“Diastasis…what?” you say.
You are not alone. Most women go into their pregnancies having never heard of Diastasis Recti, especially if it is their first. Word is spreading, but slowly, and mostly through mom groups and on social media, not from our health care practitioners as one might expect.
Diastasis Rectus Abdominis is the separation of the abdominal muscle in the front, the Rectus Abdominis aka the “six-pack” muscle. As women go through their pregnancy, these two strips of muscle separate and the connective tissue (the line between them down the middle, the Linea Alba), stretches to accommodate for the growth of the baby. For most women, some degree of separation remains postpartum, especially in subsequent pregnancies. This results in the dreaded mummy tummy, or a pooch in the front that just won’t go away, regardless of 100’s of crunches and intense dieting. In fact, you might be doing things, like crunches, that are making it worse.
How do you know if you have Diastasis?
Many of the women who call me describe having lost all their “baby weight” but still not fitting into any of their jeans, looking 5 months pregnant. Or, they have constant back pain because they feel like they don’t have a core anymore, “like there is nothing there.” 50% of women with diastasis will also have pelvic floor dysfunction, but we’ll address that in a separate post.
How do we diagnose Diastasis?
The only way to know for sure is to get properly assessed by someone who has been trained to do so. I have seen a scary number of videos on YouTube showing incorrect assessment methods and treatment. When I assess a postpartum woman (even if years postpartum), I check for two things; distance, or separation, between the recti muscles and, most importantly, the integrity of the connective tissue (Linea Alba). A separation is not a problem if the connective tissue can generate tension and the deep core muscles are working properly. On the flip side, a small separation can be a problem if the connective tissue is slack and lacking in function, and the core is not working well and doing its job.
What do you do if you have a Diastasis? And can it be healed even if it has been years?
Start breathing properly and YES! Regardless of how long it’s been since you had your baby, you can still regain strength and function in your core and heal a diastasis. I did, 14 years after my twins were born. It is imperative that you work with a professional who can help you reactivate your deep core muscles (transversus, diaphragm, pelvic floor and multifidus) and gradually strengthen them in a way that teaches them to work synergistically again. Crunches and planks are a BIG NO. I love planks, but only when you are ready and have a functional core again. And yes, we start by teaching you to breathe properly so you can activate these deep muscles correctly.
Our goal is always to get you back in your favourite jeans again, or rather have you feel good in your clothes. Consistent and specific work for just a few minutes a day can do that. Having babies changes our bodies. Not in a bad way, just different. Our hips might be wider, or there could be some stretched skin. That is why I always encourage my clients to go out and purchase a new favourite pair of jeans. Don’t spend the rest of your life in leggings. Accept that you might never wear the skinny jeans from your 20’s again. So what? You are a mother now and you deserve a new pair of jeans that fit your new body perfectly. Wear them proudly.
As a special offer to all Healthy Mom’s Toronto Card holders you will receive 40% off the Restore Your Core Assessment where we check for Diastasis Recti among other things. Learn more here: http://fit4you.ca/restore-your-core/