It’s 2015 and in just a few short months, my third and final baby will turn 3 years old. Despite consistent workouts and a very “clean,” well-rounded diet, I still look just shy of three months pregnant on any given day. And it’s not my imagination, since during a recent bra-shopping trip, the sales lady assumed I was expecting, explaining to me how my breasts would be changing in size during the pregnancy.
Nothing is quite as deflating as standing half-naked in front of a stranger who thinks you’re pregnant when you’re not. I’ve lost the baby weight, plus some, and at the age of 38, I’m literally in the best shape of my life but the nagging baby bump still hangs around, refusing to budge.
At the end of the day, it’s really not the end of the world and I’m happy to have my health and the ability to exercise so I can keep up with my kids, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me at all. To work so hard and see zero results in the “problem area.”
I was just about to throw in the towel and chalk my baby bump up to my three beautiful children and genetics, when I came across an article the other night about diastasis recti.
Basically, it’s a separation of the abdominal muscles, allowing your belly to literally bulge out, making it look like you have a pooch, or in many cases, pregnant. It’s most commonly caused by, you guessed it, pregnancy and the extreme amount of pressure it puts on our abdominal walls. It is most common with women who have multiple pregnancies, carry multiples, and those over 35. Turns out 2 in 3 women who have two or more babies have it.
Besides the physical symptoms of the mom pooch, it can also cause a dis-functioning pelvic floor, which means mama can’t do a jumping jack without peeing her pants, and it can also cause lower back pain. Guess what, I have all those things! A light bulb went off and I did the simple self-check to see if I do in fact have diastasis and it turns out, I do have a 2.5 finger gap between my abs. Some women experience more severe diastasis with 4 to 5 finger gaps, but after some research, it seems that no matter how long you’ve had it or how severe your diastasis may be, it is treatable. Hallelujah!
The key to healing this abdominal separation is to try and heal the connective tissues, which will help pull the muscles back together. It’s also good to focus on strengthening the transverse muscle groups of the core, which are those tiny muscles deep within the core. There are certain exercises specifically deigned to help strengthen this key muscle group, and the beautiful thing is, most of them are gentle on the body and include small, low impact movements and stretches. Some women have found extraordinary results with wearing a belly splint, in addition to the core strengthening exercises.
Physical therapists can certainly help with providing exercises and strength work tailored just for you, however, many women (and men!), have found great success with using at-home exercise programs, including the Tupler Technique and the MuTu System. I’m still trying to decide what my course of action will be, but I’m happy to see so much help and guidance online.
Until I make a decision with how I’m going to treat my diastasis, I now know for sure what I need to stop doing to help prevent any further separation. Turns out that there are many popular traditional ab and core exercises I know thousands of women do everyday that can actually make diastasis worse. Exercises like planks and crunches, many yoga positions including downward dog and triangle pose, and just about any strenuous ab exercise that makes the muscles protrude can worsen diastasis, or at the minimum, do nothing to help. So while many of us crunch and plank our lives away, hoping to eventually achieve a flat stomach or at least lose some of the baby belly, we could really just be making the problem worse. I was just mildly disgruntled learning this, after spending the last year committed to a regular yoga practice and tough boot camps.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still exercise if you have diastasis. No, instead you should just modify and do other exercises instead of the traditional ab ones. Also, once your diastasis has healed, you can go back to performing all the regular and tough exercises you may have come to have a love/hate relationship with.
The biggest shock to me above all else, was finding out how many women have never even heard of this, myself included. When I posted about diastasis just the other day and took an informal poll on my Instagram account, so many women were like me, wondering why in the heck they had never heard of this before, whether from their doctors, trainers, anyone! And like me, many of the women had been struggling in vain for the last several months and years, exercising to stay fit and healthy, but continually being disappointed at the lack of progress in their midsection. Some professed to training for marathons, being committed to a tough Cross Fit program, or some other type of regular exercise while never seeing results. Like I said, in the grand scheme of things, this is not the end of the world and is a small price to pay for a baby, but it’s still frustrating. Had I known about this before, I sure as heck wouldn’t have been torturing myself with all those planks!
If you’ve been struggling to lose that baby bump, you can do a quick check to see if you have diastasis, and if you do, you can see a physical therapist, a licensed trainer who is familiar with diastasis, or try some other at-home treatment course. Or of course, you can be like Jennifer Garner and just embrace the bump! Whether you are self conscious of the outwardly physical symptom of diastasis or are having trouble with some of the other symptoms including urinary leaks, painful lower back aches, or even hernias in some extreme cases, you owe it to yourself to take the time and try to treat the condition.
Currently us ladies are living in a great time of self-love where we are encouraged to accept our bodies at all stages, shapes, and sizes. And while I wholeheartedly embrace this attitude, I can’t deny that it’s not frustrating to work hard, eat right, live an all-around healthy life, and not see the results we were expecting to see. So if you’ve been working hard and still aren’t seeing results with that baby bump, maybe it’s time to do a self-check and confirm if you are one of the lucky ones who do indeed have diastasis. Even if you decide not to do anything about it, at least you won’t feel guilty about passing on the ab crunches next time.
*Disclaimer: I am not a physician and as always you should consult your doctor for any health concerns.More On