Diastasis recti – in terms of obesity and pregnancy
Diastasis Recti is commonly defined as a medical condition of a gap of roughly 2.7 cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. In layman terms, your belly sticks out because the space between your left and right belly muscles has widened, as shown in the figure below. And through this space protrudes your internal organs pushing at the thin connective tissue connecting between those abs. This is obvious when you stand and this protrusion goes down when you lie down. You might call it as a “pooch/ shelf/ mummy tummy”. I am sure most women reading this article has ended up here because you think you have that mummy tummy.
The full picture
Your internal organs like the small and large intestine, stomach, liver, pancreas etc, are supported well behind the strong abdominal muscle called rectus abdominus. This abdominal muscle is not a single muscle, but it is made of two longitudinal muscles running from rib cage to your pelvic floor. And there is a connective tissue that connects between these two ab muscles. So actually you really have a gap between those two muscles. But held very tight and secure by the connective tissue.
What happens to those muscles to widen that tight secure gap??
I will focus on obesity and pregnancy related widened gap here.
Obesity: People who eat more junk, high-fat, processed food or because of their lifestyle, tends to gain weight and ultimately, the fat deposits around the organs and overall body fat increases. This results in added pressure to the abdominal rectus muscles and these muscles slowly start moving apart to give way and space for the added mass. So the organs start to put on their weight on poor connective tissue.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy with a heavy baby or being pregnant successive years can lead to this condition very easily. In fact, two-third of the pregnant women has it at the time of pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. The most obvious symptoms that you have diastasis recti while you are pregnant include:
1. When you arch your back, your abdomen takes a cone shape,
2. You have severe SPD (symphysis pubic dysfunction). You suffer the most painful pelvic pain wherein you cannot sit, get up from a place, get out of your bed, etc.,
3. You have an outie belly button way too early.
Generally these muscles should get back into their place in 6 weeks time post delivery. If it doesn’t, you end up with mummy tummy, chronic back pain and eventually hernia, which can be an umbilical or a ventral one. Either way it needs surgical correction if you end up with hernia. Also it is pretty useless to go for a surgery if you plan to have more babies.
How to diagnose whether you have diastasis?
First and foremost, see your general practitioner and confirm it. Explain how you feel about your stomach. Much better see a general surgeon who will physically examine you and give a better diagnosis.
Or you can do a self test by clicking any of the links below:
If you can afford to get a CT scan of your abdomen, you will get a very clear picture and get focused on how to start to get your diastasis improved.
How severe is your diastasis recti?
While doing the self test to check how many fingers go between your right and left muscle to determine the severity, it is not only the horizontal separation you measure but also the vertical separation too. A gap of 1 to 3 finger widths is fine and can be corrected quickly and strengthen it. A gap more than 4 fingers needs lots of activating those sleeping muscles. Mine was 8 finger separation up and down. Now it is down to 4 finger separation just by following the do’s and don’ts given below and the six basic exercises of Tupler technique.
What options do you have to correct your diastasis??
Separation consisting of a width of 2 fingertips (approximately 1.5 cms) or more is the determining factor for diagnosing diastasis recti.
SURGERY!! The only solution says doctors. Lets challenge them! Most of them say you can do nothing about it, but time and again many prove them wrong.
My simple logic is: your body underwent a change to accomodate your excess fat or a growing baby. So obviously if u work a little hard to reverse it, you can do it. Those muscles need a little training to work and come together.
I know the post is getting long but bear with me.
So, you have checked whether you have diastasis of rectus muscles. You are lucky if you don’t have it. But if you found out you have it. Don’t worry. We will sort it out. Let us get into the DO ‘s and DON’Ts of having this condition:
1. Always pull in your abs and walk straight. The more you slope and walk the more pressure are on those weak abdominals. But it is not simply sucking in your abs.
Inhale and exhale, when you exhale pull in your stomach and that should be the right position and correct muscles pulled in. Practice breathing in and out in this tight position.
2. The same goes for when you sit. Sit straight. Hold in your abdominals.
3. WHENEVER you lift anything, always pull in your abdominal muscles first and then lift. Even when you lift baby in and out of crib, pull up those abdominals.
4. When you bend down, bend with your knees bent.
5. When you get out of the bed roll over to one side and get up. No straight-up positions please!!
6. While you exercise, avoid ANY kind of crunches, oblique twists, pilates, twisting backwards, etc.
7. Don’t carry baby on your hip. Hold your muscles in. Lift and handle them on you chest. A big NO to baby on your hips.
8. Stay away from baby carriers. Your abdomen cannot just take that pressure. Say bye bye to it or ask your partner to carry baby.
9. Last and most important point, do this in your everyday life till you get the muscles in place. Yes, you will forget but whenever you remember do it. I used to remember like once in a week. Gradually in 2 months time that became my routine.
First get the do’s and don’ts right ladies! 🙂
Don’t think this is simple task or it is not working just because you are not breaking any sweat. You are actually trying to build and strengthen your connective tissue here. You are improving blood supply to the the thin tissue. Though you don’t visually see it or feel it, you are bringing a change in your muscles. Slowly and steadily. You are nourishing that tissue again and helping it to gain strength.
The change you can see here is a major change in your middle to lower back pain/ pelvic pain. I used to feel severe back pain but after being consistent in doing the above my back pain was less. Good news here! Meaning you are regaining that strength.
The few basic exercises, well, it is only 6 of them though they look really simple once you try it, you will understand the depth of the effect on those core muscles. The more difficult you feel to do them indicates the weaker your muscles are. The following exercises are by Julie Tupler:
You can gradually start with first two exercises with less counts and then gradually build up to doing them completely and three sets a day. Then get along with the other exercises and do them three sets over four days of the week. Now that’s it. You are now aware of WHY you have the pooch. So read more, educate yourself more on this and get rid of it.
Best of luck with the do’s and don’ts as well as the 6 exercises. You will feel the difference if you follow them. Let us get your flat abs back. And let us make people from stopping to comment or ask “Are you pregnant again?”.
In the part-2 I will discuss various techniques and available online tools for helping correct diastasis recti developed by many people who specializes in this field.
Any queries please drop in a comment and I will get back to you with the best answer. As you finish reading this, if you feel there are many more people/women unaware of this condition, kindly share it and let others know. Spread the awareness like I did!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂