Are you worried about your ‘mummy tummy’? A common cause for this is diastasis recti - separation of your upper abdominal muscles.
Some separation of these muscles occurs naturally during pregnancy to make room for the baby. As the uterus grows and hormonal changes relax connective tissue, most women will have some degree of separation towards the end of their pregnancy. Following pregnancy, it is normal for the separation to be as large as 2cm at the belly button level. A space of more than 2.5cm at the level of the belly button is typically considered to be pathological, or abnormal, and requires treatment. More than 50% of women have abnormal levels of abdominal separation immediately following delivery, and for many of these women postpartum recovery of the separation is incomplete. If you have diastasis recti, you might notice an abdominal protrusion or bulge when you attempt crunches, or you might have a stubborn ‘mummy tummy’.
It is essential to seek advice from a health care professional trained to treat diastasis recti and provide you with a specific postnatal exercise program. Diastasis recti must be healed properly if you are to regain your pre baby shape and core strength.
If your diastasis has not closed to less than 2cm 8-12 weeks post birth, then specific strengthening exercises are required to help healing. The key problem caused by diastasis recti is decreased functional abdominal strength, leading to muscle imbalance and loss of coordination. Weak core muscles place stress on the spine and hip joints which can lead to low back pain, pelvic girdle pain, and pelvic instability. There is also evidence that weak core muscles are associated with a weak pelvic floor.
Diastasis recti is conventionally treated through targeted lower abdominal exercises. The general rationale behind abdominal exercise is that it can generate a horizontal force that will act to close the abdominal gap. The transversus abdominus muscle has been shown to have strong connections to the upper abdominal muscles - rectus abdominus. Strengthening of this muscle can therefore help draw the two rectus abdominus muscle bellies back together. Exercise is typically done for 2-6 weeks until the separation is closed or less than 2 finger widths. It is very important to focus on appropriate exercises to close the gap. Incorrect exercises can be counterproductive and harmful, placing strain through your diastasis recti which prevents healing.
Correct rehabilitation exercises commenced soon after giving birth will help to heal your diastasis, promote better posture, improve pelvic floor muscle function and diminish your ‘mummy tummy’.
I hope you find this information useful, both NOW and in the FUTURE! Please email me if you have any questions, and remember to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more weekly tips and inspirations!