This one is for the Mama’s out there in the overwhelming, joyus midst of Motherhood. As I have been digging deep narrowing down my coaching niche, I started to map out my life into challenging moments that produced huge amounts of growth. Becoming a Mom brought on many challenges for me, and I’m not sure who needs to hear this today, but: “You’ve got this! You are doing amazing! There’s always tomorrow!”.
I am going to split this post into three parts and it could continue on to more because as I said above, as much joy Motherhood brought me, the first year of my daughter’s life also brought obstacles I felt I needed support and guidance on. Issues that were not even talked about, let alone supported in my postpartum journey. This pinpoint was a huge flag waving at me, and I want to share my struggle and also normalize it even more by just talking about it to understand that it is normal and you are not alone.
“In mom terms, it is that frustrating post-baby pooch that doesn’t go away when the baby weight does and often leads to the “when are you due” question while you are holding your two year old. (Not speaking from experience or anything! *ahem*)” – Katie Wells
What the heck is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti. What is it? How is it that almost 100% of pregnant women have DR and it is not talked about much? Let’s start with what it is. In simple terms DR is when your six pack ab muscles (rectus abdominis) stretch and separate to make room for the baby, but after the baby is born they do not reconnect. 60% of women have DR after birth and it naturally heals itself, the other 40% if not properly treated can last anywhere from 6 months to years. Honestly, you could still have Diastasis Recti decades after childbirth.
It causes a belly “pooch”, football shape stomach, extra skin around your belly button, mummy tummy(you can name it), sometimes to the point of still looking pregnant months into postpartum. All that from a gap between your 6-pack muscles! But don’t knock it as a non-serious condition. It can also cause serious lower back pain because you do not have the core muscles to take the pressure off your back. If you don’t know about it and start working out too soon you could even be doing exercises that could damage your core further. Not to mention if you have extremely stretched fascia(fibers that give the abdominal wall structural strength) your organs can stick out. I know!! Insane!!
My DR Story
Speaking from experience, I had about a 3 finger gap at my 4-week postpartum checkup. My midwife actually did the check on me (which we will go over), otherwise I would have had no idea and probably would have started working out at 6-weeks. After two weeks of pelvic floor exercises I was checked again and still had a significant gap and was not cleared to work out. I continued my exercises (even though I was dying to get back to running and moving), and wore a full abdominal brace all day, everyday around my house. Think “Waist Trainer” but bigger in a not so cute, uncomfortable, maybe I broke my back type of brace. This brace forcefully pulled my abs together to give the pressure they needed to heal, and it worked! At 12 weeks I was finally cleared to workout, and I consider myself lucky because for some women it takes months to recover.
Every case of DR is different, and just so you know I still have about a ½ inch gap in my abs, which is normal. This will most likely never heal and most women have a very small, minimal gap between their ab muscles. My Diastasis Recti does not keep me from using my body for all types of exercise, or from having a 6-pack ;). I workout 6 days a week, running, HIIT, lifting weights, and circuit training. I have run road races and next up is a Spartan Obstacle race. You can recover from DR and you will!! Let’s do this!
Here is how to check for it on your own, and helpful ways to start healing, or in some cases preventing it from happening. I really wish I had known about Diastasis during my pregnancy to avoid what I went through, but I am super grateful to be able to share my knowledge and hopefully help you get through it or avoid it all together.
The DR Check
I am linking videos below, but it is really simple. Lay flat on the floor with your knees bent. Slowly lift your chin to your chest, and run your fingers along the center of your abs from your belly button to your sternum. Measure the gap with your fingers, or hopefully there is no gap at all! FYI this can be really alarming, so be prepared. Also if you have a large gap (3 or more fingers) at some points you might be able to see or feel organs (intestines). So not cool!
I am linking some online programs to help heal DR, some pelvic exercises, and some other shared DR recovery stories. This is honestly brushing the surface on Diastasis Recti and I will definitely come back to it.
Physical and mental
The period of my postpartum journey when I had DR was really hard, not only physically but mentally!! Because I had never heard of this condition I felt like I was broken, that something was wrong with me and I should be ashamed about it. As a new mom I already felt lost and overwhelmed as a new parent, getting zero sleep and completely thrown into motherhood in a body I was foreign to. Let’s start speaking out about our struggles! I know I will continue to be transparent and vulnerable with you and hope this helps you even in the tiniest way. Mama’s you are incredibly strong, and have the potential to do all the things you want and dream about. Head over to my website to see the programs I offer for DR support and postpartum coaching.