There was an article this week that showed Zara Phillips/Tyndall out for the day, dressed up, enjoying herself. The photo showed off a bit of a bump so people were assuming she was pregnant again. She then had to issue a statement that she wasn’t. I must admit, I felt a bit sorry for her – nothing worse than being asked when baby’s due when you’re not even pregnant…
Anyway, the article went on to assume that Zara had diastasis recti. This is a possibility as 36% of women have it past 8 weeks postnatal. At this stage it’s done all it’s going to do on it’s own and from then on requires a bit of help!
So what is diastasis recti? Basically the two bellies of abdominal muscle are connected in between by the linea alba. During pregnancy this thins and stretches in order to create space for baby. There then appears to be a gap, often seen as a doming when trying to sit up It is thought that all pregnant women in their 3rd trimester have a diastasis recti.
Postnatally, the linea alba needs to shorten and strengthen for the stomach muscles to resume their normal distance apart (1-2 fingers) and feel firm underneath. There are many issues to look at to help this process along.
- Inappropriate abdominal exercises – like crunches/sit ups and full planks. If you have to hold your breath, strain, are shaking or your stomach pushes outwards, the exercise is not for you at this time;
- Getting straight up out of bed – that’s just like doing a sit-up every time you get up to do a feed. You need to roll out of bed, same as you did in pregnancy;
- Sitting for long periods – everything compresses down. Hard when you’ve got a new-born that needs feeding all the time! But try and stand up when you can and fit in a daily walk;
- Straining – especially when lifting. Don’t hold your breath – exhale on the exertion – and try and engage the pelvic floor when lifting (as taught in the knack).
- Posture – you need to be mindful of posture when seated and standing. Try to keep your hips in line with your heels, rather than your weight pressing over your toes and make sure you’re not lifting the ribs up.
- Breathing – need to avoid breathing into the belly but use the diaphragm and ribs instead. Linking this with pelvic floor recruitment will also benefit. Click here to see my video of how the diaphragm initiates your breath and how the pelvic floor works in tandem with the diaphragm.
- Exercises – to improve core strength but also to release tight muscles.
- Nutrition – especially water and protein (doesn’t have to be animal based). I wrote a more in-depth article about postnatal nutrition – you can read it here.
It’s also worth bearing in mind during pregnancy. You’re not trying to prevent the stretching of the linea alba, as this is what gives space to your growing baby. But by following the steps above you will be able to put less pressure through your mid-section, protect your back and prepare you for the postnatal period.