Ask any mama: No one wants to deliver a beautiful baby, only to be stopped on the street a few months later and hear the dreaded question: “So when are you due?”
The truth is, it’s normal to look a little bit…well, pregnant, after giving birth. Your uterus will shrink back down after you deliver, but some women are left with some belly budge that wasn’t there pre-pregnancy, and in some cases, a thing called diastasis recti may be to blame. Physical therapist and new mom Lisa Alemi, came through with a scientific explanation, but essentially this is an issue that often arises due to the physical changes associated with pregnancy and can change the overall look of your midsection. More importantly, diastasis recti can also lead to some issues that aren’t purely cosmetic (more on that below!).
By now we’re sure you’re wondering if there’s a way to prevent this from happening in the first place…and that’s why we had Lisa share her advice for expectant mamas who are looking to avoid dealing with this issue.
Monica + Andy: Can you explain what diastasis recti is?
M+A: Are there factors that make women more prone to this during/after pregnancy?
LA: The pregnancy alone doesn’t cause the diastasis recti, but the pressure in the abdominal cavity can cause the diastasis recti. Poor posture, overactivation of the [those abdominal muscles], and lifting excessive amounts of weight can contribute to diastasis recti. Many people may attribute the cause of diastasis recti to BMI, weight gain, baby’s birth weight or abdominal circumference, [but research has suggested] that there is no direct correlation between diastasis recti and these factors. Increased weight gain or carrying multiples could have an impact on developing diastasis recti because of the change in posture. If a woman doesn’t maintain good posture [through pregnancy], the muscles are susceptible.
M+A: How common is the issue?
M+A: Is there anything a woman can do during pregnancy to prevent diastasis?
M+A: Will women notice signs of diastasis during pregnancy, or will it only reveal itself postpartum?
M+A: What exercises can women do to minimize their chances of ab separation?
M+A: What exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?
M+A: Can diastasis be cured after birth?
M+A: What are some measures moms can take to fix the issue?
LA: Seeing a qualified physical therapist [who is] trained in treating diastasis recti can help significantly to diagnose the severity of the condition and properly train the muscles to heal in their normal position. Transverse abdominis training and pelvic floor training are key to fixing the issue and many times we need a professional to help us do that. Wearing an abdominal binder after birth can also help the diastasis recti, but should be recommended on a case by case basis. Avoid heavy lifting, including other children who are older than your newborn. If you have had a C-section, follow up with your doctor to be sure that the incision has healed properly before engaging in proper abdominal training. Avoid crunches and planks. Focus on your posture, stay hydrated, and eat well to avoid constipation, which can also increase pressure in the abdomen.
Concerned about diastasis recti? Run any questions by your doctor and consider an appointment with a physical therapist, who can help you tackle the issue during or after pregnancy.
About the expert: Lisa Alemi is a wife, mom, physical therapist, and blogger for Move Mama Move. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Evansville. She worked as an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist until the birth of her son. Lisa currently spends her time raising her son and building a family, blogging, traveling, and enjoying life. You can follow Lisa at www.MoveMamaMove.com.