My friend, Veronica, recently asked:
“Now that I’m 7 weeks postpartum I’m wondering how I would tell if I had Diastasis Recti. Do you have a blog post on how to tell?”
I’ve been meaning to write a “How to Test for DR” post forever, but this question got me thinking…
New moms are scared about DR. They don’t need another self-check tutorial (although I will show you how to do that below). They need a clearer message about DR.
Here’s my attempt at that.
Congratulations! Whether this is your first baby or you are an old pro, you are in the thick of it right now. You’re oh so tired, covered in body fluids, and filled to the brim with love for this tiny being.
You may also feel the itch to move your body again. After a month or two trapped under a newborn, you’re feeling stiff and a little weak. You know a good ‘ol endorphin rush would help you feel more like yourself.
But you’re also a little nervous about jumping back into activity. You’ve heard about this thing lately – diastasis recti or abdominal separation.
You don’t know much about it, but you know you don’t want it. And, you know that there are certain things that can make it worse.
Here’s what you need to know about Diastasis Recti:
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles. It’s caused by the connective tissue at the front of the body stretching and thinning during pregnancy. This separation is necessary during pregnancy – that baby needs room to grow! It becomes problematic when that separation remains far into the postpartum period.
Why should you care?
The abdominal muscles impact your body’s function. Dysfunction in the abdominals results in:
- back pain,
- hip pain,
- pelvic floor pain or incontinence (leaking when you sneeze or exert yourself),
- and that ever present mom-pooch.
We’ve been told many of these symptoms are just a “regular” part of postpartum life. That is flat out wrong.
How do you know if you have it?
Here’s a quick self-test video for you.
I have it! Now what?
First, if you’re a few months postpartum, you likely WILL have it. That’s NORMAL. Your body spent almost 10 months making room for this new life. It takes more than a few weeks for your abdominals and connective tissue to return to normal.
Second, you aren’t destined to have it forever. The months right after you’ve had your baby are a golden opportunity. You can either
- Be smart about your movement and activity NOW and give your diastasis the best chance for closing on its own. OR
- Ignore it and deal with it, and it’s associated symptoms, for some time. Maybe even forever.
How to move forward:
- Please DON’T jump back into high-intensity exercise. Asking your newly postpartum body to do intense stuff prevents your diastasis from healing. Your body is RECOVERING. Focus on healing and building your strength now, and you’ll be back to those exercises in no-time. If you try to skip your recovery, you may have to avoid those activities you love for a LONG time.
- DON’T try to fix your core with crunches, planks, or traditional core exercises. These poses do not help and will cause more damage.
- DO spend time connecting to your core EVERY DAY. Here’s a simple video that shows you how to safely and effectively engage your core. This exercise helps you find your Transverse Abdominis. This deep core muscle encourages your connective tissue to heal. It also acts like a corset for your body, providing support and stability. You can start doing this core engagement as soon as your baby is born.
- DO focus on your alignment. I’ve written about this here. Poor alignment makes it hard to engage those deep core muscles and strains the weak connective tissue.
- DO get lots of rest and eat good food.
- DO find a reputable fitness program that specializes in postpartum core health. Find one that suits your preferred style of working out (If yoga is your jam, I’d love to have you join me in the Heal Your Core With Yoga program). You want a program that gives you exercises AND educates you about the root cause of diastasis (i.e. alignment). Long lasting core-health comes from building strength AND changing body patterns.
NOTE: Your local stroller strides is NOT going to do this. You need a program that specializes in diastasis safe exercises (There aren’t a lot of us out there).
- Finally, DO be patient, Mama. I know you’re eager to “bounce back” and feel normal again. You will. Give it time. You’ve spent almost 10 months growing a new life. It takes more than a few weeks for your body to recover from that amazing process.
Right now it’s easy to put yourself last, Mama. But, please, take some time to care for yourself now. When that baby gets bigger, you’ll want to keep up with all her shenanigans.
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