Ok ladies, here we go. Another damn blog about diastasis recti. Bear with me, because I think you’ll find this one different from others. I mean, diastais is “so hot right now”, that I’m sure you’ve probably read articles, watched videos and have tried to discern exactly what is best for you.
If I’m being totally honest, 6 months ago this article would have been much like the others you can find.
“Check your gap!”
“Don’t do crunches!”
“Beware the diastasis!”
“Blah blah blah!”
I bought into the hype when I first start educating myself about postnatal fitness. Why wouldn’t I? Even as a coach, I had zero information on how my core, pelvic floor and overall body would function after baby. They didn’t teach us about this in school. There was never any support or help given to me when my son was born 7 years ago, and lucky for me, I was symptom free after his birth. That changed after my daughter was born 3 years ago. I was so much more athletic and intense in my workouts. Gone were the days of my group exercise step classes and cardio. I was lifting heavy, doing Crossfit and training like an athlete. Even with amazing coaches, there was a lack of guidance and only the typical comments such as “watch your heart rate” or “listen to your body”. GAH! Such awful advice, but how were they to know? If I didn’t know, and my coaches didn’t know, who the hell could help me?
Welcome into my world a pelvic health physio named Christina. A few of my friends from the gym had recently had babies also and had seen her, so I booked an appointment and got the down low. I was told I had a minor bladder prolapse (we can get into that in another email) and a diastasis. In case you’re still wondering what a diastasis is, let me fill you in:
“It’s a thinning and stretching of the connective tissue (linea alba) between your rectis abdominals (6 pack muscles) during pregnancy”.
It’s supposed to happen.
It needs to happen to accommodate the growing baby.
Every pregnant woman will experience it to some degree.
I don’t even remember what the measurements were (if you’ve never been assessed, it’s done by measuring in fingers, the width between your abs in a flexed position), but I was told to avoid crunching, twisting, over stretching.
CRAP. Now what?
As a new mom and someone that lives and breaths by how my body functions, I was freaked out. And as a woman dealing with a postpartum body, I was upset about how I would train my core and get my figure back.
I went with her recommendation, and lucky for me, I also found another coach in Calgary that specializes in postnatal fitness. She had a mini course for trainers about how to work with this special population. I bought it immediately. It was so nice to get more information on what I was going through, I cried reading it the first time. In public. It wasn’t pretty. But, she also recommended no crunching, twisting, etc. And the workouts were, for me, boring. All I could think was “when will I be able to be train again without fear of wreaking my body?
It took me 3 years to discover what a diastasis really is, how we can live and be fit with it and how to remove the fear of it. I’ve been taking every course, listening to podcasts, engaging in group discussions on social media. Everything. My goal today is to speed up this process for you (because really, 3 years is ridiculous), remove some or all of the fear and allow you to sift through the bull you see all over other fitness sites.
Making new moms fear even more than we already do when we get that new gooshy, kissable baby of ours, is awful. You deserve better.
So read on, and I’ll reveal the truth about the top 3 myths I see daily about diastasis.
- Diastasis is not about the gap! In fact, were learning its more about the tension of the linea alba between the muscles and how they respond. Remember I mentioned that we NEED a gap up above? Well connective tissue is like an elastic band, the more its stretched, the less it wants to go back to its original form. So you’ll likely never have the exact width you did prenatally. But is the tissue between your six pack (yes, you have one!) taut and hard when we assess? Or is it soft and mushy? Can you reduce or eliminate doming or tenting when you contract your abs with a different breathing pattern? These are all important things that need to be considered when understanding how to proceed into exercise with a diastasis.
- You can crunch/twist/stretch! Oh my goodness!! Stop the press! This was so taboo for me just a short while ago! And many of the coaches you follow may still believe this. But you can do all of these exercises IF (hahah, you knew there was an if coming didn’t you?) If and only if you can control the linea alba using your breath and strategies such altering a range of motion during a movement. This is where postnatal coaching gets very individual, because some moms can and some can’t (YET). Most however, with the proper coaching and practice, learn to do this effectively, very quickly.
- Healing a diastasis can begin at any stage postpartum! Mom – ya you, the one who has teenagers and still feels like she has abdominals that dome/tent or just plain act weird when she exercises. There is hope. Research shows that most of the healing to the linea alba happens in the first 8 weeks postpartum. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve symptoms or control your diastasis later in life. It’s never too late, regardless of how old your babies are.
Doming or Tenting
is a sign of uncontrolled abdominal pressure on exertion
So mama, please, take comfort in knowing that your body did exactly what it was supposed to do. And there are so many ways for you to heal physically and mentally from this potential trauma. Your body is strong, capable of miracles and often just needs some extra compassion and understanding about the job that it does. You can move, function and feel like your old self again. But really, once a postpartum body – always a postpartum body. So own it, rock it and do not fear it.
Your fellow mama in healing & strength,