Photo credit: Daylight Darling Photography
I have the honor of sharing with you some of the things that I have learned along the way about diastasis recti, a condition a large number of twin moms get that could be keeping you from reaching your fitness goals, without you even knowing you have it! First let me say, that I AM NOT a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer. But I have consulted with each specialty and I am happy to share my knowledge with each and every one of you.
So what exactly is Diastasis Recti (DR) and why is it giving me that Mommy pooch? Diastasis means separation and Recti refers to the abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominus. DR causes your belly to pooch out because there has been a separation, or tearing, of the left and right abdominal muscles away from each other due to your big (beautiful) twin belly. DR is incredibly common among pregnant women, and (surprise) even more common among those women who carry multiples. You may notice a pooching or a dome that comes out of your abdominal midline. The separation is very easy to check for and it will vary in width.
OK, so we have checked for DR, you felt a separation, why does it matter?
First of all, you are never going to get a pre-pregnancy flat stomach back without treating your diastasis, and in the majority of cases, you are making the separation worse with your good fitness intentions. I was one of those people that jumped back into a fitness routine without knowing anything about DR. When I noticed that my stomach was still pooching and I was doing everything right in the diet and exercise department, a little bell went off in my head from a conversation I had with a friend who had experienced DR in her singleton pregnancy. I looked up how to test for DR and found that I actually had an almost 3 finger gap!!!
Second, a larger diastasis, those with 2 ½ finger gap and wider, are at risk for other problems as a direct result of the separation including, but not limited to back pain, digestive problems, lumbar instability, and also hernias.Momma’s ready to bring her sexy back, so let’s go over the basics.
- KNOW THE CORRECT EXERCISES
The biggest mistake women with DR make is doing the wrong ab exercises to help flatten their belly. If you are doing crunches, sit ups, any type of holds from lying on your back, any pilates/yoga poses that push up and stretch the abdominals, or poses on your hands and knees that don’t fully support the abdominals… STOP RIGHT NOW! YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE! What you are doing is working the muscles in the wrong direction and keeping them from coming back together. Please note that your best bet is to start these exercises soon after you deliver. They are pretty gentle and very low impact so they should not be difficult to start as you are recovering, but always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- USE YOUR ABDOMINALS CORRECTLY IN YOUR EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES
Keeping your abdominals engaged throughout the day is a necessity when it comes to correcting your DR. Think of pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Do not try to suck in. That is not engaging the muscles we are trying to work. Think about this while lifting and bending, picking up babies, sneezing, coughing, even going to the restroom. It is so easy to contract and hold and tighten those deep core muscles during the day when you are dong other things. You also need to learn how to get up and down correctly, as mentioned in the video above.
- WEAR A BELLY BAND OR AN AB SPLIT as much as possible. Will wearing this make you stomach flatter all by itself? No, you will need to engage your core to strengthen those muscles to bring them back together, but the belly band will help you to think about keeping your core tight and engaging those muscles. I have to Belly Bandit and I wore it 24 hours a day for the first several months post babies and at night after that. I would also wear it when I took the girls for walks in our neighborhood.
- PT or PERSONAL TRAINING
Some physical therapists or personal trainers may be able to design a specific plan for your DR. Please make sure they have knowledge and experience with what DR actually is before starting any type of program. Not all of them will.
For those with extreme cases, steps 1-4 may help to close the gap, but never fully get rid of the pooch caused by DR. Please note that surgery for this condition is extremely invasive and requires a good amount of down time and recovery. It is by no means a quick fix.
- STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE DURING PREGNANCY. You will probably not be able to prevent DR due to your growing belly, but if you keep your core strengthened through regular physical activity and exercise that is approved by your doctor, you can lessen the DR gap that you may develop.
Let’s just remember the most important thing to have is perspective. Appreciate the beauty and strength of a body that was chosen to carry not one, but TWO sweet miracles. There is nothing more beautiful than a strong woman, a wife and mother, who is comfortable in her own skin and I truly hope this post helps you to get started on your journey! Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or just for moral support!