Having a baby within our bodies is an experience that will change us in ways we never imagined possible, and that includes parts of our bodies that we can’t even see. Often, new moms find that their bodies are no longer recognizable to them. No matter what we do to try to recapture the bodies we once had, with exercise and a healthy diet, we find that there is something that is blocking our ability to succeed. That something could very well be what is known as diastasis recti.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Whatever way you bring that bundle of joy into the world, separation of the abdominals, also known as diastasis recti, can still occur to some degree. It happens because the baby who lives in us needs room to grow, and therefore, separates the parallel muscles of our abdominals to do so.
Is It Avoidable?
As long as your baby continues to grow healthy and strong, there will be some change within your abdomen, but if you avoid movements that put pressure on your middle torso, you can lessen the degree to which the muscles separate. During your pregnancy, if you are still trying to be active and are allowed to do so, you will still be advised to avoid crunches and other intense core workouts.
How Can I Tell If I Have It?
Some women can visually see the separation of the connective tissue, known as the linea alba, or to which we also refer to as the “mom pooch.” Another way to know is to do the test:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, put your feet flat.
- Locate the middle of your sternum and move your fingers down the line to your linea alba. If it is stretched, you will find you can really push down in specific areas.
- Locate your belly button and relax your abdominal muscles.
- Press your fingertips down and gently lift your head and shoulders off the ground to engage the abdomen.
- Feel for your muscles on the sides of your fingers. If there is space, figure out how many fingers across there are and make a mental note.
- You can also repeat this test above your belly button.
- If you find that you have anywhere from two to three fingers of separation, then you likely have diastasis recti.
Can You Fix This Problem?
Certain moves will aid in the recovery part of your diastasis recti and will work much better than you performing crunch after crunch. Repeat all exercises at your own comfort level and increase them over time.
- Core Contractions
You may try this pose lying on the ground or sitting up. Simply draw your stomach inward, hold, and then gently release the muscles. It is an excellent start at strengthening your core once again. Place your hands on your belly to feel the movement of your abdomen.
- Wall Supported Plank
Until you have had a chance to recover a bit, avoid your regular plank exercise and try completing a plank pose against the wall. Begin with your arms outstretched against a wall and bend them leaning your body in. Your arms will be in the same position as Chaturanga, and remember, it is important to breathe throughout the pose.
- Reclined Let Lifts
These are more challenging for the lower abdomen and should be tried after you feel comfortable with the first two exercises. Begin by laying on your back with both legs extended. To gain better balance, slide the palms of your hands under your buttocks and engage your core by pressing your navel into your spine. Alternately lift each leg slightly off the floor while keeping your lower back pressed firmly into the floor.
- Bridge Pose
This pose is great for activating the core and giving it some extra strength, as well as contributing to a stronger back. Once again, begin on your back, but this time, with your legs bent. Slowly peel your buttocks off the ground and raise your hips into the air. Your arms should be firmly placed on the ground for extra support. For an added challenge, you may add some hip pulses when up in the air to add some extra strength. Once complete, slowly lower your hips down to the ground.
Once you feel better, you can start adding some of your regular core workouts back into your routine. The body takes time to recover. There is no need to rush. Our bodies change over a period of almost a year throughout the term of carrying a baby. It is only natural that we take the time to allow them to regain their abdominal strength properly. Try some of these helpful yoga poses, and you will be on your way to recovery.