Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into the Bob the Builder theme song; if you are a mum to toddlers, you’d have heard a guts full by now I’m sure. We’re here to build back something else – diastasis recti.
One hit on Google and a myriad articles, blogs, and other information pops up to solve the Diastasis Recti dilemma for new mums. Many women, even after diet control, hormone balance testing and good amounts of exercise, still find that while they tone up they never lose the tum. Not only does it look unsightly, it can also cause terrible pain as compromised stomach muscles mean the back is not properly supported.
What is Diastasis Recti?
As pressure on the belly from a growing baby increases sometimes the muscles in front can’t keep their shape. “Diastasis” means separation. “Recti” refers to your top layer ab muscles or what I call the 6 pack, “rectus abdominis”.
The right and left side of the rectus abdominis split during pregnancy and a gap between them forms. This also can occur for children and other adults, male body builders for example. The muscles do not tear or rupture. They are pliable and can be mended with the right type of rehabilitation.
Unfortunately low back pain, incontinence and even hernias can result from diastasis recti. I wonder why we humans couldn’t just lay a few eggs, keep them warm until hatch time, and be done with it. Alas we are left with that dome shaped pouch that lingers irritatingly amidst our lower abdominal region post-birth.
Research suggests anywhere from 1/3 pregnant women to all pregnant women will experience abdominal separation. It is my strong opinion after many years of working in a rehab capacity with pre and postnatal women that more than 1/3 of women will show some form of diastasis recti. How would it otherwise be possible to make room within the abdominal wall to fit a fully grown foetus?
Add to that pregnancy hormones causing ligaments to relax and loosen and the uterus to grow making way for the baby, intraabdominal pressure from the sheer weight changes throughout the body, and all the other myriad physiological changes taking place, and the chances are high.
How do I know if I have it?
It's easy to perform a self-test for diastasis recti. Just lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Put one hand on your belly, with your fingers on your midline at your navel. Press your fingertips down gently, and bring your head (shoulders stay on the ground) up into a mini crunch-like position. Feel for the sides of your rectus abdominis muscles, and see if and how far they are separated. Separation is commonly discussed in terms of finger widths - for example, two or three (or more) fingers' separation.
How do we fix this abdominal invader, Diastasis Recti?
Specifically designed exercises, deep quality breathing techniques, appropriate stretches etc. that are tailored to a new mum’s needs (this has been seen to work in mums up to 2 years post birth).
Diastasis recti treatment has to be unique in approach and only a targeted yet intelligent (less is more) approach will do the trick. When it’s correctly addressed it doesn’t have to be that hard to repair, but the same rule applies for anything we wish to rectify, doing nothing won’t do.
Not only should exercises be tailored by a postnatal rehab exercise specialist, but by correctly splinting the abdominals the process moves even faster.
What NOT to do: planks, traditional abdominal crunches, pound the pavement (especially in unsupportive shoes), or do any strong movement without correctly engaging pelvic floor and deep tummy muscles.
Want to kiss goodbye mummy tummy for good? Combine the two! Targeted diastasis recti exercises that are functional and focus on strengthening your core muscles the right way. Add to that a tummy splint and you are well on the road to recovery.