Having a baby is undoubtedly one of the most incredible experiences you will ever go through. However, what is often UNSAID is the impact pregnancy and birth can have on your body – both short term and into the following years.
Women’s health expert Wendy Powell began her journey as a personal trainer working with women in her local area and soon became an in-demand, certified pregnancy and postnatal specialist PT in London and the south east. After speaking, learning and training alongside countless women, plus having two children of her own, she quickly realised there was something missing.
“I was teaching what I was going to be trained and certified to teach, but it was ineffective or inadequate for the issues women are dealing with – leaking, painful sex, prolapse and lack of confidence,” she said.
“I had 2 babies of my own and learned firsthand that the tools in my toolbox were not enough. I knew that womens’ needs were not being served by the fitness industry, or even by medics. My needs hadn’t been served – and I was the so-called expert.”
In 2009, Wendy developed the first incarnation of the MUTU program, a safe and effective evidence-based program that has been backed by medical professionals around the world. The program is now in its fifth version and used by more than 54,000 women globally.
What is MUTU?
MUTU stands for ‘mummy tummy’, that all-too-familiar physical aftermath of pregnancy and one of the main reasons clients seek out Wendy’s program. The obvious protrusion of the stomach area is a common cause of poor body image and lack of confidence in many women when learning to embrace their post-baby body, but also a key symptom of a weakened core. This is strongly related to pelvic floor weakness and problems such as leaking at inopportune times.
“The pooched tummy often referred to as a ‘mummy tummy’ is a result of a combination of factors that may include nutrition, biomechanics and diastasis recti, caused by uncontained intra-abdominal pressure,” Wendy explained.
“This means the natural pressure inside the abdominal and pelvic cavity is not being balanced as it should by the core muscles and pelvic floor. The rectus (six-pack) muscles separate, leaving a gap which compromises core strength and stability and causing the stomach to protrude as if still pregnant.”
How does the MUTU program work? Wendy’s program is unique in that it utilises disciplines of nutrition and exercise, plus draws on years of collaboration with specialist physiotherapists, sex therapists, body positivity experts and empowerment coaches. Not only does MUTU aim to get women stronger physically, but reclaim their mental and emotional health and wellbeing at the same time.
“Most gyms, personal trainers and class instructors are simply not informed or certified in postnatal issues. Abdominal separation (diastasis recti), prolapse, pelvic floor weakness, sexual pain, alignment shifts and movement patterns are all considerations in truly effective postnatal exercise prescription,” Wendy said.
“MUTU not only understands these issues, but educates and empowers in a way that gives women back control and ownership of how their body works and feels.”
The program includes modifications for issues such as prolapse, pregnancy and other conditions to ensure a safe and effective way for clients to improve their pelvic floor and core strength. As the program progresses, clear guidance is provided on how to move to the next level when the time is right.
Getting back into exercise post-baby For many of Wendy’s clients, signing up to the program is a brave step in itself. Learning to love a body that looks, feels and sometimes functions differently is a hard task, but one that is entirely possible with the right help.
Wendy’s first advice for women looking to return to exercise is simply to give yourself a break!
“You are more than ‘enough’, your body is not only amazing but actually entirely badass… and know that you deserve the dignity and pleasure of a body that works and that makes you feel amazing. Start there.”
“We need to re-connect, emotionally as well as physically, with our bodies, especially when we have fallen out of love with them. You may have ‘cut off’ from certain body parts when faced with stress incontinence, flab or stretch marks. But your body’s ability to recover and look fabulous is there, it just needs a little help in the form of specific exercise, great nutrition, the right information and a lot of love and acceptance.”
The MUTU Community
In addition to the program, MUTU has created an amazing community of women to further foster body confidence, accountability and additional expert help and motivation.
“MUTU is a body positive and inclusive community that stands for women’s empowerment and confidence. We inspire and lift women to see their bodies for the powerful, miraculous and beautiful vessels they are,” Wendy said.
Wendy and her team support a number of women’s empowerment-based charities and are passionate about female equality and the right to education.
“We are a stand against all forms of abuse and discrimination, as well as patriarchal and misogynist expectations or biases. We are body positive and pro-choice for all women in respect of decisions about their body, and their sexual and reproductive wellbeing,” Wendy said.
“It’s important to me as the leader and owner of this business that we make a stand and empower women and girls. What began as an exercise rogramme is now a Movement!”