Many of you mommies have an idea of what this is, or have heard of it. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s possible that you may even have it. If you’ve ever had a child or children, even if it was a decade ago, and still have your ‘mommy tummy’, this could be why.
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the Rectus Abdominis muscles that make up that six pack that you so desperately miss- or have secretly longed for. It’s technically defined as a gap greater than 2.7cm or 2-3 finger widths in between the Rectus muscles. It is usually the result of intra-abdominal pressure and loading. During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches the connective tissue between the right and left muscle groups and occasionally it won’t return to normal on it’s own. Nearly all pregnant women have this gap immediately postpartum, some correct on their own, and some do not. I should note that it occurs primarily in pregnant women and newborns, but can also appear in men. Pregnancy does not actually cause the separation, but it will make a problem worse. Women are most susceptible, especially if pregnant over the age of 35 (as I was), having big babies, multiple babies, or multiple pregnancies close together (also me). This condition can also be associated with or cause pelvic floor dysfunction.
It’s really easy to see if you may have this condition. You lie on your back on the floor with your knees up and feet flat. Place your fingers near the belly button area. Tense up your abdomen and raise your head up, chin to chest. You will be able to feel some separation between the muscles, it all depends on how many fingers you can fit in the gap. Right now, I’m about a full 3 finger gap at my belly button region. I expected this, as I found I had some separation after my last pregnancy and in the 10 months before my next pregnancy, wasn’t able to lose that belly. I was still 10 lbs over my normal weight when I got pregnant with Owen. I might add that after my first pregnancy, my body was pretty much back to my pre-pregnancy body, with no belly, at about the four month mark.
There are varying opinions as to whether this can be corrected with exercise or not. There are even exercise programs you can pay for that claim to make a huge difference in your abdomen and close that gap significantly. I have done a lot of reading on the subject and the majority of people, whether medical experts, fitness experts or just women who’ve managed to correct this themselves, seems to have a small number of exercises they recommend. Most are centered around a basic Core contraction or Transverse Abdominis contraction that you practice and hold in order to strengthen your core area. Once you master that contraction, you can add single heel slides while holding, you can add a knee raise, or use a resistance band around the knees and pull knees apart. Squats are also said to help strengthen, as long as your holding the initial contraction. This is only a small sample of beneficial exercises. I’m not a medical or fitness expert so I’m not going to go into detail about these exercises, nor am I going to link one specific site for reference. I’m merely going off of a consensus that I’ve noticed among the so-called experts. I also have a good idea of what will work for core strengthening as I used to teach it on a regular basis, not that anyone could tell.
There is also a consensus on exercises that may be detrimental to the diastasis or even make it worse. Any type of crunches, sit-ups, jack knife position, and oblique twisting are no-nos. Many types of pilates exercises can also make this problem worse.
I’ve begun doing a handful of the recommended exercises (almost) daily and have been very aware of holding that TA contraction throughout the day. I’m tempted to try out one of the programs that cost money, although most don’t say what you’re getting besides exercises. I’ll keep at it and pray that I can even slightly correct this problem. I really don’t want to look 5 months pregnant the rest of my life, and at six weeks out I have 20 lbs to lose. I guess the other option is getting a tummy tuck, and I have no plans of doing that in the future. Best of luck to all you mommies also struggling with your mini keg of a midsection. Hopefully in the future, I’ll have a positive update for you.