D is for Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti isn't a term many of us are familiar with, until motherhood. While this condition can present in infants and other circumstances in adults, I'm going to be giving you information regarding the abdominal muscles separating during pregnancy and early motherhood.
The statistics are absolutely shocking. Even though there are only 200,000 cases of postpartum Diastasis Recti reported each year, sources report anywhere from 2/3 of all women to 98% of mothers experiencing this condition in their lifetime.
That means if you're a woman intending to become a mother or already are, this information will be invaluable to you. First things first, this condition cannot be cured. Lifelong care and attention may be needed in extreme cases, but most cases are manageable with minimal effort after the initial recovery period.
Risk Factors and Indications
Pregnancy over the age of 35
High birth weight
Excessive abdominal exercise during pregnancy
The last one is worth making a note about, since it's the only one we can control. If you search online or on popular sites like Pinterest, you'll find a plethora of exercise routines ready and waiting for you. Even if you're practiced these exercises prior to pregnancy, certain movements can cause or exacerbate muscle separation for your postpartum body. Most women are exercising to keep their pre-pregnancy body, not understanding that it may be doing much more harm than good!
In addition to the post-pregnancy body, there are many complaints that go along with this condition if left untreated. You may have low back pain, constipation, urine leakage, and possibly a prolonged labor due to lack of abdominal muscle support. In very extreme cases, you may have misalignment of the pelvis, altered posture, and even hernias.
Exercises to Avoid or Modify
Whole Body Movements- swimming, aerobics
Isolating Core Muscles- Planks, Crunches
Up Dog/ Downward Facing Dog pose
Any exercises on your hands and knees
You should also avoid straining during bowel movements, try this link for ideas on natural assistance and see your care provider if the problem persists.
How to Self Diagnose
How to Heal
This is the part you've been waiting for, right? Let's get to it. If you search online, you might feel discouraged and just see a list of what not to do. Here's what you can and should do to help yourself heal.
- Begin a nutritious diet of whole foods, reduce caffeine and alcohol, and focus on getting restful sleep.
- See a chiropractor to establish a healthy posture. It's safe and encouraged to see a chiropractor during pregnancy for routine alignments, and it will help ensure safety in exercise.
- Use a Bengkung Belly Binding cloth to wrap your abdominal muscles and assist them to return to their proper position. Use the belly bind sparingly, during exercise or for one or two hours a day. I make handmade Belly Binding cloths to order and my classes here offer instruction on how to use them. They are included at no extra charge as part of my Postpartum Doula support package but can be special ordered by your request at any time!
- Begin a gentle yoga and mediation practice three times a week to mindfully and slowly begin using your muscles correctly. You can also try gentle walks to start, only to your comfort level and with good posture. Work up to 5 practice times a week at your own pace.
- Use strengthening Kegel exercises to heal yourself from the pelvic floor up. Click the link above to read more information and learn two safe floor exercises to slowly build up core strength.
- Be gentle with yourself. There is no bouncing back, there is no easy way. Take your time and be patient. Some women report using belly binding and gentle movements for up to 8 weeks postpartum before moving on to strengthening exercises. Listen to your body!
As a Birth and Postpartum Doula, I am equipped with the knowledge and tools to help you successfully navigate any difficulties you are experiencing with motherhood, Diastasis Recti being just one of many conditions new mothers can face. I teach empowering, yet practical techniques to help you reach your goals.
For Bengkung Belly Binding Classes, Doula Support in Delmarva, or for any questions or comments, you can reach me directly here.