Diastasis recti might sound pretty scary, but it’s a term you’re likely to encounter during your post-pregnancy journey so it’s wise to be clued up about it. This condition, which is essentially a separation of your abdominal muscles, is incredibly common and more importantly, normal – especially if you reach full term with your pregnancy. However, it can be challenging and confusing to navigate so let’s start with what we do every day – move – and how daily movement patterns can either help you heal or, conversely, exacerbate diastasis recti.
What Exactly is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti occurs when the two large sets of muscles running down your abdomen (rectus abdominis or six pack muscles) separate and the connective tissue down the midline thins and stretches, usually due to pregnancy. It’s what sometimes causes that lasting belly “pooch” after you’ve had your baby. If you’re dealing with it, know you’re far from alone. While most women will have diastasis recti during pregnancy and after, it can resolve naturally, however specific focused exercises can help boost recovery. In certain instances, women may still have a significant diastasis recti, but it’s what’s known as a functional diastasis as it can be managed do doesn’t affect exercise or everyday movement.
Wondering what your core muscles are? Find out more about them here.
Why Movement Habits Take Centre Stage
You’ve heard the usual spiel when it comes to postnatal fitness —modify this, avoid that… Certainly, exercise modifications have their place, but let’s be real: you’re a mum, which means you’re basically lifting, bending, and twisting all day long. It’s not just your half-hour workout that matters; it’s your 24/7 movement habits that really count. Whether you’re picking up toys or lifting your baby, every move contributes to your overall core and pelvic health.
The Micro-Changes That Make Macro-Differences
The good news is you don’t have to turn your life upside down to see results. Small, mindful adjustments can be total game-changers. Let’s talk about a couple:
How you breathe during exercise or any strenuous activity can significantly impact your internal abdominal pressure. Most of us don’t even notice, but holding your breath when you’re lifting is a no-no. This increases the pressure internally (similarly to when you blow up a balloon) to create a false ‘stiffness’ and strength in the abdominal area. Instead, adopt the technique of “exhale on exertion.” This means exhaling as you lift, push, or pull, effectively helping you manage that internal pressure. As you exhale, you’ll also be engaging your abdominal muscles which helps strengthen them.
The way you stand or position your body during activities can have unintended consequences. Standing with your hips thrust forward, especially during weightlifting or when holding your baby, can distribute the pressure down your midline. A simple readjustment of your ribs can redistribute this internal pressure more evenly, helping your healing process. Diastasis Recti and postnatal movement should be carefully considered – taking into account natural healing time, ability to manage internal pressure and engage deep abdominal muscles.
The Ego vs. Longevity Conundrum
Ah, the allure of nailing that difficult yoga pose or lifting heavier weights can be strong. But, is it serving you or your ego? Before diving into an exercise, flip the script. Instead of asking if you can do it, ask yourself if you should. Just because you can perform complex movements like handstand push-ups or heavy squats doesn’t mean it’s the right time for it, especially if you’re managing diastasis recti. High intensity exercises, or lifting too heavy before your body is ready, can actually make a diastasis worse.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Progress can sometimes feel painfully slow, especially when you see other mums seemingly bouncing back effortlessly (Instagram and TikTok has a lot to answer for!). But remember, healing is not a race. The stage you’re at right now is simply a chapter in your book, not the whole story. Small tweaks in your daily routine and movement patterns can go a long way in managing and improving diastasis recti. Take control where you can, and let go where you must.
Your Journey, Your Rules
Healing is a process that unfolds differently for everyone. Let’s keep our focus on the small, actionable changes we can implement right now. Remember, it’s not about a list of do’s and don’ts, but about enhancing awareness and making better choices every day. Your strength and skillset aren’t going anywhere—they’re just on pause as you navigate this unique chapter in your life.
So, to all you Warrior mums out there, let’s tackle diastasis recti step-by-step, and never forget—being fit is about feeling good in your body, not just looking a certain way.