Life After Baby: Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Photo | www.lyndalippin.com

 

In my Life After Baby: What No One Tells You post, I briefly mentioned Diastasis Recti (DRA), a condition which is the separation of the abdominal muscles.

After having Evan, my expectations were that my body would return to it’s pre-pregnancy size within the first three months post partum. After all, I was working out and doing everything I thought was right for a fit and healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Everything I was told at the prenatal and educational classes, and from seasoned mothers, not once mentioned Diastasis recti. I think many women, like myself, tend to believe that they simply have a “mummy tummy” without realizing they have a deeper underlying issue which is directly related to their pelvic health.

For several months post partum I had this weird jiggly belly where everything in there felt like is was sloshing around freely. It was the weirdest feeling! I knew something wasn’t quite right and so I decided to conduct a bit of research myself. I didn’t know about DRA, so when searching for answers, I was typing in all kinds of terms including “why do I still look 5 months pregnant?” and “breastfeeding and not loosing the pregnancy weight.” Finally, after all my searching and noticing similarities between discussions on online forums and various websites, I realized what was going on with my body. The culprit – Diastasis Recti.

During my online search, I came across numerous workouts that claimed to help heal this condition. I saved many to give them a try later on, but I found conflicting information when it came to which exercises were safe and which ones to avoid. I decided to stop trying to fix this issue on my own in case I was actually doing more harm than good.

At this time, Tom and I were in the process of packing for our move into our new home, and figured I might as well wait until we were settled in to find a physiotherapist to work with for this tummy issue. In the new year, I got my butt into gear and called a Physiotherapy Clinic. Surprisingly, I was told that I would need to find a pelvic health specialist. This made me feel a bit geriatric and a little embarrassed. I managed to get over myself and search for a clinic. Luckily, I found a Pelvic health clinic close to home and managed to get an appointment two weeks out.

Photo | www.Fit2B.us

 

 

At my first appointment, I realized I had made the right decision to halt my own attempt at fixing my Diastasis Recti and by seeking out a professional. I met with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, Christina Dzieduszycki, who went through my medical history and details about my pregnancy and post partum recovery. Surprisingly, we spoke in depth about peeing and pooping. At this point I was thinking “why are we talking about this? Can we just get to the part on how I lose this mummy tummy?” I soon understood why we were talking about bowl movements, as our chat led into a very educational discussion about the muscles in our core and pelvic area and how they work together to support EVERYTHING down there. She also explained that women don’t realize that the hormone relaxin (makes your joints loose and “rubbery” to help with delivery) which is produced by our body while we are pregnant, remains in our system for upto 3 months once breastfeeding has ended. This is important to know! At my 8 weeks postpartum check-up, my doctor told me that I could start to workout the way I used to pre-pregnancy. I was and still am breastfeeding, so if I had jumped right back into the gym, I could have caused even more damage.

Photo | www.momstrongutah.com

 

The second half of my appointment with Christina, was spent learning how to perform a breathing exercise as the first step in healing my DRA – retraining myself on my breathing technique. The way Christina described this was:

“When you inhale, you need to watch/feel your belly rise (or expand like a balloon filling up with air). During the inhalation phase, the pelvic floor muscles relax and a descent/lengthening of the area between the sit bones should be felt. This can best be experienced while assuming the happy baby yoga pose.

When we exhale this is where the contraction occurs. The belly falls and tightens as we activate the transverse abdominus muscle (our bodies “corset/girdle” muscle). During the exhalation phase the pelvic floor muscles also contract, as though you are trying to prevent the passing of gas, flow of urine and then drawing navel to spine (in that order – back to front – like a zipper effect). It sometimes helps if you imagine yourself trying to suck in a ping-pong ball through the vagina.”

 

I do have to emphasize that this technique is NOT a simple one to achieve without formal instruction as most of us tend to breath backwards. We suck in to look thin, which negatively impacts the pressures acting on the pelvic floor.

Once I got the hang of this, I was sent home with a bit of homework. Performing this breathing exercise 25-50 times a day until my next appointment. This one change alone made me feel a bit stronger in that area and made me more conscious of my posture. To boot, my massage therapist noticed the muscles in my mid back were not as tight as before – it’s because I was breathing using the correct technique! It feels so good to know that I am on my way and progressing at a healthy pace towards healing my Diastasis Recti.

If you think you might have Diastasis Recti and would like to follow me while I take the necessary steps to heal my DRA, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for the most current blog updates!

Written in collaboration with Christina Dzieduszycki, The Active Pelvic Healer

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this eye-opening post! New moms want to run to the gym right after 8 weeks not knowing how dangerous it could be. I had mild diastasic recti and waited 4 months before hitting the gym. I also religiously do my Kegel exercises. I encourage all women to start their Kegel during their pregnancy and continue after for the rest of their life! YES, for the rest of their life! Menopause will weaken the muscles because of the lack of estrogen and it’s the best way to prevent urinary incontinence.

    1. I’m happy you found this informative and helpful and that you have the knowledge I wish more women had about pelvic floor health an it’s impact before, during, and after pregnancy. YES to Kegels!

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