During pregnancy, the abdomen expands greatly to allow room for the growing baby. Once the baby is born many women are left with a separation in between their abdominal muscles and a little pooch in the middle of the stomach. This is called diastasis recti and it is literally a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle. After being stretched to their limit they don’t always heal back together properly. Studies show that 37 percent of women who have one pregnancy experience this condition while 67 percent of women who have had multiple pregnancies have diastasis recti.
Besides not looking aesthetically pleasing this separation can cause weakening of the abdominal and core muscles and can lead to higher incidence of back injury, especially with lifting and holding a new baby. Think about how many times during the day you lift your baby. Often these are in awkward positions, too. Lifting the baby over the crib or bassinet. Putting the baby into the car seat which may be in the middle back seat of your car. You also may be carrying a heavy diaper bag or baby carrier. In these movements, your back needs to be strong in order not to hurt yourself and if your abdominal muscles are separated and not strong you are at increased risk of injury multiple times during the day. If mom is injured or hurting, then it is going to be even more difficult to care for a new baby.
First, how to check for diastasis recti. Lie on your back, bend your knees so your feet are flat, like you are going to do a sit-up. Place two fingers at or just above your belly button. Then lift your head up off the ground. If your fingers sink into a hole or space this is diastasis recti. Also, you may see a pooching up of the skin creating a little tent like shape. This is also diastasis recti. In a normal abdominal muscle when you lift your head up there should be solid muscle under your fingers, no holes to sink into and no skin pooching up like a tent.
The good news is there are some simple things you can do to help heal these abdominal muscles, decrease the separation and make them strong again.
The first thing is to purchase and begin wearing an abdominal brace or abdominal binder. This is just an elastic band that goes around your abdomen to give pressure to retrain those muscles to grow together again. This should be worn during your waking hours as much as possible and especially during exercise while you are trying to retrain the abdominal muscles.
The next thing is to begin doing abdominal re-training exercises. This can consist of a variety of exercises for your abdominal muscles and core muscles. Remember to keep your abdominals engaged during core exercises to coax them back together to work properly again.
There are exercise videos available on the website specifically for diastasis recti (under the label “post-partum”). Abdominal binders are also available for purchase on the website. If you want a more tailored or guided program, make an appointment to see me in person or through the online consultation.
Happy healing mamas!