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Abs After Baby || Talking Diastasis Recti, Baby Bulge, and Postpartum Depression

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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.

And then?

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 Rectithe 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
  • Bloating
  • Lower back pain
  • Constipation
  • Poor posture
  • Incontinence
  • 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:

    1. Drawing In
    2. Vacuums
    3. Broomstick Rotations
    4. Abductions with Core Activation
    5. 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? Sign up for my 6-Week Abs After Baby Program HERE! 

xo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Heidi’s Daily Hugs || 12 Ways to Treat Yourself without Breaking Your Diet!
The Power of Being a Woman
Knowledge is Power!
My Top 5 Ways to Fall In LOVE With Your Body
Life Hacks: 5 Flat Belly Secrets Revealed!
Our 12 Month Transformation, Month One: Self-Love!

51 Responses

  1. Question: When I lay on my back on my yoga ball to stretch and pull myself up there is a bulge from right under my ribcage to my belly button. Like a wide rope. No matter how flattened the rest of me may be it is there making my belly look like it has a pyramid under it. Could this be the issue and if so, can I flatten it out cause it looks weird. I am ok with most weird but this is really weird.

    1. Hi Kym: If you’re concerned that you have Diastasis Recti, please consult with your healthcare provider. This could be diastasis recti, but it’s best to talk with your provider just to make sure. 🙂

    1. Hi Erica: I’d definitely get your healthcare team’s okay before starting any exercises postpartum. 🙂

  2. Hello,

    I am currently 19 moths postpartum and I have a 4 inch diastasis recti gap. I’ve been hoping and praying that the little workout that I have been doing will close the gap but it seems like everything I am doing isn’t helping at all. I am considering purchasing your workout program but scared that It won’t help at all. I am mom of 3 and currently in the military and the weight in my stomach is literally causing me anxiety because I have only a few months to get my weight down and my stomach back in shape to do situps and push ups for my physical test and my baby wont allow me out of his eyesight for a long time, so working out at home is so difficult…. Please tell me this can help.

    1. Hi Marlene: Have you discussed your gap with your healthcare team? If not, that would be our first suggestion, then follow their recommendations. This is what we also recommend for anyone who follows Heidi’s program…to discuss the program with their healthcare team first. Since each case of DR can be different, the correct treatment can also be different. We wish you all the best, and thank you for your service!

  3. I have a 12 year old. Not sure if I have DR but I have all the other things. Will this still work for me at achieving a slim and toned midsection?

    1. Hi Rachel: It can help, but I’d discuss this with your healthcare team first and then follow their recommendations. 🙂

    1. Hi Carrie: In the ebook, you do have exercises to do beginning at 3 days a week and moving to 5 days a week, and they shouldn’t take long at all. They’re really more about strengthening your core muscles than an actual “workout,” although you will get in a bit of a workout when doing them! 🙂 Hope that helps! 🙂

    2. Hi I am 56 an I am 5″4 weight 290 pounds I have all kinds health problems an on Meds I would like to come to you guy’s City an work out .Or be put on a strick regiment if possible I am planning my own Funeral right now an I am afraid Please help I will pay my own way Please ? help me.

    3. Hi Toni: You can begin your transformation journey today with the tools in this post: https://heidipowell.net/9060. Begin with making that first small, simple promise to yourself (the post talks about promises), and you?ve already taken that first, very important step! And please discuss any nutrition and exercise program with your healthcare team first and then follow any modifications they may recommend. You got this!

  4. Hello!

    Once complete with the 6 week program, do you recommend continuing an exercises like pre babies or all pp safe ones?

    1. Hi Sheri: Thank you for reaching out to Heidi and Team Powell. Please contact our support team, and they’ll be happy to assist you!

      [email protected]

      We hope you love the ebook!

  5. Hello,
    I purchased this program a few days ago but never received an email or the EBook. Can someone help me with this?

    1. Hi Kylee: Thank you for reaching out to Heidi and Team Powell. Please contact our support team, and they’ll be happy to assist you!

      [email protected]

      We hope you love the ebook!

    1. Hi Katie: Yes, you can still heal your diastasis recti. We recommend you discuss this with your healthcare team and then follow their recommendations. 🙂

  6. I have watched your shows over and over and I have seen the great work you and your husband have done for wonderful people. I have lost my way I have tried to get myself back I have done everything. I was so beautiful when I was young never fat then I hit my twenties and the weight just came . I have been in bad relationships where I was always called fat put down so much and it hurts . I now have a daughter and after I had her the fat just got worse my sadness about my body and how I wake up and see myself . I?m scared that diabetes will take me away from my daughter I want to be healthy I want to be there for my daughter but I have lost my way I drown my self in the shame I feel and I accept being called fat . My story may just sound like so many other?s and who am I to think that great individuals like you and your husband would ever help someone like me find myself people don?t care about us or where we come from. I?m just writing to ask for some help if you can find it in your heart to help me get my health back help me find me again. Well thank you for reading this God bless .

    1. Hi Eustaccia: Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. You can begin your own transformation journey today with the tools in this post: https://heidipowell.net/9060. Pay special attention to the part about promises – those are definitely the #1 tool for transformation success. And be sure and discuss any nutrition and exercise program with your healthcare team first and then follow any recommendations/modifications they might suggest. You can do this!

  7. Hi Heidi, I have a question about your recommendation to do broom rotations and the safety of them? I’ve been seeing a PT for my DR and she absolutely discourages any sort of rotation on my torso, including broom rotations, when it comes to exercises as it makes the gap worse not better. Can you tell me your reasons for encouraging it? I’m so confused.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Nikki: I’d definitely follow your healthcare team’s recommendations for what will work best for you. Diastasis Recti can be different for each woman, so the treatment can be different also. These exercises worked for Heidi, but she’s always quick to recommend talking to your doctor too. Hope that helps! 🙂

  8. I’m not sure who to contact about this, but I ordered my abs after baby ebook today and I don’t see it in my email. I was charged for it too. Can someone please help me figure this out? I’ve checked my spam folder too and nothing.

  9. Hello Heidi!
    This is incredibly helpful, so thank you! I’ve gone through 2 pregnancies and my youngest is 15 months now. She’s left me with a 3 finger gap ? and I do heavy, compound lifting 5 days per week. My abdominals have grown and are strong and visible, however the mommy pooch is also there. I’ve decided to follow your advice and STOP working my abdominals with the typical core exercises and focus on draw ins, vaccum twists.
    My question is…..is there still a chance to repair DR after 1.5 years??
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Melissa: Yes, it is possible, just be sure and chat with your healthcare team before beginning this exercise program. 🙂

  10. Link isn’t working. Is a 2 finger gap normal? You are still at 2 fingers after 5 years? I’m at 2 fingers, started at 3.5+, do I need to continue diastasis recti work, or can I move on to regular ab work?

    1. Hi Amy: I just checked the links in the post, and they appear to be working. And that’s a great question! I’d definitely talk to your healthcare team and then follow their recommendations since you do still have a gap. And congratulations on all the work you’ve already done to close that gap! 🙂

    2. Hi Heidi ,
      I was recently told by my chiropractor that I have diastasis recti and my toddler is about to be two! I am wondering if these exercises will still help me applicable to me at this point? Thank you so much,
      Olivia

    3. Hi Olivia: Yes, these exercises can help at any time, but we do ask that you speak with your healthcare team first before doing any exercises to make sure they’re the best thing for you. 🙂

  11. Heidi, my husband and I are currently trying to conceive. Are these exercises okay to do as ab preparation before you have a baby?

  12. I still have DR and an umbilical hernia and my youngest just turned 2! Is it still possible to heal after such a long time?

    1. Hi Angela: Healing chould still be possible, but I’d definitely consult with your healthcare team before doing any exercises. We wish you all the best! 🙂

    2. When purchase i have too choose country, sweden is not avaliable, can i still procced? ( i have a newborn in my arms that im trying to get to sleep (cant move) so i cant get my Wallet to try to order ??)

    3. Hi Tova: When purchasing, choose USA, and you’ll be good to go! And congratulations on your new baby!

  13. 38 weeks today! 3 babies, 3 births, in under 3 years. Ready to get my body back. I don’t have diastasis recti, but would love to get my curves and tiny waist back. Will this help?

  14. Thank you Heidi for everything! I am due in a couple of months and am looking forward to having a game plan for my body afterwards. Of course I?m thrilled to have my little girl, but am also excited to know what to do with my body as well! Thank you!!!

    1. I am 66. I have 6 adult children, and 30 Grands. I have had 1 c section, and a hysterectomy, 30 + years ago. I exercise everyday for 40 to 60 min. Day. I have a real problem with belly fat, I
      Have all the symptoms you describe. Will these exercises help me?

    2. Hi Kim: If you have diastasis recti, these exercises can help to close that gap, and I would discuss this with your healthcare team. These exercises can also strengthen the key parts of your core that can help with posture and your activities of daily living. Unfortunately, you can’t spot reduce. That is a myth. Any extra fat will leave our bodies in its own unique way based on genetics, gender, and lifestyle/environment. Make sure you’re following a sound nutrition program, keep doing your workouts (cardio + strength training), and you should get to where you want to be. And congratulations on all your kids and grandkids! That’s amazing!

  15. I wish this had been talked about 17 years ago. Is there any hope to heal my 17 year postpartum abs?

    1. Hi Lisa: Yes! Just be sure and talk to your healthcare team first. 🙂

  16. Not every woman has postpartum because we are realistic that we wont magically be who we were and it will take work/time to be what we want. Some women like myself are over the moon that we just had a baby, and enjoy him/her. I think the negativity that depression is likely is pounded as a message to women in society, but common sense says it doesnt have to be that way. The truth is you have always been obsessed with your image, and faked pretty much everything about yourself. What you present to the public is not what is really going on. Yeah you may be strong, but you are not really healthy.

    1. Postpartum depression and anxiety are caused by hormonal imbalances. If you haven?t gone through the hell that some of us had had to live through despite our outlook on life/how much we love our children, you have no right to tell us what we?re doing wrong.

    2. Actually any woman who had a baby is postpartum. That is the medical term to describe the period after delivery of a child. The hormone drop in this period is also real and it affects every woman differently. Just like every woman will experience menopause different. It has nothing to do with how much they love their baby or body image.

      The rest of what you said was just mean. Sorry (I?m Canadian. We always apologize even when not required)

    3. I?m going to start by saying I?m extremely glad you haven?t struggled with postpartum depression and am very glad you didn?t struggle with your body afterwards. This book is obviously not meant for you and it would have been better if you would have just recognized that and kept the rest out. Not everyone goes through postpartum, she never said that we all did. I hope I don?t either. But for some it is good to know that there are professionals out there that have been through it and can give professional advice. That?s what she is offering. The book talks quite a bit about abdominal separation and how to get your abs to reconnect and how how to have a realistic expectation of when and how to get your body back. Depression doesn?t only come through perception issues or unrealistic expectations. It can be a chemical imbalance or hormonal imbalance issue. It can be a result of many different things. So please stop exacerbating a stereotype that if you struggle you?re fixated on your body or that you have control over it without medication. Some people can?t and for some it has nothing to do with their body. When women care about getting their body back, it?s not always because they are obsessed. We all have insecurities and struggles. Please don?t shame people because their struggle or insecurity is not something you can relate to. It doesn?t help anyone to have that kind of negativity and bullying. We all need to celebrate each other as beautiful, confident women. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, so If someone feels better about themselves because they can get their body back, who cares? Beauty comes in lifting each other up and helping each other during rough times even if we can?t relate from personal experience. Next time maybe you can try that approach instead. Thank you.

    4. Hi Jenny: This blog is a forum for everyone to share their thoughts and experiences. Others have already replied, sharing their thoughts and experiences, and we thank you all for contributing to this very important conversation.

      Every woman who has a baby experiences that postpartum period. For some, like you, it’s totally exciting and joyful. For others, it’s a tough time adjusting to being a new mom and all that entails. For others, due to nothing they’ve done or not done or felt or not felt, it’s a time of postpartum depression on many levels, and this is VERY real. And for still others, it can be a mixture of all of the above. The most important thing is to support each other as women and fellow moms no matter what we’re experiencing and to show empathy and kindness to each other. No matter what. We’re all fighting our own battles, and a little compassion and kindness from others can make those battles so much easier. 🙂

    1. To Jenny, Ayla, Jo and Nicole, after 7 babies and 4 losses I feel at liberty to say that despite all the lain and trauma myself and hubby went through even just putting on some mascara and a bit of lippy made me feel so much better and concentrating on some exercise made me feel tons better as it usually does for anyone suffering with pp depression. So all I can say is ‘thank goodness’ for people like @realheidipowell and her team who bother to help those wanting to help themselves and give us the motivation and direction to do so. Keep going Heidi and Team Powell you’re doing a fantastic job and for those of you who aren’t interested why follow @realheidipowell? I, for one 60 yr old, love love love it. ?

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