actually going on in your body, how are you healing. And then it’s like, it’s basically the equivalent of doing nothing for six weeks, and then going and trying to run around the block.
That’s like getting ACL surgery, doing that thing, and then trying to go back and play your sport, it makes no sense. So we actually recommend starting the week you deliver, with core breathing, with gentle diaphragmatic breathing with a few bridges when you’re lying in bed with gentle mobilization exercises for your ribs, the idea of doing nothing, and then getting arbitrarily quote-unquote, cleared at six weeks and then going to Beachbody is super dumb, just super dumb. I get really upset when you’re talking about this stuff.
Steve Washuta : No, no, listen, it makes perfect sense. I mean, why would anybody try to limit movement as a whole, for somebody who is sort of post-injury post-op that it is essentially an operation right? So and or it could be if it’s a C section. So I think you want you to want movement, even if you said that movement is just simply breathing and bed bridges and getting up properly and working on postural alignment, and then the small things to make sure that you are building back up and ready to go instead of laying around for six or seven weeks. Because that’s what the doctor told you to do. And then just jumping back into it, that would seem to be misguided information.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : And you’re doing it Look, it’s work, mom life is worth picking your baby in and out of a bassinet. His work carrying a car seat is work you’re being you’re actually exercising in the context of your life, and yet not doing anything to really help rebuild that brain pelvic floor connection.
When you’re pushing a baby out, the axons and your nerves are stretched to a point where there’s always going to be some damage. And so that’s why you have muscle inhibition, brain neurological inhibition, you try to do a kigo, right after you’ve delivered a baby and you’re going to be like, holy crap, I don’t feel it. I don’t feel anything. It takes time to rebuild that connection. Start soon. start right away. And this isn’t meant to stress people out if they’re listening to this, and they’re like, crap, I had a baby six months ago, I didn’t do any of this. It’s not too late.
But if you are expecting, and you are wanting to really help, you know, your recovery, this isn’t me saying you know, don’t be lazy, do your thing. This is literally going take a shower and breathe in the shower, but be mindful about what you’re doing rather than doing nothing. And just jumping back into exercise. Then often one of the stories I hear often is women do nothing, they get quote-unquote, cleared. And they’re like, Okay, awesome. I was gonna go, I really miss working out. So I was really short on time. So I just decided to go for a quick run, and they peed their pants and they’re devastated and they feel broken. And then they’re afraid to do any type of exercise because they think they’re broken.
Steve Washuta : Yeah, well, that’s great information. And not only for people who are going to be going through the pregnancy but for the trainers. I mean, if you know thinking of myself, 10 years ago as a 25, 26-year-old trainer, at that point, I had nothing about pregnancy, none of my friends had had yet had a baby. Right? So I hadn’t been I hadn’t heard these anecdotal stories from my friends.
At that point, I was training mostly people over the age of 50. So I wasn’t dealing with people who are dealing with recent pregnancy issues. So coming upon that first or second or third client who had recently had a baby was, you know, a complete nightmare. I had to I really had to, I had to do my honesty, Steve. I mean, like, because you if you understand that there, I mean, there is trauma here both, you know, physically and psychologically going through this process.
And whether they downplay it or not, you as a trainer, really have to do your due diligence and dig into these things, and maybe even say, at some point, hey, I’m not fit to do this. This is above my pay grade. That’s also fine, right? Because you are a specialist in this right? So if my wife is having some issues, I much rather send her to you than pretend that I know it all. And that’s something I talk about, I always shamelessly plug my book Fitness Business 101.
It’s more important that you do the right thing for your client, right? So if you want to network you want to have a sports medicine doctor and that pelvic floor expert and a physical therapist and somebody who specializes in ankles. And it’s not because you don’t potentially have the skill set to do it down the road. But right now, it doesn’t benefit your client if you have a general knowledge to give them general information, right. They need a quote-unquote expert and you should do the right thing and pass them off to one.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Absolutely. And just to add to that, I do recommend that all women even if they have no symptoms, see what we call a pill. Back health physiotherapist in the states is called a physical therapist, it’s the same thing. So it’s pelvic health PT, you need to see pelvic health PT, if possible during your pregnancy, and then postpartum. And you will likely get more information from a pelvic floor PT than you will from your ob, especially postpartum when you’re healing. And what that is, it’s an internal vaginal, and sometimes Believe it or not rectal exam, to make sure that when you are engaging your pelvic floor, you’re doing it right.
A lot of people are doing their pelvic floor exercises, aka cables, and doing them totally incorrectly. Sometimes women have tension in their pelvic floor, and they think, unfortunately, that doing more pelvic floor up training is going to help but the weakness in their pelvic floor, their bladder leakage might be caused by tension. And here they are trying to do Kegels to help it and it’s actually making the problem worse. And so we work very closely with pelvic health, pts, to refer back and forth like you say because where I’m not good, I’m not giving internal exams, that’s again, outside of my paygrade. So there you go.
Steve Washuta : That’s great information, I think people will sort of cling to monikers that are very high, right. If somebody is a doctor of some sort, they assume they’re going to know the most. My wife is a doctor, she’s a pediatric sports medicine doctor, she’ll be the first one to tell you that she has a scope. And she doesn’t know things outside of her scope. And I think for me, I had finger surgery about two years ago, and the occupational therapist that I work with, seems to me to know three times more than the surgeon about my finger, right? Because he doesn’t know the process that happens after the item is released.
He knows whether maybe he checks in with me six months from now to see if the occupational therapist’s advice and techniques had worked, but he doesn’t see the recovery process that I’m in, right. So that having these people who are there, and specializing and seeing the recovery process over and having all of these experiences 10s and 20 in a day, right? So 1000s over the course of their career is really what’s important because they see the nuances, the subtle nuances of ways to tweak things to benefit you.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method): Totally, I just wish there was more integration, right? Like, I wish it wasn’t a lot of women are constantly one of the common damns, I guess, how do I find a pelvic pT? Or how do I find this type of expert? And I just wish that the ogis were talking to the pelvic pts who were talking to the trainers who were talking like we all need to be talking to each other, to really better serve the patient or the client,
Steve Washuta: You know, forgive my naivety here; it’s not automatic? You’re not sent to one post-pregnancy, regardless of if you may have issues or not?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Are you kidding? Women have to really advocate for themselves. I mean, one country, I know where it’s included, as in France, God bless the French, they have, you know, vaginal rejuvenation therapy is kind of what they call it. But really, that’s the only country I know of where it’s actually included in the healthcare system. Here. A lot of the time I know in the US, you need to ask for a referral from your doctor if you want it to be covered through your insurance. And for most of us here in Canada, where I’m located, you just have to call you to know, you’re not going to refer all you just have to know to even seek out a pelvic floor PT
Steve Washuta : It seems absurd that I had, you know, a centimeter of my tendon in my pinky reattached, and I went through six weeks of this, which was mandatory, and somebody gives birth to a 10-pound baby. And they have to, you know, basically, advocate, yeah, fight the doctors to get into this, I didn’t know that. My best friend and his wife who just had a baby six months ago, she is seeing a pelvic floor specialist. I was under the impression that she was forced to do that, or forced is the wrong word. That she was given the opportunity to do that without having to advocate I didn’t know it was otherwise. So it’s a shame.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : It’s unfortunate, a lot of it’s normalized, right? Like even, you know, some of the ads that you see on TV, where it’s like trying to normalize this whole like, I’m a mom, I pee my pants are like, even just those, like poise pads, and I’ve worked with this brand before. So I’m not saying that it’s wrong to use a pad if you’re leaking. It’s just that that’s not a lifetime solution. There are things you can do you don’t that’s not your future, you know? There’s a lot you can do on the road to recovery. I think it’s great that we’re trying to talk about it more and destigmatize, like, oh, you’re leaking it up.
But I don’t want to normalize it too much. So that women think that, Oh, I’m peeing my pants. It’s just normal. I just have to deal with it. And you know, they don’t even tell anybody because they think it’s normal. It’s like, even the tiniest little drop of unwanted leakage is incontinence. People think, Oh, it’s just a little bit, it doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t really count. It all counts, my friends, and the prognosis if you’re leaking. Now, if you’re still leaking three months postpartum, that’s a big problem. We really want to make sure you’re seeing a pelvic PT to really get to the boob, the root cause of why you’re leaking is because you can be leaking for so many reasons. It’s not the answer isn’t always just you need to learn how to work your pelvic floor, more.
Steve Washuta : Yeah, well, that’s great information. I, you know, we’re going to shift gears a little bit, I’m going to ask you something selfishly. So my wife, again, she’s due in July posts post-pregnancy, let’s say the kid is a little girl, three months, four months, five months, six months, how does she then get back into the groove of working out? And we talked about sort of the medical side of this right? What’s going on with your body. But from a day-to-day standpoint, obviously, you deal with mothers who are, and you yourself have to deal with this. Do you have any recommendations and tips on how a first-time mother gets back into like, I guess she would say managing and controlling her schedule so that she can exercise?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method): I know, all the help you better be helping her! So she needs help. And I think this is the one thing too, it’s very difficult, you know, to make time, and I always have to say, reset your expectations, 10 minutes count, the chances are high that you’re not going to have an hour of uninterrupted workout time to do four days a week, you know, in your so you might be struggling with a lot of lack of energy, because of being up and breastfeeding and all these things. There’s going to be a lot of additional hurdles that you know, you don’t have had to deal with before.
So A, show yourself grace and ask for help. And know that, you know, 10 to 15 minutes counts. And in the research, they say that specifically with core rehab, 20 minutes three times a week is the minimum you need to get results in the research 20 minutes three times a week. So if that’s what you do, you’re rocking it. So again, just recognize that this is a phase, this is a season, it’s not forever, and show yourself some grace and ask for help.
Steve Washuta : Nikki, this was fantastic information, can you tell the listeners where they can find more about you and the Belle method and the Bump method and all of your information?
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method) : Sure. So you can check me out at the bellemethod.com it’s spelled b e l l e with an E on the end and the bellemethod on Instagram. And just let me know how you’re doing. Send me a DM, you can use the contact form on the website, we’ve got lots of classes. For pregnancy, we’ve got eight-week courses that are live on zoom and you also get the recording so you don’t have to actually join live.
For the postnatal level when we have a level two. We also have a really I call it Pilates on crack class. If you want something really challenging, and you’re not pregnant or postpartum. And we’re actually just about to launch a new workshop. And for anyone listening who might be short on time, and I get this all the time, women are like I’m 35 weeks pregnant. What should I do? I don’t have time to do your eight-week course. We’re doing a quick two-hour birthing without fear and pushing without fear workshop. So that’s coming up. It’ll be happening in April as well.
Steve Washuta: Fantastic. Nikki, thank you so much for being with a truly good podcast and we hope to speak with you soon on different topics.
Nikki Bergen (Belle Method): Sounds great. Thanks for having me.
Steve Washuta: Thanks for joining us on the Trulyfit podcast. Please subscribe, rate, and review on your listening platform. Feel free to email us as we’d love to hear from you.
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YOUTUBE VIDEO: Common Postpartum Exercise Issues with Nikki Bergen