It seems everyone is talking about it at the moment. Do you know what it is? Is it affecting you? Are you helping or hindering your own healing?
Diastasis Recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles and a weakening of the connective tissues holding the abdominal wall together. It is thought that most pregnant women will have this by their 36th week of pregnancy.
Before you panic and think that you are going to be left with this gap then know that this is a normal development of pregnancy. Your body has to make way for that beautiful baby that is growing inside you. Something is going to have to stretch. Somethings will have to move out of the way. It doesn't mean that you will be left with this gap once you have healed up post partum.
There will be some of you however, that will be left with this gap and you need to know how to help yourself. I have it. I got it with my first son and I was told during my second pregnancy that it was really bad. I was told to wear cheap hold me in pants. And not to sit straight up from lying but to roll to my side. Whilst the advice I was given was a little helpful (not sure about the pants part) it certainly wasn't enough to really help me.
I was then told after my second little baby was born that I would need an operation but to not bother with this until I had finished with having babies. That was it. No other advice. No concern and no referral to a physio.
This was appalling care and exactly the reason why I got into pre and post natal training. We as women deserve to know all the information. Not to scare us but to allow us to move forward in the best way possible for each and every one of us.
So here is my advice to you.
1. YOUR POSTURE IS IMPORTANT
I know we have all heard the 'stop slouching' from our parents/grandparents/teachers when we were kids. But your posture is really important when it comes to healing your Diastasis.
So what should your posture be like?
- your ribs should be stacked over your hips.
- Your bum should be untucked
- Try not to flare your ribs
You want to make sure you don't flare your ribs and have them stacked over your hips to avoid your connective tissue (Linea Alba) being continuously stretched. This will weaken your Linea Alba. My fave way I have heard this being described is from Jessie Mundell. She likens the Linea Alba to a pair of yoga pants, workout leggings to us, and over time the material becomes stretched and see through and it never goes back to way it was. We all hate this, right? We really don't want that to happen to our connective tissues so we need to look after it. Tucking your bum under is also going to transfer all the load to your front and stretch that connective tissue and weakening it further.
Pregnancy can naturally put us into one of these positions and you need to check that you have not stayed this way after giving birth. Try to correct how you are standing whilst holding your child as this will just add to the pressure.
Our posture whilst standing is not the only thing that you need to be aware of. I know how exhausting it is running around after children and/or looking after a baby, believe me. I collapse on the couch at the end of the day the same as everyone else does. You want to curl up and switch off when the children go to bed.
But it really matters.
Check your posture when you are feeding your baby, breast or bottle. How you are sitting when driving, how you sit watching tv, or just at the table eating dinner.
Another thing you to consider which isn't particularly posture but how you are getting out of bed to pick your newborn up. Be careful not to jump straight up.
2. IMPROVING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR CORE AND PELVIC FLOOR
During pregnancy your breathing can be messed up with the extra weight that is being put on your body and for some it just isn't something you have learned. So it is important that you develop the connection with your core and your pelvic floor.
Here is how to improve the connection:
1. Stand with your ribs stacked over your hips (neutral position) and pop one hand on your tummy and one hand on your ribs
2. Inhale filling your ribs, tummy and pelvis.
3. Exhale pulling your tummy and pelvic floor up.
The contraction you should feel in your pelvic floor should not be 100% effort but instead a gentle contraction of about 30% effort. If you are struggling to do this standing up then lie on the floor and try it again.
3. WHAT EXERCISES ARE YOU DOING?
So have a think about the types of exercises you are doing. Think of the typical core exercises like crunches, planks, russian twists. Do you do these? How is your tummy? What we are watching out for here is bulging out tummies and no control over a contraction of the muscle. In my classes I wouldn't program these exercises in especially for new mums. I don't believe they are the best exercises for your core and prefer so many other exercises.
But it isn't just the typical exercises you are looking at here. It is all the ones you feel any pressure on your core. During my workout last week I was doing a Bent Over Row. Now the weight I was lifting was not out of my range, however, I just couldn't hold my abdominal muscles in and felt completely unsupported so we changed things up and went for a different variation.
So a few things to think about - Do you have control of your tummy muscles? Is it making your tummy bulge or go into a cone shape? How is your posture? Are you breathing correctly? Can you fix the problem with adjustment? If not then take it out for now. (You may even find you want to take it out for good if you have a think about why you are doing this exercise)
So there you have it. My tips to get you started on your way to healing your Diastasis Recti. Don't be scared about it, don't feel like your whole life is just going to be about thinking about every move you make (who has time for that?!) You are more than your body's ability to function but changes to these things will make your life a lot easier.