As every mother will attest, giving birth and becoming a mother is a truly joyous experience. It is a selfless and brave decision to take on the responsibility of caring for another human being. However, in the midst of taking care of their newborn, many mothers often neglect their own health and wellbeing. While topics surrounding a child’s health and wellbeing are frequently discussed, little attention is given to post-pregnancy health issues. One such issue is diastasis recti, a condition that affects a large number of new mothers.
Diastasis recti is the separation of the two sections of abdominal muscle located at the front of the abdomen due to the growth of the uterus. The condition usually develops in late pregnancy and is most noticeable after delivery. Though certain cases of separation lessens in a few months after childbirth, some cases may last up to a year or longer. Women going through diastasis recti experience weakened muscles, lower back pain, and difficulty wearing their usual jeans. Despite shedding all the weight gained during pregnancy, some mothers may still have a tummy that looks like they are pregnant.
Pregnancy doesn’t necessarily cause diastasis recti. The condition is caused by intense intra-abdominal pressure or loading which is heightened by pregnancy, injury, or surgery. Consequently, men and children can also suffer from the condition. Unsupported intra-abdominal pressure, which is similar to that of hernia and prolapse, causes diastasis recti. Bearing the weight of the baby puts additional pressure on the connective abdominal tissue, which is why the condition is more common in pregnant women.
Pregnant women who are petite, have had multiple pregnancies, became pregnant later in life, delivered a baby with high birth weight, have poor muscle tone, or have a sway back posture are more likely to develop diastasis recti.
It’s important to diagnose diastasis recti early and to seek professional medical help. One way to check for the diastasis is to lie on your back with knees bend and feet flat on the floor. Lift your head and neck slightly off the floor and press your fingers above and below the belly button. If there is more than a 1-2 finger-wide gap between the muscles, consulting a doctor is necessary.
The following are some dos and don’ts for treating diastasis recti:
1. Be careful with exercise: Planks, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, some yoga poses (downward dog), and swimming can worsen the condition.
2. Consult your doctor: Before engaging in any abdominal exercise, whether it be before or after pregnancy, consult a doctor first to know how it will affect the development of the condition.
3. Treat the condition: Consult a doctor to find the best solution for you. There are some treatments and exercise programs that have been helpful for most cases of diastasis recti. Some of them include the MuTu System, the Tupler technique, Fit2b, and The Tummy Team. Pilates is also an effective way to strengthen core muscles before or during pregnancy, but ensure to choose a professional trainer who understands diastasis recti to tailor an exercise program to meet specific needs.
1. Avoid traditional ab exercises like crunches, oblique curls, reverse curls, and roll-ups because involving in these types of exercises during treatment involving twisting the spine or working the abdominal wall against the force of gravity aren’t good for recovery.
2. Any type of activity that involves straining the mid-line such as sit-ups, planks, or heavy lifting is forbidden since it can strain the connective tissue and make the separation between muscles more significant.
3. Exercises that involve spinal extension movements like backbends put pressure on abdominal tissue, causing it to widen, and should, therefore, be avoided during the healing process.
While diastasis recti is a common health issue among mothers, there are various ways to prevent or mitigate the condition’s onset. Before planning pregnancy, taking care of the body and strengthening core abdominal muscles lessens the chances of developing the condition. During pregnancy, measures such as the log roll maneuver, a way to get out of bed by rolling onto one side, keeping the head and torso aligned, and then using arms to push oneself up, helps prevent the muscles from separating. Various workout programs, such as The Dia Method, focus on postpartum recovery and women dealing with diastasis recti to regain their pre-baby belly and weight effectively.
Splinting is considered a part of postpartum tradition worldwide as a means for women to heal faster and lose the baby tummy sooner. However, some argue that splinting is ineffective in resolving diastasis; it can prevent the body from healing. While both views are strongly defended, patients have found that a dual approach worked best, using a splint to protect abdominal muscles, becoming aware of the muscles used, and then doing mild recommended exercises by specialists.
In conclusion, although giving birth and becoming a mother is a wonderful experience, mothers should take care of their health and wellbeing. Diastasis recti is a common post-pregnancy health issue that requires awareness and attention. While treatments exist, it’s essential to avoid certain activities and consult a doctor before engaging in any exercise program. Prevention measures such as taking care of the body before and during pregnancy as well as doing mild exercises help prevent or mitigate the condition’s onset. Mothers deserve to have healthy bodies as they embark on their motherhood journey.