Diastasis Recti – One year on

It has now been almost exactly a year since I had Ace and I’m still suffering from Diastasis Recti. 

Quite a few of you have been emailing me over the year, to share your own stories, ask for advice and just give me a bit of encouragement. You are amazing, thank you<3

I understand now that this effects more of us than I thought at first. It’s easy to just look at whats shown in media and blog. Bellies disappearing the same day as the baby is out and perfect flat tummies only weeks after birth. It makes us who have to struggle to feel like our bodies aren’t normal.

I took a few photos this morning to show you what my belly looks like today. Excuse the 06.00-in-the-morning-face. I have quite a lot of extra skin, a few stretch marks and my belly button is a disaster. But I want you to focus on the protruding of my belly, this is because of the diastasis.

It has gotten a lot better, especially since I got help from my woman’s physio. But I still have some way to go, before I feel and look back to normal again.

I have always been a person with a very flat stomach. I often had a 6-pack and my core has always been amazing. I think a lot of it comes from horseriding, lots of Ashtanga yoga and CrossFit. I was actually in great shape when I fell pregnant with Ace.

I did pregnancy yoga all the way through my pregnancy, even in week 42 (yup, the other Mums-to-be got a bit scared by my huge belly). So I actually had the very best base for my body to go back to normal straight away.

However – I’m petite, Ace was big and I went over for 2 full weeks.

To weigh 47 kg at the start and produce a 4 kg baby is quite a lot. My belly had to move far forwards early on to make the space he needed. I felt already in week 12 how my belly popped out. Yes, I actually felt it over a few seconds. It was a bit like holding a balloon under water and letting it float up. It was such a strange feeling, but kind of cool too.

So it’s not all that strange that my abs had to separate quite a lot to give room. Add a c-section to get my big bubba out and you have Diastasis Recti.

Mostly it seems to be twin and triplet-moms that struggles the most with this condition. But you can like me, get it with only one baby too.

I have been reading lots of blogs, books and spoken to my physio on the subject and this is what I know;

– The body will do its job and try to pull the muscles together for the first 2 months after birth. After that, it will need a bit of help. I went to my GP who told me “9 months to grow, 9 months to go”. Incredibly stupid! If I have known how it was I would have made sure I got help a lot sooner. I still looked pregnant when Ace was 5 months old!

– Diastasis Recti can give you a prolapse, incontinence, problems with your lower back and umbilical hernias. I have done quite well and only have some backache and a small hernia in my belly button.

– It’s not the “sixpack” that is the important muscles to focus on. All the core muscles are super important and even more so the “corset” and pelvic floor.

The best thing to do to help the muscles get stronger is to do exercises that focus on the lower muscles in the belly and the pelvic floor. The worst thing to do is to work out the abs with exercises like situps. They make the belly dome and will stretch the connective tissue even more.

 Hormones have an effect on the connective tissue in the body. So when you stop breastfeeding you can notice that the belly will pull together a bit better. It’s because of the hormone “relaxin” we are so much more flexible during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

–  Posture, how we carry the babies and our habits can affect any diastasis. If we are constantly pushing our bellies out, then the tissue never gets a chance to pull back and the muscles stay stretched out. So try to avoid sticking your bum either in or out too much. Keep your spine straight and be aware of your pelvic floor and to pull your bellybutton in.

I wear Spanx daily to help keep my belly tight and to remind me to focus on my posture.

These days I do 2.5h of hot yoga a week and it’s completely fine. I only have to do a modified core workout, but then I just use my exercises my physio has given me. I still can’t do any situps or similar movements.

It’s a lot better already, 6 months ago I wasn’t allowed to do anything. My belly was like jelly and I had zero support. I had a constant backache and felt really weak.

My physio started me off with these simple exercises;

1. 10 x 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off. I tense my pelvic floor, all three steps and then I pull my belly button in towards my spine and hold for 10 seconds. Then I rest for 10 seconds and do it all over again 10 times.

2. Same as above, but I do it in a squat, pressing my palms together for extra support.

3. Same again, but on the floor whilst sliding one leg at the time up to a bent position.

4. On the floor, on my back, lift both legs and keep them lifted whilst I hold the pelvic floor and belly button pulled for 10 seconds 10 times with breaks.

I try to do at least one of these exercises daily and I do all of them when I get the chance to in yoga class. The pelvic floor exercises has really made a difference for me so far. It was when I did these exercises regularly I could finally fit into my clothes again.

I’m not there yet, but soon. I have about 10-15% left of my way to go. Now my separation is only 1.5 cm wide, still fairly deep, but not very long. The day I’m all done having babies I will most likely look into the option of surgically help my muscles come together. I have a hard time imagining them doing too well after having had yet another pregnancy, so I will most likely need some help.

If you, like me, suffer from Diastasis Recti – make sure you get help, do the exercises and don’t lose hope!

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