In the beginning of pregnancy, some of us can’t wait to start seeing our baby bumps. Then after nine months of waiting and giving birth you are just as excited to see it go. This is when some of us begin to experience the postpartum belly. Six to eight weeks after giving birth the uterus is still shrinking back to its normal size causing your belly to bulge. After your uterus goes back to regular size, you may have a baby pooch that’s left behind. This is a problem area for many women that won’t go away regardless of how much they diet and exercise. This is a condition called diastasis recti. It is the separation of the 6-pack muscles that run vertically along the center of the stomach. Don’t worry there is a way to reverse the effects of the condition and get back to being “bikini-ready”.
What Is It?
Diastasis recti is more common than you think. Roughly, 98% of women experience this condition. The large abdomen muscles stretch sideways to allow space for the baby during pregnancy. The connective tissue weakens and takes a while for it to come back to its original structure. This in turn, impacts the lower back & pelvis as well. May lead to pain in the hips, lower back, and urinary incontinence. Since the abdominal wall holding the organs in place is weakened it can also cause digestive problems. A tendency to lean back or poor posture are symptoms of weak abdominal muscles.
There are ways you can begin to correct diastasis recti. For many women, this can be corrected with simple exercises. Using core compression exercises can be the most beneficial. These are exercises that draw the belly toward the spine. Resistance training & cardiovascular exercise during pregnancy & after pregnancy can help to reduce diastasis recti. Engaging the transverse abdominal muscles will begin to bring in your waistline. This is the layer of muscles that go from the front to the side connecting under the oblique area. Think of these muscles as your inner corset. Working these muscles will literally bring your stomach inward.
Whether you are 3 months or 3 years postpartum committing five minutes a day to the transverse abdominal muscles can begin to counterbalance diastasis recti. Flutter kicks, Supermans, bicycle abs, and push-up to plank rows are some exercises to start with. Working the oblique muscles are also a good way to bring the muscles that separated back together. Regardless, of which exercises you choose make sure to always keep your belly pulled in toward your spine. An important aspect of doing these exercises is breathing. Learn breathing techniques that will help you throughout your workout. During moments of effort make sure to exhale so the stomach does not bulge outward.
If you are unsure on where to start, don’t be afraid to consult your doctor. Talk to a personal trainer that specializes in diastasis recti. You may also be able to find help via a DVD or online program. There are a few programs that are designed to help women that have diastasis recti. MuTu System, Tupler Technique, & the Dia Method are some of the programs. They help to ensure that you are doing the proper exercises carefully & safely. They use exercises geared to improve your core and pelvic floor muscles. These programs generally have support groups and a health coach to keep you on track.
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
After giving birth to a child, worrying about your waistline can be next on your “to-do” list. It’s important to not stress yourself out. Ease yourself into a healthy lifestyle step by step. Nothing happens overnight, so enjoy the process of your transformation. Don’t compare yourself to the Pinterest & Instagram moms that have a flat tummy a few weeks after birth. Everyone is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding what works for you and being happy with yourself is what matters most.