I pulled up my shirt and peeked in the mirror.

Twelve months after birthing twins, I still looked three months pregnant.

My six-week postpartum visit with the doctor had not been reassuring. I came in worried about the pressure in my pelvic floor and expanding belly, but she just said, “Everything looks fine.”

I thought I’d feel normal again before too long, but here we were a year later. I was still struggling with toning my core, pelvic pressure, insomnia, and anxiety. I did not feel like myself.

And the worst part was, I felt like I ought to know better. I had been teaching Pilates and fitness classes for thirteen years, and training other instructors in how to teach postnatal clients for almost as long.

I knew the mechanics of the pelvic floor and abdominals, but I still had no clue how to heal my postpartum body.

I knew I needed more than Pilates, yoga and strength training, suggested by a friend; I reached out to a physiotherapist Jessie Mundell, creator of Core & Floor Restore.

I also signed up for The Prenatal Client with Debbie Goodman, MSPT. They both opened my eyes to postpartum physical therapy.

When I finally became brave enough to touch my stomach, I realized I had a gaping two fingers-width separation. The tissue was soft, and sit-ups and my poor diet made my stomach stick out more. Honestly, I was disgusted and determined to fix it.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti: A musculoskeletal injury, where the rectus abdominis stretches at the connective tissue, {the linea alba – a collagen cord that runs from the bottom of your sternum to the front of your pelvis} leaving a weakness in your core.

This superficial stomach muscle {rectus abdominis} has always been separated into right and left halves, but with a diastasis recti diagnosis, it is based on a 2.7 cm distance between the rectus abdmonis halves.

If your space is less than this and still feels unnatural to you, no worries, you can still benefit and decrease the area with my suggestions below.

Diastasis recti occur because of undo pressure and poor body alignment.

It wasn’t just about what I saw in the mirror. Repairing my diastasis recti, I knew, would help me stand stronger, tone my core and reduce my bloating. Here’s how I did it — and how you can too.

Diastasis Recti Exercises

1. Support Your Core

I began wearing a diastasis rehab splint, which is like a big Ace bandage for your tummy. (Here’s the one I used, from the Tupler Technique.) A friend suggested it to me, and although it can be uncomfortable, it supported my core and reminded me to draw in my abdominals when I was caring for the twins and jumping out of bed when they cried in the middle of the night.

I wore it day and night for six weeks. Keep in mind>>> The splint does not replace the necessary exercises you need to do to heal your connective tissue, but it helps bring support when you are caring for your family. 

2. Roll Over.

The brace helps to close the gap between your abdominal muscles, but it also made me more mindful of how I moved — especially how I got out of bed. For most of that first year, the cries of my babies startled me so much that I jack-knifed myself up and out of bed when they needed me. But that movement pushes your core out, which can weaken your pelvic floor and make diastasis rectus worse.

With the brace on, I began rolling to one side and gently pushing myself up. This movement protects your core because you are not putting undue pressure on your rectus abdominus, which is already weakened due to the separation. This rolling to the side is how I recommend all moms get out of bed and off the floor. Forever.

3. Alignment- Untuck Your Tush

I first noticed I was gripping my tush when I was doing dishes for hours on end. The pain was excruciating; I now know the piriformis tightens to support a weakened pelvic floor. By rolling the piriformis with the Franklin Massage balls, I was able to release the hip tension I was experiencing and reduce my pain.

Lots of moms tuck or squeeze their glute muscles when they hold their kids; you might not even realize you do it but pay attention the next time you pick up a little one. Tucking the glutes brings your pelvis into a posterior tilt, which tightens your hip muscles and weakens your pelvic floor. This posture is very common with diastasis recti.

Try to release your tush muscles and draw your ribs over your hips when standing. Use a massage ball to loosen the piriformis, so the pelvic floor muscles can do their job of supporting your core and pelvic floor. This rolling is a great thing to do when you’re watching TV in the evening — you’ll release all the tension that builds up in those muscles when you’re chasing after kids all day long. See how here. 

4. Engage Your Pelvic Floor

I’ve taught pelvic floor engagement for over thirteen years, but what I didn’t realize is how vital the pelvic area is and how important it is to lengthen and strengthen your pelvic floor with many different types of contractions.

Your pelvic floor, an intricate web of over twenty-two muscles supporting your internal organs and your low back and is the foundation of a healthy core. It’s important to strengthen it when healing Diastasis recti because the pelvic floor brings your pelvis into better pelvic alignment, reducing the tension placed on the linea alba.

How do you engage your pelvic floor? {Listen to this audio}

A student once said; “It’s like closing both exits.” Lift and squeeze the pelvic muscles surrounding the vaginal and anal opening; It’s a figure 8 shape, and you should feel a tightening from front to back. Contract the pelvic floor 10x quick {known as quick flicks} and then lift and hold the pelvic floor for a count of 10. Repeat daily.

5. Skip the Sit-Ups

Whenever I did crunches in the first year after my twins were born, I noticed my ab muscles bulging out instead of curling in — the exact opposite of what I wanted them to do! Crunches and sit-ups place too much pressure on your core and pelvic floor muscles when they are weak. This undo stress, causes poor posture when your standing and sitting for long periods of time.

This poor alignment is the reason diastasis recti occurred in the first place.

Each pregnancy is different and your recovery can be different from everyone else.  When you can engage your pelvic floor and transversus, you may be able to do crunches and planks again!

6. Diet and diastasis recti

Barely sleeping for two years and living on Guinness for dinner was not one of my best moments in life. The sleep deprivation led to a poor diet and had me reaching for coffee and sweets throughout the day for energy.

I was practicing the right exercises, but my stomach was still bloated, and digestion was slow. A healthy gut and easy digestion are imperative to healing the linea alba, and constipation creates increased pressure in the abdomen, weakening this area causing a “pooching” of the core.

Eliminating inflammatory foods like gluten, alcohol, and dairy can help to speed the recovery by reducing inflammation and easing digestion. Whool-foods, healthy proteins and lots of water, along with a daily multi-vitamin and a probiotic can help repair digestive dysfunction from childbirth.

“The diastasis recti is just a symptom- a sign of poor mechanical nutrition.” -Katy Bowen

My twins are five years old now, and while I still have a slight separation of my abdominal muscles, the connective tissue is healthy, and I no longer have pressure in my pelvic floor or core.

Conclusion

These six steps; supporting your core, rolling over, untuck your tush, engage your pelvic floor, skip sit-ups and diet can help close the gap and help you gain valuable inner strength to last a lifetime!

Have questions? Comment below.

Warmly, Tara

 

Do you have an abdominal separation called diastasis recti?  In this blog post, I share my six tips to tighten your core so you have less bulging and a stronger core.
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