This is the first of a series of posts where we adress the basics of Post-Natal Health. These blogs tend to be a bit longer than those based on members’ questions but are intended to be a more complete guide to any post-partum issues.
Becoming a mum for the first time can be one of the most amazing moments in your life and after 9 months of waiting, you finally get to meet your little one. Giving birth is often the part of pregnancy that everyone dreads, so it is spoken about and explained in almost every pregnancy book you read. What happens to your body in the weeks after pregnancy, however, isn’t as openly discussed and it can, therefore, cause panic and worry if something was to feel or look wrong.
If you feel as though you still look pregnant months after you have given birth and you’re fed up with your new ‘mum tum’, don’t worry, as you’re not alone. A postpartum abdominal condition called diastasis recti might be to blame. It isn’t uncommon for new mums to have never heard this term before and we know that any medical terms thrown at you can be confusing and actually quite scary.
To help put your mind at ease, Healthy Post-natal Body have put together an easy-to-understand complete guide to diastasis recti. We have answered all of the most common questions new mums have about this condition.
To answer this as simply as possible for anyone who may be worried about it, diastasis recti is when you have a gap in between your right and left abdominal wall muscles. It is anything from the partial to the complete separation of these muscles, which usually meet at the midline of your stomach. You may have also heard of this condition referred to it as having DRA or a “pooch”.
Why do pregnant women get it?
Essentially, diastasis recti happens due to a combination of your pregnancy hormones and your abdominal muscles making space for your growing baby. During pregnancy, your abdominal wall, which is in the centre of the abdomen between the two halves of the muscles, is weakened. The tissue in your abdominal wall, the linea alba, will stretch and allow room for your baby. It is completely normal for this to happen during pregnancy.
After delivery, the tissue in your abdomen that connects your muscles will start to recover and begin to pull the two halves of the muscles back together. However, unfortunately, sometimes the long term stretching can lead to the tissue not being able to recover fully and retract back into position. This is when women get diastasis recti after pregnancy.
It is relatively common, approximately 60% of women will suffer from some form of diastasis recti, whether it is very mild or slightly more severe, following their first pregnancy. The likelihood of diastasis recti, as well as its severity, does increase after multiple pregnancies.
There are, however, many different factors that can affect your likelihood of experiencing this condition such as being petite, carrying more than one baby at a time, gaining a substantial amount of weight during pregnancy or having poor muscle tone before pregnancy.
It isn’t completely preventable, however, there are ways that you can help protect your abdomen during pregnancy. Something as small as always using the log roll manoeuvre when getting out of bed or up from the sofa can potentially help.
It is also very likely that staying active can help, some say that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy are less likely to end up with a diastasis recti. You can look into helpful pelvic floor and core exercises that are safe to do whilst you are pregnant. There are lots of different pregnancy exercise programmes on the internet, just be sure to only follow one from a website that you trust.
There is a really simple way that you can test for diastasis recti and check the amount of distance between the two lines of abdominal muscles in your tummy. The NHS suggests that you lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, raise your shoulders up slightly and look at your tummy. Then, using the tips of your fingers feel between the edges of the muscles both above and below your belly button. See how many finger widths you can fit into the gap between your muscles and then repeat this regularly to check that the gap is getting smaller over time.
Here is one of our blogs with with a “how to” video.
There does appear to be some symptoms that lots of women experience before they even know they have this condition. It isn’t uncommon for new mothers that are experiencing diastasis recti to complain about posture and stability problems, back and pelvic pains, and to struggle to cope with abdominal pressure such as coughing or sneezing.
The main thing that people notice and are usually looking out for is the size and look of their tummy. Of course, things change cosmetically when you have a baby, however, they should be on their way to returning to normal within 8 weeks of giving birth. If you find that your tummy isn’t flattening, or it is still resembling a pregnant belly then it could be diastasis recti.
But not forever 🙂
There are some everyday activities that you will benefit from avoiding. The aim is to protect your body as much as possible until your abdominal muscles are fully healed so, if possible, avoid:
● Any strenuous exercises where your muscles are bulging out
● Holding your baby on one hip
● Lifting or carrying anything heavy
● Coughing without supporting your abdominal muscles.
Thinking about these things and taking care of your abdominal muscles can aid healing time.
Occasionally, for some women, diastasis recti can lead to other problems including chronic lower back pain, urinary incontinence, constipation, pain during sex and pelvic or hip pain. However, this doesn’t happen to everyone, so don’t worry too much about additional health problems, especially if you haven’t been to a doctor regarding your potential diastasis recti yet.
Yes, you can.
You should always get the go-ahead from your doctor to start exercising again postpartum but once you have this then exercise should always be your first approach to healing.
There are specific pelvic floor and deep stomach muscle exercises that you can undertake to strengthen your core, however, it is essential to avoid exercises that can exacerbate the problem. Things that you may think will help, such as crunches, are an absolute no-no to start with so, always seek assistance from a professional for correct diastasis recti treatment.
Sometimes, diastasis recti physical therapy may also be recommended to work on your abdominal muscles and in severe circumstances, your doctor may recommend surgery. Don’t panic though, this isn’t very common, think of surgery as an absolute last resort.
No, you should never think that it is too late. With proper care and dedication, you can correct diastasis recti even if it has been years since you delivered your last baby. The amount of time it takes to heal does, however, vary depending on the severity of the condition as well as your commitment to fixing the problem.
If you are looking for a specialist company that can assist you with your condition and advise you on how to fix diastasis recti, then please don’t hesitate to reach out to Healthy Post-natal Body. We are an extremely experienced organisation that is known for their expertise in healing diastasis recti through exercise. As a company, we are confident that our program will help you recover and get your core working as it was before pregnancy.
Here at Healthy Post-natal Body, we always aim to be affordable for any new mum that needs their help. We work with clients on a monthly subscription basis and even offer a 30-day free trial, so can understand exactly what you are paying for. You should feel results after 3-4 weeks, which is why we offer a free trial, but there are lots of factors that can affect the healing process and every woman is different.
Our team will be there with you every step of the way and will ensure that you feel comfortable at all times. You will no longer need to feel worried about diastasis recti with the Healthy Post-natal Body team by your side.
Take care, and get in touch if you need us.