Have you lost the baby weight, but something still doesn’t feel right? Have a “mummy pooch” you just can’t shift? Or are you currently pregnant and looking for ways to minimise postpartum issues? You need to know about diastasis recti.
During pregnancy, the muscles in your abdomen separate. They have to – how else would you fit a baby in there? Afterwards however, this separation can cause issues if it doesn’t resolve. At the mild end of the spectrum, it can cause you to be unhappy with your body shape, carrying what looks like a small pocket of fat on your belly. At the more serious end, it can cause severe back pain and even lead to hernias.
Do not panic however, most women are left with some sort of abdominal separation after pregnancy, and it can be treated.
During later pregnancy and in the postpartum period, avoid any “sit up” type movements, as these put pressure on the abdominal wall. For example, instead of sitting up directly in bed, roll to the side and push up with your hands. If it feels like an abdominal crunch, find another way to do it!
Once you are 6 weeks postpartum, see a women’s health physio – it is impossible to overstate how important this is. They can help detect and treat many issues, including pelvic floor issues and diastasis recti. They will assess the nature of the separation, and give you exercises to fix it. Ensure they are a real women’s health practitioner not just a normal physiotherapist who has a little bit of experience treating these issues – to put it bluntly, if they aren’t putting the gloves on and getting up close and personal with your lady bits, they aren’t doing a proper job of assessing your pelvic floor.
By following the exercises as directed by your physio, and continuing to avoid the ‘crunching’ type movements, in most cases you should be able to heal your abdominal split and eventually return to normal exercise. I was diagnosed with a 5cm split after each pregnancy, and in both cases got it down to under a centimetre (which is classed as normal).
And finally, be gentle with yourself – your body has been through a lot, and it needs time and effort to heal it. Run your own race and don’t compare yourself to others – even if they seem to have their fitness back on track, they may be struggling with issues behind the scenes.