Diastasis Recti affects more than 3 million people, most of whom are postpartum women. It usually shows up if you are over 35, deliver a large baby, or have multiple pregnancies. And yet, despite being so common it is also one of the least talked about conditions.
After the birth of my first son, who was 9lbs and 22 inches long (a.k.a a large baby), I thought I could carve away my post baby belly with crunches, planks, and other abdominal workouts. Little did I know, I was actually making it WORSE because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. After a year of improper exercise and misinformation, I almost ended up with an umbilical hernia, developed digestion issues, and had to have lab tests and x-rays done to rule out cancer because I was in so much pain.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant again that I finally figured out what was going on. My OB explained to me what was happening and after my second son was born (via a scheduled cesarean) she sewed my muscles back together to remedy the problem.
Now I’m 9 weeks postpartum and this time I’m taking care to make sure I don’t end up with Diastasis Reci again.
What is Diastasis Recti?
While it’s normal to have a “pooch” for a few months after giving birth, if you still look pregnant 6+ months out you may have Diastasis Recti (DR). It’s caused when the connective tissue running between the rectus abdominis (“six-pack muscles”) in your belly weakens during the stretching of pregnancy. The muscles, having nothing to hold them together, separate leaving a gap two fingers wide or more.
Sometimes the tissue heals allowing the abdomen to return back to normal, but more often than not the condition stays the same or gets worse without treatment. Studies estimate that 40% of women still suffer from DR six months to a year after having a baby.
Problems associated with DR include: lower back pain, constipation, and urine leaking.
My game-plan for preventing DR and toning up my abdomen
There are several ways to prevent and treat DR including abdominal binding, the MuTu System, and just good ole fashioned rest. I’d honestly love to try the MuTu System, but it’s just not in my budget right now. Also, resting in bed isn’t really an option either since I have a newborn + a VERY active two year old.
For me, I’m doing a combination of the following:
- Abdominal binding – I’ve really enjoyed using the Belly Bandit while cleaning or chasing after my toddler. It helps give extra support while my muscles heal, plus it makes me more aware of my posture and limitations.
- Exercise – I came across this great post on Diary of a Fit Mommy, where she shows six different gentle exercises to help strengthen and tone abdominal muscles WITHOUT placing added stress on the already weakened connective tissue. Some of my favorites include: pelvic tilts, heel slides, and toe touches. I’ve been doing these daily and I really do feel a gradual difference!
- Yoga – I haven’t really gotten into a groove yet with my yoga practice. I just try to squeeze a flow in whenever I can. So for the most part I’ve been referencing this article on Yogi Approved for some quick poses I can practice here and there to help prevent DR and heal my core. A couple of Youtube videos on my list to try in the next couple of days are this 20 min workout and this postnatal yoga sequence.
For the remainder of March, my plan is to keep things as simple as possible. In addition to the above mentioned practices, I’m focusing on eating clean via the Whole30 and taking time to breath and meditate before going to bed.
If anyone reading this happens to have or has had DR, what were some things you did to help heal? Let me know in the comments ~ ❤