After giving birth to her first child, Clancy Smith was left in chronic pain.
The Sydney mum experienced a common post-partum side effect – her stomach muscles separated. Only in Clancy’s case, the muscles didn’t rejoin.
Clancy told Mamamia that after her second child, the separation had become so bad she could fit four fingers between her lower abs.
“The first one did most of the damage and the second one just helped it along,” she said. “It was pretty intense. I had a hernia coming through because there was such a gap.”
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The result of the 35-year-old’s condition, medically known as diastasis recti, was that she suffered “excruciating” chronic back pain, as well as problems with incontinence.
“I had a lot of lower back pain, because there was no support. You use your core for everything and I had absolutely no support.”
“It really messes with you physically and emotionally.”
Clancy, who described herself as a “very active” person, said she tried “everything” to regain the proper use of her ab muscles and ease her back pain.
“I tried Pilates, normal gym work, any other classes. I was strong everywhere else, but still had that lower back pain and that weak core. No matter what I did, nothing strengthened it.”
“I knew myself that something had to be done, I couldn’t function. It was just becoming too much.”
So Clancy turned to her doctor, who advised she undergo an abdominoplasty – aka a tummy tuck – to essentially sew the muscles back together.
In 2015, when her son Hudson was three, she underwent the procedure. She said the difference was “remarkable”.
“It was really noticeable. It probably took me six months to get full function in my abs again, but since then I’ve had no issues. I haven’t had the back pain since.”
“It’s amazing how much a difference the core makes.”
For Clancy and her family, the out-of-pocket was about $10,000, with Medicare covering the remainder. Clancy said it was a significant amount to pay, but something she saw as an investment in her health and quality of life.
However, she was disappointed to learn the already expensive procedure that helped her so much was now out of reach for most women.
Tummy tucks are no longer covered by Medicare
In 2016, the Department of Health removed post-pregnancy abdominoplasty from the Medicare schedule after concluding the procedure had no benefit beyond “cosmetic” purposes. Now, any woman seeking a tummy tuck, whether it’s to change the shape of their stomach – or in Clancy’s case, to treat chronic pain – faces paying up to $20,000 for the procedure.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Mamamia the group responsible for making the call on what is covered by Medicare and what isn’t, is the Medical Services Advisory Committee.
“On the evidence before it, the committee found that the benefits of abdominoplasty following pregnancy were largely cosmetic as diastasis recti had no significant health consequences,” they said.