Diastasis Recti (DR) affects a large proportion of women during and after pregnancy. About two thirds of women suffer from some degree of DR. What is DR? It’s the loss of tension in the abdominal wall and connective tissue down the midline of the rectus abdominis muscles that comes from excessive intra-abdominal pressure – like that which comes from growing a baby!
It’s essential that you learn about and understand DR, particularly when it comes to exercising after having a baby. That’s because far too many people in the fitness industry give ill-informed advice, advice that can very well make your DR worse, if you are suffering from it. You really have to educate yourself to avoid following a potentially detrimental exercise program.
A good way to distinguish between an exercise program that is designed by someone that actually understands pre and post-natal bodies and someone that doesn’t is:
- Whether they address DR, the pelvic floor, prolapse issues, the impact of pregnancy and post-pregnancy hormones on your ligaments and connective tissue, and the importance of alignment.
- Whether they highlight the length of times it takes for women to go back to their pre-pregnancy level of fitness. If a trainer tells you that you’ll ‘get your body back’ in six weeks or even three months, please walk away knowing that that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s because, more often than not, it takes well over three months to regain one’s strength and core stability, especially if you are breastfeeding. It can take up to a year – a year of slow but steady progress.
- Whether or not a trainer tells you to do include crunches, situps, press-ups, pushups, front planks, and basically anything that would ‘bulge’ your belly. These exercises should be avoided as they can make your DR and other pelvic floor issues worse. Think about your abdominals as interconnected fingers. Like this:
Now, what happens with exercises that ‘bulge’ your belly (like situps or crunches), is that they exacerbate any abdominal separation issues you may have. Keeping to the finger analogy: far from working on ‘relinking’ and strengthening the connection between your fingers, doing bulging exercises separates them further. Like this:
So what can you do if you suffer from DR? What is the best way to work towards ‘fixing’ your DR?
1. See a women’s health physio (Lisa wrote about this in our previous post here),
2. Follow a well-designed exercise routine, like Jessie’s Core + Floor Restore – a program that has been applauded by well-renowned personal trainers and women’s health physios.
3. Educate yourself to know the kind of exercises and general movements you should do and which ones you shouuld avoid. Read about the changes your body undergoes during and after pregnancy. You can find some great articles and resources at the bottom of this post.
And listen to your body, always. Close your eyes when you do your pelvic floor exercises and feel what’s going on inside your body. Feel the contracting and releasing of tension and remember that slow and steady wins the race! It’ll take a while for your core to get back to where it was, depending on the level of abdominal separation your body underwent during pregnancy and your pre-pregnancy level of fitness, but with patience and dedication, you’ll get there!
Here are some useful resources:
Advice for training pregnant clientele – Jessie Mundell on thePTDC
Diastasis Recti – WebMD
Post-natal exercise programming – Jessie Mundell on thePTDC
Core Floor Training in Pregnancy – Jessie Mundell
Tupler Technique: http://www.diastasisrehab.com/what-is-diastasis-recti.php
The Tummy Team: http://thetummyteam.com/physical-therapy/diastasis-recti/
Diane Lee: http://dianelee.ca/articles/DRA-InTouch.pdf