I’m a veteran Mommy, as I am sure many of you are as well. I can also imagine that many of you, much like myself felt insecure after giving birth about your post baby body. Sure, it was great when you were all curvaceous and bootylicious when you were 9 months large but it’s not seeming so cute now. In the haze of breastfeeding and changing poopy diapers you are wondering when/if you’ll ever get your pre mommy body back.
Well have no fear mamas! It takes time but rest assured that if you work at it you will be able to be comfortable in your own skin again. Before you go jumping on the treadmill and doing a million crunches though please take note on whether you’ve developed diastasis recti so that you can learn how to approach activities in a safe manner and not injure yourself.
Diastasis Recti is a condition that many women develop during their pregnancies and it can even affect men and children in rare cases. DS is the separation of the abdominal wall as the belly expands to make room for your growing baby. Women with more than one child (hand raised!) are more likely to develop this condition as are women over 35. This separation of the abdominals is often what women call their “pooch” after a few months postpartum. It’s usually that last stubborn area that women think they need to “lose” from when in reality they need to repair that area and nurture it in order to get their body back.
Diastasis Recti can cause lower back pain as well as constipation and urine leakage (tried jumping on a trampoline lately?!). In worse cases it can even make it hard to breath and move and even cause a hernia if you push your body too hard too soon. You should take precaution when doing normal abdominal workouts such as crunches and planking because they can end up doing more harm than good until your DS is repaired.
Personally, I didn’t realize that I had diastasis recti until my second son was 2! I was working out constantly and doing a million ab exercises but my poochy belly was impossible to get rid of and I had no idea why! I had heard about the condition but never associated it directly with myself. I started having alot of lower back pain but I just figured it was from my job and the copious amounts of Yoga that I was doing to try and get back into shape. Needless to say, I tested myself for DS and discovered that I definitely have a separation of my upper abdominal muscles (womp womp)!
So how do you test for DS? Lay flat on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground. Put your left arm behind your head and then compress your abs into a gentle crunch. Take your right hand and gently press down on your abdominals. A DS is a separation of 2.7 centimeters or wider. You can use your finger widths as a gauge. If you find that your separation is wider than 2 ½ fingers please consult your doctor! Wider separations put you at greater risk for hernia and serious back issues!
The good news is that there are exercises that you can do to help repair your Diastasis Recti. I have taken a break from most other physical activity to focus on repairing my DS before I begin seriously exercising again. Here’s a few examples of some exercises. I found these from wiki but there are a ton of examples on pinterest and such.
- Core contraction – In a seated position, place both hands on abdominal muscles. Take small controlled breaths. Slowly contract the abdominal muscles, pulling them straight back towards the spine. Hold the contraction for 30 seconds, while maintaining the controlled breathing. Complete 10 repetitions.
- Seated squeeze – Again in a seated position, place one hand above the belly button, and the other below the belly button. With controlled breaths, with a mid-way starting point, pull the abdominals back toward the spine, hold for 2 seconds and return to the mid-way point. Complete 100 repetitions.
- Head lift – In a lying down position, knees bent at 90° angle, feet flat, slowly lift the head, chin toward your chest, (concentrate on isolation of the abdominals to prevent hip-flexors from being engaged),slowly contract abdominals toward floor, hold for two seconds, lower head to starting position for 2 seconds. Complete 10 repetitions.
- Upright push-up – A stand-up push-up against the wall, with feet together arms-length away from wall, place hands flat against the wall, contract abdominal muscles toward spine, lean body towards wall, with elbows bent downward close to body, pull abdominal muscles in further, with controlled breathing. Release muscles as you push back to starting position. Complete 20 repetitions.
- Squat against the wall – Also known as a seated squat, stand with back against the wall, feet out in front of body, slowly lower body to a seated position so knees are bent at a 90° angle, contracting abs toward spine as you raise body back to standing position. Optionally, this exercise can also be done using an exercise ball placed against the wall and the lower back. Complete 20 repetitions.
- Squat with squeeze – A variation to the “squat against the wall” is to place a small resistance ball between the knees, and squeeze the ball while lowering the body to the seated position. Complete 20 repetitions.
Always remember to “blow before you go”! When lifting anything of any significant weight (this includes your kids!) take a deep breath in and blow the air out before lifting. This engages your abdominals which helps to knit them back together as well as protecting your lower back muscles. Also, please please please do not try to pick anything up with a flat back! Always lift through your knees, not your back. Lifting from a simply bent over position puts so much additional pressure on your lower back! Lifting a 10 pound object puts approximately 1,150 pounds of pressure on your lower back! Always try to squat when lifting heavy objects. Your quads and your lower back will love you for it I promise!
I hope that this post was helpful for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from Diastasis Recti. Please note that I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing with you the information that I have learned through my own research and the exercises that I am doing to work on repairing my own DS. Consult your physician before you attempt these exercises if you have any concerns.