The male and female body is a work of art, from each limb to each organ and cell, everything has a purpose, designed to keep us alive and create more life. When I think about the female body, I can't help but admire it for the phenomenon it is. Growing a human inside it for 9 months, delivering this little human into our world and then producing the essential nutrients it needs to grow. Pregnancy is likely the most stressful (yet rewarding) process your body will go through, because of this there is a very intricate rehabilitation process that needs to be taken in order for your body to safely heal.
One of the results of birth is a condition called diastasis recti, or in other words abdominal separation. During pregnancy, the collagen fibres that make up the abdominal muscles weaken and stretch in order to make room for the uterus, separating the muscles at the midline, the linea alba. Normally the stomach muscles revert back to their original position around eight weeks after birth however, for most this is not the case and there is some extra care that needs to be taken. The separation of the abdomen causes a bulge in the centre of your belly, which mums might know as the "post-baby pooch". Your body has gone through a lot, so if this happens don't be hard on yourself, it can be rectified.
The biggest mistake a lot of women make after birth is assuming that your conventional exercises like planks, crunches or sits-ups will reduce the size of the pouch. This couldn't be further from the truth and in fact can worsen the condition as it puts pressure on the intra- abdominal area pushing organs through the gap and down onto the pelvic floor. Definitely not what we want. These type of exercises can also tighten the muscles which pushes them further apart, further stretching the connective tissue making it grow thinner and weaker.
What you should be doing are Kegel exercises and breathing techniques before you do any kind of ab work. This is why it is so important to be sure to seek a trained professional that can effectively guide you through the healing process. At YPG Fitness, we can also put together safe programs for you to complete during pregnancy that can help avoid the issue entirely. Although it is a lot to deal with, don't feel defeated, it's never too late to correct diastasis recti. Strengthening the weakest stomach muscles of the transverse abdominis will help relieve pressure on linea alba and allow the connective tissue to heal.
Some of the most common issues that are created as a result of diastasis recti are lower back pain and a weak pelvic floor. The second of the two mentioned issues is likely the most prevalent and debilitating due to potential urinary and bowel incontinence, the inability to control excretion of urine and faeces. A weak pelvic floor is also likely to cause urinary and digestive problems and even pain and discomfort, due to the rearranged abdominal tissue. And unfortunately, this condition can also create a prolapse of the organs in the pelvic cavity such as the uterus and bladder.
Exercises to avoid until your core has recovered:
4. Decline sit-ups
5. Weighted sit-ups
6. Cable crunches
7. Abdominal crunching machines
8. Oblique twists
11. Heavy lifting (weights)
Don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like further info on how to avoid and heal diastasis recti, we have programs and courses that will get you back on track before you know it. And remember you are surrounded by women that have gone through exactly the same thing. We are all here to support one another in this tough journey and remind each other just how strong we really are.