“What the heck is going on with my belly? Why is it still round and sometimes pointy?” 7 months after I had my second child, I asked myself these questions. I would look down and evaluate it everyday. Hmmm…the Dr said it would go away but here it still is. I had worked out in between children and even during my pregnancy. I was distraught. Surely, I deserved better than this! Little did I know that the very exercises I had practiced were the ones that contributed to my angst.
It wasn’t until after my second child that I found out the answers. My condition was called a diastasis. Also known as abdominal separation, diastasis recti is a condition where the right and left sides of the rectus abdominus (also known as the “six-pack” muscle) spread apart at the body’s midline.
Why? Well, it’s normal for a small amount of separation to occur during your pregnancy. The uterus pushes against the abdominal wall during pregnancy and viola – it separates. Also, hormones can soften connective tissue, allowing the separation to occur more easily. For some women, it is simply how their bodies respond to pregnancy. After delivery, the abdominal wall can be weak and inappropriate exercise choices can widen a diastasis or even create one.
Getting Your Pre-Baby Body Back After Childbirth
In my case, I thought practicing sit-ups and crunches would flatten my belly but in affect it was actually making it worse. But what kills me is the fact that no one knew what it was or could help me prevent or correct it.
So, how do you know if you have a diastasis? In the later part of pregnancy, the top of the pregnant uterus is seen bulging out of the abdominal wall (sometimes looks like a vertical cone when you lift your head or pike up from the bed or floor). A postpartum diastasis recti looks like a round buldge, which runs down the middle of the belly area (aka: mommy belly). For me, every time I lifted my head, I could see a cone as well. It stretched from my ribs to my belly button, and increased with muscle straining like when I laughed, coughed or sneezed.
Know Better, Do Better Whether it is in the prenatal or the initial postpartum period, traditional abdominal exercises like crunches or sit ups can create or increase a diastasis. As a fitness instructor, I know now to tell all my pregnant clients that they should avoid flexion exercises. So, when I created my pre/postnatal programs I excluded flexion and instead, included basic pelvic floor and transverse abdominis exercises. These exercises are modified throughout a pregnancy and postpartum recovery. They help prevent diastasis recti, relieve back pain and increase pelvic instability.
If done properly and often, these same exercises WILL close the gap and heal a diastasis.Diastasis is not just about having a flat belly or firm abs. It’s also about having a stronger posture and spine. Not to mention, avoiding back pain. As a mom, I couldn’t afford even a day in bed. If I go down the whole family goes with me. Staying strong and healthy is vital! Healing diastasis and educating moms is a passion of mine. Education is key and it empowers women to take charge of their body and take care of their family. Check out my article about how soon after baby you can exercise and why you should avoid flexion.
Common Diastasis Recti Myths:
• Diastasis recti requires surgical repair
• Diastasis recti causes pain.
• All women should wait at least six weeks after delivery before beginning any abdominal exercises or postnatal
Hopefully, it will give you some insight as to what the heck is going on with your body and how to take the steps you need to look and feel your mamalicious best!