I learned that while I was pregnant with my third baby I had diastasis recti. After reading more than I probably needed to on the subject, I became determined to do what I could to fix the problem.
I’ve never been a huge misfit about getting my ‘pre-pregnancy’ body back; I’m not that vain because I know that it’s quite literally impossible. I want to embrace and love my motherly body how it is.
But knowing that having an abdominal separation which could lead to other issues, like a weak core for the rest of my life, is enough for me to implement a new exercise routine.
So I set out to master how to fix diastasis recti. I’m only 3.5 weeks post partum, so this is the beginning of my routine with it. But I’ll have a follow-up to confirm my results with you. Now what am I starting with?
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Essentially, it’s when the tissues between your abdominal muscles get stretched and separated abnormally far from being pregnant multiple times. Then if you don’t help your core heal properly over an appropriate length of time, the tissue is likely going to stay permanently separated.
This leads to minor problems like:
- excessive mummy tummy
- flabby, loose tissue and musculature around your middle
- continuous and distinct bloating, even in early pregnancy
- lower back problems
- pelvic floor dysfunction
So it’s like dealing with your pregnancy tummy issues, but without the baby in there–permanently.
It get worse from a variety of factors that you didn’t know you could help most of the time:
- excessive abdominal pressure from a weak core or incorrect engagement of your core muscles
- inappropriate exercises during pregnancy (find the right ones here)
- lack of appropriate and sufficient core strengthening post partum
- misdirected or incorrectly pushing during childbirth
- having 2-3 children close together
It’s actually a very common problem that most women don’t even know about. They just accept the fact that their saggy belly from having kids is a part of life and they don’t realize that it can be fixed most of the time.
60-70% of all women with children have diastasis recti and they don’t realize because of lack of education. So how do you know if you’ve got it in the first place?
How Do I Know If I Have It?
The easiest way to know is by doing the worst and most commonly misused exercise for your core: belly crunches.
℘ First off, you should NOT be doing crunches when you’re pregnant.
℘ Secondly, most people do them wrong.
℘ Finally, you can do MUCH better core strengthening exercises by completely avoiding crunches. I NEVER do them, even when I’m not pregnant.
Anyway, this being the only exception, here’s how you can tell by doing a small crunch.
- Lay down on your back, knees bent.
- Tuck your chin and curl your upper body up and forward.
- Raise your upper body upward a few inches to contract your abs.
- Look downward at your belly and notice the shape of your stomach.
If you notice that it bulges upward at your center line into a cone or triangular shape, you have diastasis recti. You can even run your fingers along your central tissue between your ab muscles (following the line up and down from your belly button) to feel how separated they are.
It’s more difficult to see this shape when you’re pregnant, but it can be seen depending on how you engage your core while you’re exercising.
How To Fix Diastasis Recti
Just like any exercise or diet program, results will vary for EVERYONE and are not guaranteed. I’ve read about mothers all over the place that have done many things to help heal their diastasis recti. There are a variety of methods that seem to work well in one way or another. But depending on who you talk to will determine what kind of preparation you can implement for your belly.
⇒ Your family practitioner will likely tell you that it won’t ever fully go away. Then if it gets worse enough to cause internal issues you can have surgery to reduce your separation.
⇒ I’ve found that exercise experts and personal trainers will focus on continuous gentle exercise post-partum. Such exercise would NOT include typical core exercises so as to not put added pressure on the muscles and tissues naturally still working to come back together. Then after a few months or so when a mother has been through her post-partum recovery, subtle engagement exercises of the core are incorporated.
⇒ But the two most common focused methods for repairing a diastasis recti recommended by midwives and maternity care specialists are the Tupler Technique and the MuTu System. I haven’t participated in the MuTu System. Maybe I will if what I’m doing now doesn’t seem to work.
My midwife recommended the Tupler Technique and gave me a book on it with all the exercises and techniques to implement as soon as I got home from the hospital after my third baby birth. She threw in a free belly binder and I started doing them three weeks ago. (You can click the image on the right to learn more about the book I mentioned.)
The main things to remember, no matter what program you’re going to implement, are:
- be consistent and stick with your program – things can take a lot of time, or they can be very quick with results, but don’t quit
- recognize that depending on the weakness of your tissues, correcting your diastasis can take anywhere from six weeks to 18 months
- it’s possible that the type of techniques you’re using may not work completely for you, so moving to another program may be necessary
- recovering from your diastasis is better immediately after you’ve had your baby, but it CAN be reversed no matter how long it’s been since you’ve had children
- just wearing a belly binder or splint wrap is not going to be the all-in-one solution – it simply assists your body like wearing an athletic wrap around an injured joint
I will post in the future the exact tutorials on the exercises that I’m doing to fix my own diastasis recti. But I want to make sure that I know they’re going to work well enough for me to recommend them to you. Then again, they may work better for you than for me. So it’s worth the effort to learn about. But you need to have a background before you jump head-in too.
I didn’t start my Tupler exercises immediately after coming home from the hospital until I did some reading. I trust my midwife. But after reading about all the variations of fixing diastasis recti, I wanted to incorporate others things that I thought would be helpful from the start too. Here are the basics of what I’m doing.
Key Things To Do
Along with following your regimen of choice, I’ve found that doing a few extra things helps keep your transverse muscles supported in any situation:
- invest in a belly binder or splint; the added help is worth it most often, plus you get a more slimming look right away when you’re most eager to get your flat tummy back
- DON’T sit straight up or down from lying flat on your back, usually from getting in and out of bed; it will strain your muscles the same way like a pregnant belly does with increase pressure the wrong way, move up and down from your side
- avoid activities like tennis or golf that quickly cause your transverse abdominal muscles to shift from side to side or in swinging motions
- when lifting or engaging your core muscles, keep your transverse muscles held in by pulling your belly button back toward your spine so that all the surrounding muscles are supported properly
- DON’T do full frontal planks for awhile, forget crunches too if you routinely do them
- INSTEAD, do side planks being propped up on your forearms
- incorporate glute bridges (also called pelvic thrusts here)
- avoid prolonged movements or lifting while leaning forward or bending over
- keep your upper body in good posture positions as much as possible
You can even take pictures of your belly from the front and side as you go along week by week to see your progress. Even though things may progress slowly, comparing your current belly to what it looked like in the very beginning will keep your motivation high to continue working.
My Routine For Fixing My Diastasis
So here’s what I try to do everyday:
- wear my belly binder
- do my transverse muscle contraction exercises morning, noon and night (I often miss at least one repetition just from life happening)
- I use a scarf pulled around my middle as an extra splint while I’m doing the exercises
- I get in and out of bed by using my own pregnant roll over method
- I try to stretch and use good posture after being hunched over a bit from breastfeeding and carrying my baby around throughout the day
- I’ve added side planks and glute bridges too, just holding them for 20 seconds or so, a few reps each day
Yet there are things I’m not following the Tupler Technique exactly as I’ve been instructed and I’ll tell you why:
- Wearing A Splint – A splint is much harder and firmer than some flexible binders. I don’t have a splint, mainly because I didn’t want to buy one when my midwife gave me a more flexible, elastic binder to wear. It covers more area than a splint typically does too. I don’t love wearing it, but it’s worth a shot.
- Wearing My Binder 24/7 – I’m ‘supposed’ to wear the splint/binder day AND night, essentially only taking it off to shower. Frankly, I don’t want to wear it while I’m trying to sleep. Why? It feels funny because I mainly sleep on my side. I also just want my skin to breathe too; things can get itchy after wearing that thing so much. And wearing it over the top of an undershirt makes it more difficult to breastfeed because I can just pull up my shirt layers.
- Holding My Transverse Muscles In Constantly – Because who on earth will naturally hold in their muscles in a regular basis? I don’t want to be so focused on doing things like holding my belly in. If I was, I wouldn’t be doing the more important exercises for my core foundation in the first place. And if having a single moment of not holding my muscles perfectly right will ‘ruin’ my chances of fixing my diastasis, then there’s something wrong with the technique I’m doing and I’ll work with something else.
So far I’ve only noticed my belly shrinking as I would have expected even without doing anything to help it. But it’s only been three weeks. Tupler suggests taking more measurements and evaluating how my belly is at six weeks. So that’s when I’ll try and follow up. *See Part 2 here.
I may not have been doing the exactly transverse muscle contraction exercise in the past that I’m doing now, but I’ve always tried to have a strong core. So I think that just having the binder will make a difference for me too, but we’ll see.
Okay, what have you mommies done to get your diastasis back in control? What else should I be doing to hep it? Maybe you’re already on the floor now seeing if you’ve got it yourself. 🙂