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For most women, it takes somewhere between 9 months and a year postpartum to get your pre-pregnancy belly back. It is just about the same time it took to grow a baby in it.
The stomach is often the toughest part of the body to return into pre-pregnancy shape. It takes some time and effort to fully recover from pregnancy and get rid of mommy tummy.
I know you are not dreaming about the six-pack.
You just don’t want to look five months pregnant, with a mushy belly that sticks out and is rounder than you expected. Apart from other factors that I addressed in this post, this could be due to a condition known as diastasis recti.
(This post contains affiliate links. This means I get small commision when you buy something by clicking through links in this post at no additional cost to you. Read the full disclosure here).
In this post, I would like to point out some diastasis recti exercises that, if performed on a regular basis, can greatly improve your condition.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Abdominal Separation or Diastasis Recti means your belly sticks out because the space between your front left and right abdominal muscles has widened. This is caused by much pressure on the belly during pregnancy.
It is very important to check yourself for ab separation before you start to do any core exercises, as common ab workouts such as crunches and sit-ups can make existing diastasis even worse.
This simple test can show if you suffer from ab separation:
Lie on your back, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Place your fingers about an inch above your belly button with your fingertips pointing towards your feet. Lift your head as you were starting a crunch and see how many fingers fit in the space between your left and right ab muscles. If the gap is more than two fingers wide, you most probably have ab separation.
You will need to re-build your entire core strength again and the best way to do this is to build a solid abs foundation by starting at the very base. As your core regains its strength, you can slowly start to work your way up towards building a flat stomach.
Can You Heal Diastasis Recti?
Well, this is a tricky question.
It is possible, depending on the state of your diastasis. Mine was approximately 2,5 fingers wide, both above and below the belly button. My doctor said surgery is inevitable.
That was the moment when I´ve decided to do something about it. I just didn’t want them to rip my stomach apart! That was my motivation.
I dug into extensive online research and booked an appointment with PTˇs. That’s how my successful journey to healing diastasis started.
The thing is:
It just might not work for everyone, but you won’t know until you give it a try. Dr. Sarah Duvall, an expert for postpartum core exercises including diastasis recti and pelvic floor strengthening, says:
“Not everyone can heal their diastasis. (But don’t automatically assume that’s you!!!) Sometimes the damage is too great. BUT that being said, I’ve seen many, many, many women heal who were told by their doctor the only option they had was surgery.”
When And How To Start With Diastasis Recti Exercises
When your doctor clears you and you feel ready, get right to work. “For some patients with mild diastasis, regular exercise in the form of a core abdominal work out can improve the integrity of the muscles and reduce the amount of separation,” says Dr. Brenner, a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Beverly Hills. “I have found this to be most effective during the first six to 12 months following delivery.”
Diastasis recti exercise Don´ts
In a nutshell, be careful with all exercises that put too much stress on your abdominal area. For instance, if you have problems with postpartum urine leakage, any exercise that causes you to leak indicates that the pressure on your abdominal is too intense.
Exercises to avoid:
- front planks
Safe diastasis recti core exercises
Ilaria Cavagna, a New York-based Pilates instructor, suggests starting with the oblique muscles as a means of bringing together the separated muscles. “Only working the oblique muscles will bring the two abdominal walls back together,” she says.
Healing ab separation is also closely linked to strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. That is why you need to work on both in order to get your core into shape.
Exercises to perform:
- any pelvic floor strengthening exercises
- dead bugs with an exercise ball
- knee lifts
- standing hip rotational exercises (training oblique muscles)
- maintaining a good posture
You can check out all the details about how to perform these diastasis recti exercises in my post here.
Consider getting in touch with an expert
Although you can do all of these exercises from the comfort of your home, it is always better to have someone to check on you. According to my personal experience, the best option is to book classes with a PT specialized in treating diastasis recti condition.
However, not all of us can afford that, and sometimes, it can be hard to find this type of PT in your area. Also the current situation with lockdown doesn’t make it any easier.
Having said that, look into online programs created by professionals that are focused on postpartum core issues.
Wendy Powell, a founder and CEO of MUTU System is a globally recognized voice and leader in maternal physical and mental health recovery. She created this pioneering, body-positive, medically recommended online exercise program for all mothers in 2009.
Since then, they have helped more than 68,000 Moms get healthier, fitter, and stronger.
This holistic program and expert-led community empower women to gain confidence in how their body looks, works and feels. It gives you the body confidence you deserve.
MUTU provides evidence-based proven techniques to improve pelvic and abdominal symptoms from ‘baby belly’
or diastasis recti to embarrassing leaks, painful sex, or prolapse symptoms.
Check it out, the numbers speak for themselves:
Created by Dr. Sarah Duvall, mom of 2, and an expert in the postpartum body recovery field.
She’s been a Personal Trainer since 1999. Graduated from Physical Therapy school with Masters and completed a doctorate project on the pelvis. So, Sarah gets it from a woman/mom standpoint, but also understands the complexity of rehabbing the human body from an intellectual standpoint.
I personally think she has crafted one of the best online fitness programs for women out there, hands down.
In her courses, she provides you with the best information on understanding how to get started healing your diastasis and pelvic floor through videos, articles, and self-assessments.
Here is her video on how to self-check for diastasis:
There is a bunch of super-helpful free resources (no excuses, right?) that Dr.Sarah created to help you get started. Her free guide will provide you with the best information on understanding how to heal your diastasis and pelvic floor through videos, articles, and self-assessments.
She also offers a FREE mini-course that takes you through an in-depth overview of how to get a fit and strong core, free of aches and pains.
Make sure you check this out. Honestly, this is such a valuable resource and I can’t believe Sarah gives this away for free.
Are you struggling with diastasis as well? What helps you to cope with it? Let me know in the comments below!