Every mother will agree that giving birth and becoming a mother is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is probably the bravest and most generous role one can accept. Mothers take on the biggest responsibility – giving birth and taking care of another human being. Quite often, this role completely overtakes their life, in a sense that their health and wellbeing becomes of secondary importance. This is why at most mums gatherings, children health and wellbeing are the only topics discussed. Even though there is sometimes not enough time to discuss the topics of post-pregnancy health, it is an important issue that deserves more awareness and attention since it affects a great number of new mums.
One of such post-pregnancy health issues is diastasis recti – a widening of the gap between the two sections of (Rectus Abdominis) abdominal muscle located at the front of the abdomen due to the growth of the uterus. The condition usually develops in the late pregnancy and is most noticeable after delivery. In some cases, the separation of the tissue can lessen in a couple of months after the childbirth, while in some cases the condition may last up to a year or longer.
Aside from health concerns that include weakened muscles and lower back pain, women going through diastasis recti experience a series of other difficulties, such as not being able to wear their usual jeans, as they simply don’t fit, even when they weigh the same as they did before pregnancy; or being frustrated with the fact that they have been able to shed all of the baby weight and still to have to carry a tummy that looks like they are pregnant.
What causes diastasis recti?
Even though it is most common in pregnant women, pregnancy doesn’t actually cause diastasis recti. It is quite possible that a great majority of people struggle with this since 98+ women have diastasis after delivery .
Diastasis recti is in fact, caused by intense intra-abdominal pressure or loading which is heightened by pregnancy, yet can be caused by an injury or surgery, therefore, men and children can also suffer from it.
Similarly to other pelvic and abdominal problems – hernia and prolapse, diastasis recti is directly caused by unsupported intra-abdominal pressure. The reason why most pregnant women face the condition is the weight of the baby that puts additional pressure on the connective abdominal tissue.
Who is more likely to have it?
Even though, as previously mentioned, children and men can suffer from diastasis recti as well, it is most common in women, especially pregnant women. Women are more likely to develop diastasis recti
- If they have a petite physique
- If they have had multiple pregnancies
- If they became pregnant later in life – later than 35
- If they deliver a baby who has a high birth weight
- If they have poor muscle tone
- If they have a sway back posture
How Do You Check If You Have It?
Bear in mind that you should always consult your doctor for a professional medical diagnosis and advice. That being said, there a couple of ways for you to check at home, before consulting a doctor.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your head and neck slightly off the floor, and press your fingers above you belly button.
- Repeat by pressing over the belly button and below it.
- If the gap between the muscles is bigger than 1-2 finger wide, you should consult your doctor about the possible diastasis recti symptoms.
Additionally, pay close attention to the tension in the gap. In the cases of diastasis recti, the tension in the midline is weak to non-existent, which could be one of the symptoms of the condition.
Watch the two videos for more detailed explanation of the self-examination process.
If You Have Diastasis recti, What Are The Do’s and Don’ts
What You Need To Do:
There are a great number of advice on how to treat diastasis recti, and many facts to be aware of if you have been diagnosed with the condition.
Be careful with exercise
Some types of exercises like planks, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, some yoga poses (downward dog) and swimming can make matters even worse.
Consult your doctor
Before starting any type of abdominal exercise, before or after pregnancy, make sure to ask your doctor first on how it will affect the possible development of the diastasis.
Treat the condition
Make sure to consult your doctor and find the best solution for you. There are some treatments and exercise programs that have been quite helpful in a majority of cases of diastasis recti. Some of them include the MuTu System, the Tupler technique, Fit2b, and The Tummy Team. Pilates is an other great way to strengthen the core muscles, before or during pregnancy, but make sure to choose a professional trainer who understands diastasis recti so that they can tailor the exercise to meet your specific needs.
What You Shouldn’t Do:
Even though traditional ab exercises can help to keep the abdominal muscles strong and prevent the diastasis recti, once the condition is determined it is suggested not to involve in any type of traditional ab workout.
Helene Byrne, a prenatal and postpartum health and fitness expert suggests avoiding crunches, oblique curls, reverse curls, and roll-ups, since, at this point, it is not good for the recovery to involve in exercises that involve twisting the spine or work the abdominal wall against the force of gravity.
Any type of activity that involves straining the mid-line, such as sit-ups, planks, or heavy lifting is strictly forbidden since it can strain the connective tissue and make the separation between muscles even bigger, explains Kevin Brenner, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Beverly Hills.
Backbends are off limits
According to Ben Butts, P.T., director of rehabilitation services and Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, any type of exercises that involve spinal extension movements can put additional pressure on the abdominal tissue and should, therefore be avoided during the healing process.
Can You prevent Diastasis Recti?
Even though so many of us are prone to developing diastasis recti, it is possible to lessen or completely prevent the condition from developing.
Health and fitness experts suggest taking care of your body long before planning pregnancy, with special attention to strengthening your core abdominal muscles. This will lessen the chances for the separation of the muscles later during pregnancy.
Preventive measures you can do during pregnancy include more subtle, yet important actions. One of those includes the log roll maneuver as Ben Butts, P.T., director of rehabilitation services and Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California suggests. The maneuver requires getting out of bed by rolling onto one side, keeping your head and torso aligned, and then using your arms to push yourself up. In this way, you are protecting your muscles from separating.
There are plenty of workout programs that specifically target the postpartum recovery and women dealing with diastasis recti, one of which is The Dia Method that provides effective exercise plan to help you regain your pre-baby belly and weight.
Do postpartum splints or corset binders really help?
Splinting is considered as a part of postpartum tradition around the world, as a means for women to heal faster and lose the baby tummy sooner. Yet, nowadays there are two opposing views concerning postpartum splinting, both providing facts in their favor.
The pro binding facts include it being great addition to mild and focused exercises, with researches and users showing its effectiveness on healing the diastasis recti problem.
On the other hand, the opposing view suggests that splinting is not only ineffective in resolving diastasis , but it can also be counter-effective and prevent body from healing.
Even though both views are strongly defended, many patients have actually found that the combined approach worked best, as best results were achieved by using the splint to protect the abdominal muscles and to become aware of the muscle they are using, and then doing mild exercises suggested by specialists’ programs.
Exercises you can do after giving birth
There are great post baby workouts you can do at home when you want to get rid of baby belly or to heal the tissue separation caused by diastasis, yet you need to make sure to always consult your doctor for professional advice before starting any workout program. Here are some of the best exercises to do at home after delivery.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com