If you are a mom, whether you gave birth last month, last year, or last decade, I want to share some information I came across after my second baby was born.
Brace yourself: you may have diastasis recti, which is the term for the separation of the stomach muscles that happens during pregnancy. But relax and breathe. It’s a big word for what is normal and usually just a small problem. (However, the bigger the diastasis, the more it may cause back pain.)
Before you go any further, please read my disclaimer.
In an effort to save you time and effort, I will share my journey on diastasis recti I like to call:
Fix My Abs in 21 Steps
1. About 18 months post partum (after child #2), I came to the conclusion that my little belly pooch probably needs some attention, since I was well beyond the I-just-had-a-baby-that’s-why-my-tummy-looks-like-this period.
2. I started a (half-hearted) routine of doing some ab crunches every day. (Bleh.)
3. Some random bit of information about checking for diastasis recti after having a baby caught my attention. Was there perchance an actual reason for my tummy pooch, beyond the obvious culprit (i.e. eating too many chocolate chips)?
4. I followed the instructions for doing a quick check, which are simply to lie on your back with your knees bent, place your fingers near your belly button, and lift your head. If you feel a gap that is a couple fingers wide, you have diastasis recti. (For more detailed instructions, you can go here. For a video with instructions, you can go here. To read my disclaimer, go here.)
5. I felt literally nauseous when I felt the gap in my ab muscles. Eeew.
6. I hit the internet (AKA Dr. Google) to find out more information and what can be done to correct it.
7. I learned that this is completely common in women who have been pregnant. As the uterus grows to accommodate the growing baby, organs and muscles are pushed out of the way – and the ab muscles separate to make room for the uterus.
8. I also learned the larger the diastasis, the weaker the muscles and the greater chance for developing back problems down the road. Also, the larger the diastasis, the bigger the belly that just won’t seem to go away after baby’s delivery!
9. I also learned that most mild ab separation can be corrected on your own with certain exercises. More severe separation may require surgery to correct.
10. I secretly rejoiced when I found out that one should not be doing regular ab crunches or planks if you have diastasis recti. Those exercises work the outer ab muscles and can actually make the separation worse. First you need to work the inner ab muscle, the transverse abdominus.
12. I did the exercises in the videos for a few days, they seemed pretty tame/safe. Some of them call for using a towel around your waist as an aid to keep the ab muscles together as you sit up.
13. I returned to Dr. Google for more information. Why? I don’t know. Just seemed like I wanted some kind of confirmation that I was doing The Right Thing.
14. I kept finding more information that contradicted what I already read online (shocker, I know). So I now was leery of doing those exercises in the previous videos, especially any sort ones with crunches, supported with a towel or not.
15. I also kept finding references to the Tupler Technique® as a great method to help correct diastasis recti. According to their website, it is a research-based exercise program that treats diastasis recti. It was created by Julie Tupler, a Registered Nurse, Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Personal Trainer. Looked great, but I didn’t want to do any in-depth program.
16. Julie Tupler also wrote a book called Lose Your Mummy Tummy and I’ve seen many great reviews for it. Being the frugal person I am I didn’t buy the book, but instead kept going back to Dr. Google with the hope of finding New Information to Support What I Want (i.e. free ideas for doing The Right Thing).
17. At a regular visit to my chiropractor, I mentioned my diastasis recti. He checked and confirmed that I did have a small diastasis, but said that since it was small I would be able to bring the stomach muscles back together naturally. (He has some patients whose ab separation is so great that he can fit his entire fist into it. Those would require surgery to fix, he thought.) I eagerly asked what exercises I could do that would be the best for fixing this and unfortunately he didn’t have many specific exercises besides “just hold in your stomach muscles as much as you can”. Great. Not what this Type-A person wanted to hear. I need specifics, people!
18. I then went to my yearly well-woman exam with my midwife and asked her about it. She also confirmed I had one, but that it was small. She didn’t have any specific exercises that I could do for it, though, and mentioned just searching for “transverse abdominal exercises” online.
19. I finally realized that it is an impossible goal to find The Right Thing with Dr. Google. (If you already knew that, congrats. You are ahead of me and know how to spend your time more wisely than I do.)
20. I broke down and bought the book Lose Your Mummy Tummy since it seemed that it was the most reliable source of good information on the topic. I read it and started doing the appropriate exercises.
And do you want to know what those exercises in the book are? Basically various ways of HOLDING IN YOUR STOMACH MUSCLES!!!!
Yes, that’s right. After all this work, I guess my chiropractor was right all along. Thank you Dr. D.
21. I did the exercises for a few weeks and did notice some tightening of the ab area. (I didn’t stick with it, though, and the pooch returned.)
Long Story Short on Fixing Small Diastasis Recti
-Work the inner ab muscle first, the transverse abdominus. Do not do ab work that strengthens the outer ab muscles, such as crunches or planks.
-To work the transverse ab muscles, hold your tummy muscles in as much as you can. Sometimes do small reps (in, out, in, out). Sometimes hold in for a longer time (30 seconds or so). Here’s a link to a page in Lose Your Mummy Tummy that contains several crunch-free ab exercises. (I did the core contraction and seated squeeze.)
-To make it easier to actually stick with this routine, consider doing these core contractions and seated squeezes while driving (like when you are at a red light or something).
Short Book Review of Lose Your Mummy Tummy
I liked Lose Your Mummy Tummy and am glad I purchased it. Since I was 18 months postpartum when I got the book, I skipped over much of the book that was dedicated to exercises and care for your tummy immediately after birth. I also skipped the section on recovering from C-sections.
I did find the exercises to be very simple and basic, the kind where you wonder if they are doing anything at all. I am used to exercising a lot (I’m a runner) so I’m guessing some of these exercises would be great for those who never exercise at all.
The bread and butter of the book for me came down to a few brief pages that explained the ab exercises. They were explained very well and very specifically. Those few pages made the book valuable to me. I tried not to think of how much of the book I didn’t need or use. I appreciate the effort of creating this book to help women and hope others can find the value they need as well.
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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