If you are pregnant, or have recently had a baby, you may have heard of Diastasis Recti. I have written about this before, but since it is the #1 topic that people ask me about, and something that I have dealt with myself postpartum, I feel it’s important enough to write about again!
So what is it? Diastasis Recti is a condition in which the ligament tissue between your rectus abdominal muscles (6 pack muscles) is weakened causing them to separate resulting in core instability and weakness. Read on for the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How of Diastasis Recti.
So excited to be writing my second post in the ‘protect your back after baby’ series! This will focus on common mistakes we all make when picking up the baby. Here are some of the errors easily done without thinking. Repetitive strain like this will eventually destroy your back.
Be sure to read to the end for the exercises of the week!
Mistake #1: Bending over at the waist to pick up baby off the floor.
I’m not sure how many times I hear myself repeating in my head “bend your knees!” It is all too easy to simply bend over to pick up your little one instead of squatting down properly to protect your back. When they are little and weigh less than 10 pounds it may not seem like it’s a problem but repetitive strain + increased weight of child = sore back for Mom and setbacks for your weight loss and health goals!
How to fix this: SQUAT, SQUAT, SQUAT!
Some key aspects of a good squat include
Knees over toes (without passing them)
Feet at least shoulder width apart
Weight on heels
Hips below parallel (at the bottom of the squat)
There are a few different ways to squat. I personally really like doing a plié squat, but this depends on your own flexibility and strength. For a plié (or sumo) squat I keep my legs slightly wider than my hips with my feet turned out to get down low to the ground. With this technique I can easily scoop the baby off the ground and stand up using the strength of my legs as opposed to my back. Some things to remember: Engage your core before picking up your baby! Pulling your bellybutton to your spine, keeping a neutral back, and engaging that transverse abdominis will help support your lower back as you lift. See my previous posts for info on engaging your core! This also applies to putting your baby down on the ground, just in reverse!
Mistake #2: Holding the baby too far from your body
Lifting the baby out of the crib is ergonomically never an easy task. The crib is usually an awkward height for parents but necessary to keep the baby safe! It is common for parents to want to lift the baby with just their arms and end up holding them far from their body putting strain on the lower back. Remember the basic principles of proper lifting, Hold load close, use large muscle groups, create balance by holding load at midline. P.S. this is a terrible picture because I couldn’t figure out how to demonstrate improper form, so it just looks like some awkward ballet move.
How to fix this:Stand as close to the crib as possible & keep your core strong.
I like to think of this as a version of a straight legged deadlift, where the focus is hinging at the waist as opposed to bending over. If you are not sure what that is check it out here! Since you can’t squat down or bend over the crib in a good position the best solution is to slow down, remember to engage your core, stand as close to the crib as possible and keep soft knees so you can slightly extend your legs as your lift the baby up. If you can stand your baby up and move them close to you before lifting that is even better! Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, NO TWISTING & LIFTING at the same time.
Mistake #3: Carrying the baby on your hip
Sure, this is fine for short periods of time…much less tiring than carrying them in your arms! But as with any other movements prolonged use of this will cause repetitive strain on your joints, back, and eventually muscular imbalances and back or hip pain.
How to fix this: Use a baby carrier whenever possible!
Sometimes babies just like to be carried around! Mine definitely does. I personally LOVE my Tula baby carrier. Similar to other soft structured carriers it distributes the weight across your hips and shoulders so you can carry your child longer and more comfortably. This is a must for shopping trips, while cooking dinner, and anytime you need your hands free! It’s also great for bonding and seems to calm the baby and put them to sleep, and can be used up to toddler age!
Definitely try a variety of carriers on and see what feels most comfortable for you and your body. It is also important to consult the manufacturer for directions on how to get a proper fit. See below on some tips to get a proper fit with the Tula. Although a ring sling and other wrap type carriers can be great I feel that they are easily worn improperly causing increased back and shoulder strain.
Mistake #4: Holding the baby while trying to get up off the ground.
I’m not really sure why but it seems that everyone (including myself) tries to do this and eventually ends up with a hurt knee, back, or throwing themselves so off balance that they nearly drop the baby. So simply put, don’t try to get up off the ground in some awkward Russian get-up type maneuver (if you have ever Crossfitted you will know what I am talking about). Instead, slow down, put the baby on the ground, get on your feet, squat down and pick them up in a safe and functional position! Much safer for Mom and baby!
In order to make this easier be sure to be doing squats as part of your daily workout routine! Even 10 squats a day can really help build your strength, especially after baby! Add in a few hip and back stretches and you are golden. Try these new techniques and let me know what you think by commenting below, also don’t hesitate to send me an email if you have any other questions.
This has been a crazy week! The baby has been super fussy, doesn’t want to eat, but wants to be held all day, so I have been a little overwhelmed with that and haven’t had much time to get on the computer! I have a few great articles in my draft folder right now, so I promise I will get those finished at some point! In the meantime I decided that I am going to start posting a few exercises each week that are appropriate for women postpartum or just those that need to increase their overall strength to prevent injuries! This week’s theme is…you guessed it, CORE strength!
1) Lying flat on the ground find your neutral spine position by pulling your bellybutton to your spine while maintaining a slight ‘pocket’ under your lower back. If this is difficult or causes lower back pain during this exercise find your ‘imprint’ position (flatten your lower back against the ground while keeping your core tight for more stability).
2) Extend one leg out so it hovers over the ground, extend the opposite arm out above your head, holding the non working leg and arm in the starting position.
3) Switch legs and arms.
4) Repeat 5 reps on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.
1) Position yourself in a quadruped position (legs at 90 degrees to hips, arms directly under shoulders)
2) Find your neutral spine position, pull your bellybutton into your spine, don’t let your belly ‘droop’ as you do this exercise.
3) Extend one leg behind you, try to make one straight line from shoulder to toe. (This is a great one to do in the mirror!) Extend the opposite arm to continue this line.
4) Hold this for 3 breaths, switch sides. Repeat 5 reps, rest, repeat 3 times.
Give those a try! Feel free to comment and let me know how it feels or if you have any questions. These are both GREAT core rehab exercises and will help improve your posture, stability, core strength, breathing, and enable you to move on to more complex abdominal exercises.
So I have had a lot of questions after my previous post on Diastasis Recti on how to prevent it. Well the short answer is, you can’t really prevent it. Now I can’t find much research on this but I would think that having tight abdominals, having a large baby, gaining a lot of weight, and how you are carrying your baby (to the front or side, etc) would all attribute to how likely you are to develop it.
BUT… even if you have a diastasis, you can still prevent it from getting worse!! There are many things you can do to prevent your abs from continuing to separate. First off get some proper support, I recently discovered the ‘Belly Sports Bra’ from Bao Bei Maternity. You can buy one here. Also using the Kinesiotaping technique I describe in my previous post here helps great deal both before and after pregnancy! Even if you find it does get worse, don’t stress, this can be helped after the birth with specific exercises that target your Transverse Abdominis (TA) like the ones I mentioned in some of my other posts.
What makes the biggest difference is monitoring and modifying your EVERYDAY activities. Even if you don’t workout you can still be making this worse just going through your normal routine! The worst culprit is getting out of bed. Most people have the abdominal strength to simply sit up and get out of bed like you normally would, this puts a HUGE amount of pressure on that midline essentially tearing your abs apart slightly more each time (not a pretty picture right!). Some things you can do to help this include log rolling when you get out of bed. A log roll is kind of how it sounds, you want to roll on your side, hang your legs off the bed, and use your arms and upper body to assist with getting up. I also got a very handy bedrail. Yes, the same ones I prescribe for my elderly patients, but I LOVE it and still use it today. It especially helps for when you are super pregnant and can’t roll over. You can get them on Amazon here. You also want to avoid any heavy lifting or holding heavy items overhead. This can put outward pressure on your abdomen if you don’t have the proper strength and support in place. Also, check out my video on neutral spine. By engaging your TA muscles in a neutral spine position while doing all your daily activities, yes this includes cooking and getting dressed, you will help protect that abdomen and keep those muscles together where they should be ! Find a therapist near you to help with this if you are having trouble. If you learn how to activate the right muscles while you are still pregnant it not only helps with labor but will put you in a great position for recovery afterwards!
As I mentioned before some exercises to avoid include
– V sits
– leg lifts
– Yoga poses like up-dog, cow pose, and triangle pose.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below. 🙂
Hope this helps!!
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