“Diastasis Recti: a belly sticks that out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened. You might call it a ‘pooch.'” Funny definition right? That’s how WebMD describes it. I describe it as that sucky thing that happens postpartum. And that’s why I felt compelled to share a post on healing diastasis recti.
I know first-hand how this ugly side affect from pregnancy can mess with a woman’s self confidence and how little information we are provided with postpartum fitness regiments, specifically when it comes to our core. After the birth of my first son, I went back to crunching and planking without even knowing I was severely making my ab separation worse. And although I was back to me pre-baby weight relatively shortly after my son’s birth, I couldn’t get past the hatred of my new ‘mommy pooch’. Yes yes, of course I was insanely grateful for a healthy baby and completely understood the pregnancy would change my body, BUT I’m not a motivational speaker so let’s be real, sometimes not loving your post-baby body is 100% normal and ok. Moms are humans too 😉
Self acceptance and a little grace is the first step. But there are some other things you can do for healing diastasis recti. Here is my story, my progression, and proper ab exercises you can do almost immediately after birth (and YEARS after you’ve had children) to help heal ab separation due to pregnancy.
Wondering if you have diastasis recti? Check out this video to test yourself!
Below is my tummy photo timeline from 38 weeks pregnant to 10 days postpartum. While every woman’s postpartum body changes/heals/’bounces back’ differently, I am simply documenting my journey in hopes it will help other momma’s dealing with diastasis recti post-baby.
As you can see, my stomach shrunk pretty drastically in a short period of time. I owe this to the Belly Bandit postpartum wrap I wore religiously (all day and night) and the postpartum-friendly core exercises I did during my recovery. It’s been two months since my second baby was born, and I’m still wearing my wrap. While I LOVED what this product did for me, I will say without hesitation that JUST wearing a postpartum wrap will give you quick results, but will not heal diastasis recti on its own. Stabilizing your core and strengthening your transverse abdominal muscles is absolutely necessary for healing diastasis recti and helping to eliminate the pooch. Postpartum wrapping will certainly help though!
Cinching my Belly Bandit wrap to the necessary compression varied based on the size of my stomach, but the thick velcro made it possible to wear the wrap directly post-birth and weeks after. To ensure I had the tightest fit (in order to ‘train’ my abs to go back where they belonged), I simply held the wrap around my waist, pulled tightly, then wrapped it around my stomach and pressed to secure.
Would I recommend the Belly Bandit to pregnant and postpartum moms? Absolutely. Not only did I feel it helped shrink my tummy in the days and weeks after having my baby, it also helped me feel like my weak core was supported. On top of diastasis recti, I also have an umbilical hernia (also common in pregnancies) that had been bothering me in the last few months of my pregnancy and first few weeks after I had my baby. Although my hernia is still there (and will remain), it has not caused me pain thus far. I believe the binding has aided in my core ‘rebuilding’ and doing the proper ab work is key. Here are the CORRECT exercises to do when healing diastasis recti.
Healing Diastatis Recti: Core Exercises
Basic Daily Functions
Changing the way in which you use your body for daily tasks is the first step to healing diastasis and avoiding further damage. Bending forward to lift something from the floor is a big no-no (especially a heavy toddler). The forward bend allows your belly to hang, putting pressure on those weak, separated abs. Instead, use your legs to execute a squat position as you pick up anything (including your baby). As you lift back to standing, be mindful to keep your core engaged by cinching your belly button in towards your spine, working your transverse abdominal muscles and using your arm and leg strength to aid you in handling the weight of the object you are picking up. See photo below – left side is incorrect, right side is correct.
Stand with your feet hip distance apart, shoulders stacked over hips and belly relaxed. Take a deep breath in, then blow it out through your mouth as you aim to bring your belly button in towards your spine. Hold it there for 5-10 seconds. Inhale and repeat. Do this throughout the day – seriously the more the better!
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides, and feet planted on the floor. Inhale then exhale sharply and tilt your hips up towards your ribcage, keeping your lower back on the floor and cinching your belly button in towards your spine. Hold for a few seconds and repeat. I aim to do this 50 times, twice a day.
Lying Heel Sliders
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides and feet on the floor. Flex one foot (toes off the floor) and gently slide out in front, being mindful to keep your lower back on the floor and belly button in towards your spine. Once your leg is extended, gently bring your heel back in to the original position and alternate legs. Repeat 20 times, as many times as you can throughout the day.
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides and feed on the floor. Continue to keep your belly button in towards your pin and tilt your pelvis towards your ribcage. Next, lift one leg off the floor, knee directly above your hip and bent at a 90 degree angle. Bring your foot back to the floor and do the same motion with with your other leg. Repeat 20 times, as many times as you can throughout the day.
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides and feet on the floor. Cinch your belly button in towards your spine. Slowly lift and extend your right leg off the ground into a diagonal position, pointing your toe and keeping your core stable. Place your foot back on the ground and alternate legs. Repeat 20 times, as many times as you can throughout the day.
Side Knee Drops
Lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides and feet on the floor. Once again, breath in and bring your belly button in towards your spine as you exhale, keeping it there the entire time (with your lower back flat on the floor). Roll your right knee down towards your right side, keeping your foot on the floor, then gently bring it back up to the original position. Alternate legs and do 20 repetitions, as many times as you can throughout the day.
Continue to lie flat on your back, hands down at your sides and feet flat on the floor. Bring your belly button in towards your spine and lift your seat off the floor. Next, gently tap the floor with your lower back and bottom, then lift back up to the previous position. Breath deeply the entire time and focus on keeping your abs in. Repeat this 50 times, at least twice a day.
One VERY important thing to keep in mind when you are executing these core exercises is not to forget about doing kegels! Holding your pelvic floor muscles as you work the transverse abdominis muscles will also help strengthen your pelvic floor, aiding in the recovery of diastasis recti. Think of tightening those muscles and lifting them up towards your belly button.
Exercises to avoid until your core is strong enough and the 2-3 finger-width separation of your abs have improved:
- Front planks
- Pushups in a plank position or on your knees
- Traditional forward crunches or any type of ab work that brings your shoulders off the ground to curl upwards
- Exercises lying face up on a stability ball
- Downward dog yoga position
- Burpees into a plank position
- Pilates 100’s
- Any sort of jack-knifing or twisting at your core
I am not a diastasis recti expert, nor am I a pelvic floor physical therapist, but after researching this condition, dealing with it firsthand, and seeing a pelvic floor specialist, I want this post to help many women educate themselves about diastasis recti and learn proper ways to handle their ab separation.
Stay tuned for an update on my experience healing diastasis recti in a few months!
This post is sponsored by the awesome people at Belly Bandit. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting Physical Kitchness!
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