This has to be the most depressing blog I’ve ever written here on Fit2B, but this mama’s sad story must be told. Our article on Taping Diatsasis Recti: How to Tape Separated Abs is currently in our top 10 ranked blogs, but it has several major blind spots: Access & Affordability. Many physical therapists have gone out of business since 2020, and there are supply chain shortages and overbooked doctors and therapists, so people are waiting months for treatment or “just living with it.”
That time I put a bandaid on a hernia
Twice a month, I lead exercise classes for women in early recovery from substance use disorder. They are still in detox from alcohol and/or drugs like methamphetamines, heroine, cocaine, fentanyl, and more. I’ll often have several pregnant mamas in my workout classes, because pregnancy can be a motivating factor in getting clean and sober.
Recently, I noticed one young pregnant addict in my session struggling with the most basic cues and movements. Through her shirt, I could see a kumquat-sized bulge at her navel, so after the class was over, I asked her if I could see her tummy. She willingly hiked up her shirt, and I saw a large umbilical hernia.
Am I a doctor? No. Am I technically allowed to diagnose or treat hernias? No.
Do I have extensive training and experience as a fitness professional working with people with this condition? Yes. Was the umbilical hernia red or hot to the touch or incredibly painful which would necessitate an immediate trip to the emergency room? No, she answered those questions as I felt it myself with her permission.
As an pregnant addict in early addiction recovery, she had bigger fish to fry (as we say in my neck of the woods) so was she likely to get quality treatment for a hernia that I knew would be dubbed a non life-threatening issue anytime in the near future? Immediate and pathetically hard NO to that as well.
Could I offer her some immediate comfort that wouldn’t do any harm? Yes, but sadly I had no kinesio tape with me (usually I carry some in my purse, however I’d use the last of it and neglected to replace it) so I asked for a bandaid. How did I not have any bandaids either? I’m a mom for crying out loud! Talk about a total fail, but someone else had one!
“We’ve been to her appointments with her, and she asked about that lump on her abs, and her doctors told her it’s normal, just part of pregnancy sometimes.”
That’s what her caseworker said as I had this 27-weeks-along mama take a breath and draw her abs in as she exhaled. Then I pinched the skin on either side of the hernia, pulling the edges closer together, and band-aided it in place. I felt furious as they said that because HERNIATION IS NOT NORMAL during pregnancy – even if it’s common – and abdominal hernias always come with Diastasis Recti AND both are very treatable!!!
Despite her history of substance use, she’s still a person who deserves care and compassion. Yet her valid concerns had been invalidated. She had asked about it and been brushed aside, leaving her to deal with yet another trauma – this time one to her tummy.
Again, I’m no doctor or physical therapist, but I had her permission and that of her case worker to do what I could. How could I leave her struggling when I knew that I could alleviate her discomfort in this tiny, temporary way?
The irony of putting a proverbial bandaid on a larger issue as I applied a literal bandaid to that mom’s tummy wasn’t lost on me as I pinched the hernia closed and placed that plastic over it.
As soon as that bandaid went on, she said, “OoooohhhMYgawwwwdd! That feels so much better,” and she relaxed. She stopped stimming and fidgeting like addicts in detox tend to do. She took a big beautiful breath. Her shoulders dropped away from her ears. She made eye contact with me and smiled. She ran both hands across her belly and talked to her baby. Her sponsor and case worker were amazed at the instant change.
I made her team promise to get her some real tape + splint her abs and follow up with a doctor that would refer her to a surgeon. I told them the bandaid would only hold for a few hours, and she needed more support than it could offer.
Sadly, the likelihood of her falling through the cracks of care is enormous. The likelihood of her finishing the pregnancy with a wide diastasis and no follow-up treatment for her hernia is even higher. However, for the next few hours, she’d feel that support.
She yelled thank you at me from across the parking lot as she climbed into the transport van back to the detox center.
Dealing with diastasis recti & hernia
This woman is not alone. The stigma of her addiction and low socioeconomic status as a houseless person will make it harder for her to receive quality care, but many people who aren’t addicts, who have homes and good insurance, who do seek care will still be denied, poo-pooed, patted on the shoulder, and patronized by their doctors who don’t understand diastasis. We found the perfect person to discuss hernias:
Inemesit Graham has lived with a very large one her whole life, and she’s a highly educated fitness professional who has some serious science and encouragement for anyone dealing with hernias and diastasis rectus abdominus.
If an umbilical hernia is an enlarged hole in the connective tissue of the abs around the navel, while Diastasis Recti is a thinning and stretching of the fascia down the midline of the abs, what can a woman do when she has both? What if surgery has already been done because the hernia existed in childhood, but the hernia erupted around the mesh or stitches again? How does a person keep exercising when surgery isn’t preferable or advisable (or no one even offers it because you’re on the lowest rung of society) but they must workout for strength health reasons? Listen to this podcast to learn a lot!podcast on hernias with inemesit Check your abs for diastasis
Here on Fit2B we offer hundreds of home workout videos that cater to those with tummy traumas like hernia, diastasis recti, and other core issues like prolapse. We call it “TummySafe Fitness” which you can read more about here.
The thing is, no movement or exercise is inherently “safe” if there’s a hole in your abs BUT we can use strategies to help you feel safe, move in safer ways, get strong safely without injuring you further. Sometimes I think I’d like to rebrand and call it “TummySmart.” At the end of the day, though, people want to feel safe when they exercise, and that’s what we offer with our breath-based, core-focused, full-body workouts that start with the basics and help you make progress at your own pace.learn about membership
Leave a comment
What do you think of putting bandaids over belly buttons? Would you be willing to do it for a friend or someone in need? What do you think of my true story about the young pregnant addict? How do you think our system needs to change for pregnant people of any status to be able to get better care?
NOTE: Medical care for suspected hernias should be sought immediately in an emergency room if there is heat, redness, or greater swelling as that could indicate a strangulated internal organ and be life-threatening. Do not attempt to “bandaid” any issue that needs actual medical care if you aren’t a licensed professional who is qualified to treat.