What Happened to my Diastasis Recti

I had a thoughtful reader message me a while back asking about my personal journey with diastasis recti. If you had read some of my past blog posts, you saw how I discovered I had it, what I did to prevent it from getting worse and the kinds of activities and exercises I did to help heal it. If you haven’t been following along check out some of my old blog posts here and here!

Where Am I Now?

diastasis recti after baby I am now almost 18 months postpartum. My daughter is no longer a baby, and we have settled into our new normal as a family of three. Since having her, I have made it a personal mission to get in the best shape of my life. There have been ups and downs, but overall I am feeling pretty great! I didn’t let my diastasis hold me back from doing the activities that I love, but I have been much more aware of proper form, posture, and core activation. In the past, this all came without thinking; now it’s constantly on my mind during my workouts (which is a good thing)!

My diastasis is almost gone. I still have a half finger width separation directly above my bellybutton which will probably never go away. Is this a problem? Does this mean I can never go back to weightlifting or jumping or any other sports that require extreme core strength. No. Although some cases can be severe, and should always be evaluated by a healthcare professional, a separation this small rarely causes problems but does remind me to engage my core in all that I do. I continue to notice an improvement in this area when I do my ab exercises, which means I also see it getting slightly worse when I don’t.

Am I back to pre-baby core strength?

There are a still a few things I can’t do well and remind me of how much weaker my core is after baby. Ab exercises such as ab rollouts, double leg lowers, and low scissor exercises are still super challenging and risk me putting a lot of stress into my lower back, so I do these sparingly. But I can now jump rope, run, and do stairs without worrying about leaking! I can also hold my planks for a minute plus, and feel way more comfortable power lifting. As for the kinesiotaping, I don’t usually feel the need for it anymore, but I do use it occasionally if I am doing a heavy workout or am feeling particularly weak.

You can get a 6 pack without crunches!

The biggest thing I learned, you don’t have to do crunches to get a 6 pack! Crazy right!? How many crunches have I done in my life before baby? Probably about 10,000…haha. In the past 18 months, I have maybe done 50 total and yet my abs look better than they did before baby.

My Daily Diastasis Recti Core Routine

Okay, I said daily, I should say three times a week or when I remember. #momlife

Check out instagram @fitmamasb for a video demonstration later this week!

TA Activation
Lying with knees bent or in a wall sit. Start by taking a deep breath and on the exhale pull your belly button into your spine without tilting your hips. Lift your pelvic floor into a kegel for extra activation. Hold for 10 seconds taking a slow breath out and repeat 5x

Core strength wall sit

Then…
Do circuit 3-5 times.
20 Lying Leg Raises (Alternating Legs)
10/side Side Plank Lifts
10 Bird Dog

Have fun, as always, email or comment with any questions!

In fitness and good health,
Natasha

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How to Prevent Diastasis Recti

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!

diastasis recti

As I mentioned before some exercises to avoid include
– crunches
– planks
– V sits
– leg lifts
-Bicycles
– 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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Diastasis Recti Kinesiotaping Video

Was requested by baobeimaternity.com for this video…put this together tonight! As I say in the video always consult a pro before doing this yourself but thought this is a good reference for doing this at home. Enjoy!

PS. If you haven’t noticed, I have a speech impediment (hence why I hate doing videos) and the word DIASTASIS is impossible for me for some reason, so I make up my own pronunciation 😉

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Bellefit Product Review

So I’ll start off by saying I am writing this review out of my own free will, I was not compensated for this review. I purchased the Bellefit postpartum girdle when I was 40 weeks pregnant and wore it after I got home from the hospital for 4-ish weeks. So first off, this product was awesome! If you aren’t familiar with it, Bellefit postpartum girdle is to be worn after delivery to assist with ‘shrinking’ your abdomen back and offer some external support. I ordered 2, based on my measurements at 40 weeks. I got this one herebellefit front closure girdle review.Image source

They have a great little calculator on their website to figure out what size and style would work. I got the front closure one in size large and medium. The large fit me VERY snugly (which is the point) right after getting home, I was able to wear it over my granny panty underwear/depends (come on, you know you were all wearing them too). It has a bottom closure so you don’t have to take it off to go to the bathroom and it keeps it in the right place so there’s no awkward adjustments every time you stand up from a chair! Within one week my stomach reduced dramatically. The large no longer fit me and I was able to progress to the medium, which I wore for the remaining 3 weeks. Just a word of advice, if you have wider hips and a smaller waist like myself definitely go with the front closure. I ordered the side zipper one initially and it was extremely challenging and uncomfortable to put on, so I returned it for the front closure instead, MUCH more comfortable and it has two size settings (two rows of fasteners) as opposed to just one. Now this product isn’t cheap, $110 dollars each, but it was extremely well made, washed well, maintained it’s elastic stretch and I was even able to resell my size large for $50 used! Amazing. I personally feel that it helped heal my diastasis faster by holding the muscles together where they should be, and it did offer some support to my lower back as my body adjusted to not carrying around an extra 20 pounds. If you are looking for something to offer substantial back support or compression at the hips then this is not the product for you. Back/hip braces can be worn overtop of this, but professionally I wouldn’t recommend this as I’m not a fan of compensating with braces unless absolutely necessary (e.g. you are in so much pain that you can’t function without a brace). This is also why I don’t think this product is beneficial past 4-6 weeks, but that is just my own personal opinion. Overall, I was very pleased with my purchase! Good customer service as well, they responded to my emails in a timely manner and shipping was quick! Lastly, this product isn’t pretty lingerie, I looked ridiculous and you can still see it under tight clothes, gave me a ‘double bum’ haha…but hey, my husband didn’t care and I just didn’t wear anything tight for a while! Also, since it’s my first baby I’m not sure what the results would of been if I didn’t wear it, so not much of a scientific study but I felt pretty good about it. I’d love to hear about other women’s experiences with this product. Hope this helps!

Natasha

Check out this awful picture! But the results were too good not to share a picture!

bellefit girdle before and after

 

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Pregnancy Core Strength Exercises

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.

Core strength wall sit

Kegels

  • 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!

kegel exercises

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.

core strength activation

 

Heel Slides
  • 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.

core strength exercises

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.

core strength exercises

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.

core strength exercises leg lifts

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!

bad core exercises after baby

If you have any questions about any of these exercises please comment below or send me an email at natasha@fitmamasb.com and I will be happy to help!

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