Diastasis Recti. It’s a postpartum challenge I’m extremely passionate about because I’ve struggled with it more than a few times. While it’s been five years since I’ve had a baby, I can still remember the pain and frustration that came with the separation of my abs, just like it was yesterday. The results of bearing four big, beautiful babies have been long-lasting, and it has taken a lot of research, training, time, and tears to heal my Diastasis Recti and get back to my pre-baby shape.
But I want you to know that IT IS POSSIBLE!
As a new mama, you may or may not know that you’re experiencing some ab separation. Cause, let’s be real, when you get home from the hospital, the LAST thing on your mind is, “How’s my six-pack doing?” You’re sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and healing from DELIVERING A BABY!
You’re so focused on making sure your baby is warm enough (but not too warm!), cool enough (but not too cold!), eating enough, sleeping enough, and everything else under the sun, that you barely have time to take a shower. Then a couple of weeks go by and, even though you’re still sleep-deprived, you start to adjust to your new normal.
You take a look in the mirror and barely recognize yourself. Mama, my WHOLE ENTIRE HEART goes out to you because I have been there! My own experience with Diastasis Recti is what motivated me to find a solution. Not only did I want to heal myself, but I wanted to feel confident and happy in my body again too.
Having a baby is both incredible and challenging at the same time. I remember feeling like this is so beautiful and amazing, but darn it, this is hard!!! I want you to know that it’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to feel stressed. But it is NOT okay to tear yourself down. You have to be your number one fan. (I’ll be your number two!). And you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of that little babe.
So let’s jump right in.
DIASTASIS RECTI: WHAT IS IT? (AND HOW CAN I FIX IT?)?
Diastasis Recti is the separation of the two large parallel sets of ab muscles (split down the center line of the abdominal wall). When you’re pregnant, your uterus expands to make room for the baby. This can force the ab muscles to separate and split. Ouch! Here’s the crazy thing: Around 60% of postpartum women experience Diastasis Recti as a result of pregnancy (six weeks after birth) and 30% still have it after an entire year!
The best way to explain Diastasis Recti in detail is to answer the most commonly asked questions about it.
1. Why do I still look pregnant after having my baby (aka the Baby Bulge)?
I know…this is some sort of cruel joke. You just carried a baby for nine months and finally made it to the finish line only to find out that you still look pregnant. What the heck? This is one of the most noticeable symptoms of Diastasis Recti—the infamous Baby Bulge or Pooch. Of course, just having the Baby Bulge doesn’t automatically mean you have Diastasis Recti. You may have gained some weight during your pregnancy that helped contribute to growing your beautiful baby as well as your pooch.
If you’re just days after delivery, you’re probably still experiencing some uterine swelling or just plain fluid retention, which tends to go down within the first couple of weeks. I always recommend consulting your doctor before self-diagnosing or beginning any new regimen. (They are your medical professional and I am a fitness professional speaking from my personal experience.)
Also, if you’ve had a C-section, your body heals differently than it does with natural birth and your recovery will take longer, so you’ll want to give yourself some additional time (around six weeks Postpartum) before you begin to think about correcting any ab separation that you might have.
2. How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti?
You can perform a quick assessment using the four steps I’ve created below. Of course, it’s always best to consult your doctor or health professionals for an official diagnosis as well. These recommendations are not intended to replace or conflict with their advice.
HERE’S A QUICK FOUR-STEP ASSESSMENT GUIDE:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Place one hand behind your neck and the other hand on your abdomen with your fingers flat on your belly button (fingers facing forward).
- Gently push your fingertips into your abdomen while rolling your upper body off of the floor, chin towards the ceiling
- Feel for a gap between those two ab muscles. If you can feel a gap of 2 fingers or more, that is a sign of Diastasis Recti. If you have further questions or concerns, please check with your doctor.
To see this in action, check out my video below.
3. Does Diastasis Recti hurt?
In short, yes. Diastasis Recti symptoms can include back pain, pelvic pain, and in some extreme cases, hernias.
4. What are some Diastasis Recti symptoms?
- Baby bulge or pooch
- Lower back pain
- Poor posture
- Vaginal pain
5. What are some exercises to repair my Diastasis Recti?
Let’s first start with exercises you should avoid: sit ups, planks, and crunches (to name a few). I know these are intuitively the exercises you choose because you want to strengthen your abs. The issue here is that those exercises strengthen your Rectus Abdominis, and what you’re really trying to strengthen are your Tranversus Abdominis and Lumbar Multifidus. Those two muscles lie beneath the Rectus Abdominis and help with posture, controlling breathing, and supporting the back. More importantly, they’re what you need to strengthen to help heal your Diastasis Recti.
Here are the five exercises I recommend to help restore your core:
- Drawing In
- Broomstick Rotations
- Abductions with Core Activation
- Heel Sides
6. Can proper nutrition help my Diastasis Recti?
Yes, yes, yes! Taking care of your nutrition can help you feel better, look better, and most importantly, heal faster. If you’re nursing, it works wonders on your milk supply too! I totally get that cooking is not at the top of your priority list when you have a newborn. So I won’t even go there…but if you’re going to start somewhere, start with this nutrition tip (and, yes, you’ve heard this one from me many times before!):
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of H2O every day.
Staying hydrated can crush cravings, help you lose weight, energize your muscles, and so much more. I also recommend avoiding any food that puts stress on your body. I’m talking about things like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and trans fats. Focus on foods like lean proteins, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and eggs as much as you can.
7. Do I need surgery for my Diastasis Recti?
In most cases, Diastasis Recti can heal on its own after about six weeks to three months. If you experience any unusual pain or discomfort in your abdomen, though, you should contact your doctor immediately. Surgery may be an option and is most likely something you should discuss with your doctor.
Loss of Self After Baby: Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Diastasis Recti isn’t the only thing that can come along with a new baby. There are some additional things to look out for when you’re focusing on recovery.
Pre-baby, you spent your life focusing on yourself, your goals, and your dreams. Then you got pregnant and you get to add “mother”? to your identity. It’s amazing! It rocks your world, in good ways and hard ways. And as a new mom, you might find yourself questioning who you are. It happens. I mean, think about all that you’re going through. You’re sleep-deprived. You’re healing. Your hormones are all out of whack. And you have a little baby that relies 100% on you. Your “normal” life is pretty much unrecognizable.
So it’s common to feel moody and overwhelmed. Studies show that up to 80% of new mamas get baby blues and 10% of women get postpartum depression. You can experience a whirlwind of emotions during and after pregnancy, such as:
- Mood swings from happy to sad minute to minute
- So exhausted that you don’t eat or spend time on self-care
- Overwhelmed and anxious
- Constant feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and loneliness
- You cry often
- You have a hard time bonding with your baby
- You aren’t sleeping, eating, or taking care of your baby
- You have panic attacks
If you’re experiencing any of these feelings, please consult your healthcare team immediately.
Bottom line, guys: Motherhood is HARD. There are so many things out of our control. But guess what? There are a few things that we CAN control, like exercise, nutrition, and self-care. You can feel whole again, I promise. You can find your new normal and your new, wonderful YOU!
Restoring Your Core and Becoming Whole Again
Diastasis Recti is just one extra annoying thing to deal with after having a baby. What about getting in shape? Eating right? And becoming the new you? What can you do to feel comfortable and happy in your skin again? These are all things I thought about with all of my babies.
What if restoring your core could also help restore you? I believe taking control of your health and well-being can transform your life. So let’s do this together!
I created a 6-Week Guide to help heal your Diastasis Recti called Abs After Baby. Of all the things I get to create in this world, I’m SOOOOOOO proud of this one! As you know, I’ve been through this. I’ve walked in your shoes and, as a result, I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to creating this solution. I want women like you to really understand that you’re not alone and that your Diastasis Recti can be fixed. It is SO much more than achieving a six-pack. It’s about helping you take control of your life again!
Who is Abs After Baby for?
- Women who just had a baby
- Women who struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem
- Women who deal with back pain and posture problems
- Women who deal with incontinence
- Anyone who wants control of their body, mind, and bladder again 🙂
I’ll help walk you through exercises, nutrition, and maybe even throw in some pep talks. Happy mama, happy baby.
Restore your core and create the new you. Are you ready to take control of your life, mama? To celebrate my Abs After Baby launch, I’m doing something a little special right now! The first 5 people that use the code “Heidi” at checkout will get my Abs After Baby Program for FREE!
Sign up for my 6-Week Abs After Baby Program HERE!
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