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!!
As promised here are some core exercises that I started while I was pregnant and am still continuing today!
Transverse Abdominis (TA) Activation
- Sitting against the wall, best to sit on a ball for beginners
- Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling pull your belly button to your spine keeping everything tight. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
- Repeat this 5-10 times increasing the amount of time spent in a static hold.
- VISUALIZATION TIP – I think of a string attached from the inside of my bellybutton to the wall, I imagine this string shortening, pulling on my bellybutton and getting my stomach as flat as possible WITHOUT moving my ribs. This will ensure that you are working the right muscles!
- Maintain good posture, shoulders back, head up.
- FOR MORE OF A CHALLENGE – do this without a ball under you, in a sitting position supported by your legs.
- Start by doing these in sitting, then try lying on the ground, side lying, or standing as I find the different positions activate different areas.
- Feel as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine, pulling that pelvic floor up as high as possible, hold for 10 seconds then relax.
- It is just as important to be able to completely relax these muscles (feeling almost as if you are going to go to the bathroom) as it is to tense them. Muscles only function properly if there is a good balance between tension and relaxation, therefore muscles that are too tight don’t work very well!
- VISUALIZATION TIP – Think of a string going through the midline of your body out the top of your head. As this string shortens it pulls up on your pelvic floor. Try to activate this area without using any other muscles like your buttock or thighs!
These exercises and daily walking and squats are the key to an easy and successful labor and delivery! Make time for exercise now before baby and you will reap the benefits later.
After Pregnancy… Exercises to rebuild that core and heal your diastasis!
TA Activation, Lying Down
- Lying on the ground have your legs bent at a 90 degree angle
- Take a deep breathe, as you exhale pull your stomach flat into the ground. Feel like your bellybutton is sinking.
- I like to keep my hands on my stomach to make sure im working the right muscles, you should feel yourself ‘get skinnier’ without sticking your ribs out, or arching your back.
- Back and shoulders should be flat on the ground with a slight neutral curve in your lumbar spine.
This is your starting position for the following exercises.
- From your starting position rest both heels on the ground. Slowly slide one heel out being careful not to not move anything other than your leg.
- Do 5 on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.
Leg lifts – Knees bent
- From your starting position, take a deep breath, then as you exhale lower one leg down to the ground, touch your foot to the ground without resting and return to starting position. Try to not let your abdominals relax or arch your back.
- If you cannot maintain a strong core position while doing this, start with going halfway to the ground.
- Alternate legs, do 10 repetitions, rest, repeat 3 sets.
Only when the above feels too easy, move on to the next exercise
Leg Lifts – Legs straight
- From starting position straighten you legs. Keep your core tight and don’t let your back arch while doing this.
- Take a deep breath in, as you exhale lower one leg to the ground, bring back to starting position, repeat on other side.
- Alternate legs, 10 repetitions,rest, complete 3 sets.
Hope you get the chance to try some of these ! The great thing is that they can be done in your bedroom with no equipment so they are easy to sneak in during nap time!
On another note, it’s really challenging to find pictures to demonstrate these exercises without infringing on some copyrights so I just took these myself after the gym really quick while the baby was still sleeping in her carseat!! So no judgement please! I am still getting my own body back and I have a long way to go, but I am definitely feeling pretty great about where I am with my core strength right now. I was hoping to make a video but quite honestly between the baby crying and the dog barking I think it would take about 100 takes.
Take home points – key things to remember to do these correctly…
- Never lift your head off the ground, keep a neutral neck, chin slightly tucked
- Keep your core tight, as soon as your hips, lower back or anything else lifts off the ground or shifts in the wrong direction you are no longer working the right muscles.
- BREATHE, it is important to breathe through these exercises as holding your breath doesn’t help much, and as much as that’s common sense its surprisingly hard to do sometimes!
See this picture for the WRONG way to do these exercises. By lifting your head up off the ground you are putting a lot of outward stress on your abdominals which can actually make your tummy look worse!
If you have any questions about any of these exercises please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help!