There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a new mum walking in to see me holding their latest pride and joy.
The tiredness is present but the glow they carry of their new baby is so beautiful. Over the last 2 years I have worked with so many mums to help them continue training through pregnancy but also the other side. The “recovery” phase is also known as post-natal. After birth, you receive a 6 week check from your midwife but what shocks me is that the main area of your body which is affected by carrying a baby isn’t checked, screened or even considered by your midwife. 1 in 6 mothers will experience diastasis recti or abdominal separation after birth and not really know how to recovery safely.
This leads to mothers just avoiding exercise or regaining core strength. That said, when it then comes to, if desired, having a second child, more damage is done and it is much harder to get the core back to “normal”.
So, What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is the separation of the abdominals which happens in pregnancy due to the torso making room for the baby to develop and grow. Your body makes many changes through pregnancy, the organs shift position and the abs separate creating the space for the baby.
The hormone released in pregnancy relaxin, allows these muscles to move without any damage on the muscles long term. It also affects your joints allowing for the hips and spine to open allowing for the adapted weight distribution when carrying the baby. However, some mothers will experience continued separation after birth and long term if they do not work on reengaging the core muscles. I see it a lot, many mothers just think it’s something they have to put up with now they have had a baby.
Let’s also not forget, if your child is 3 months, 5 years old or 25 it’s NEVER too late to work on this, think of it as an injury, there is always a chance to get better, stronger and regain your core strength.
Just like any weakness you experience in your body with the correct amount of work, use of the correct exercises and knowledge you can overcome anything and get your core strength back in no time.
So Where Do We Even Start?
Well the first thing I suggest anyone to do is to get your separation checked. This can be done by any professional with post-natal care experience. Please make sure they are qualified and know what they are looking for. When performed correctly, you will lay on your back, be asked to place yourself into an abdominal crunch position and the practitioner will take 2 fingers and walk from your sternum to your belly button. If separation occurs they will be able to feel a dip in the abdominal wall. This evidences that your abs are still separated and you need to work on engagement and regaining core strength again.
If you do not have a professional to hand, try and check yourself, it’s very evident as it feels like your fingers fall into the abdomen rather than pressing against a muscle wall. Please, never be afraid to ask for help as this is a very common mistake where women then go back to exercise which then causes pain, pulling, hernias and doming through the stomach as the muscles get trained to stick out.
How Can I start to Work on This at Home?
Here at Studio 281 we are passionate about helping mums find themselves quickly after birth.
There is no pressure to 'bounce back' to the person you were before, but we do encourage you to start very simple core exercises and light exercise soon after birth, as this will make your return to exercise smooth and lower risk of complication.
The best exercise to perform is to lay flat on your back and start to work on your pelvic tilt. Tucking your pelvis under and pulling your belly button in towards the spine.
This exercise helps to engage the abdominals and also promote the muscles coming together.
Remember to try and breath in and out whilst performing this exercise.
Secondly, you can take your hands behind your head, keeping both feet on the floor look up to the knees and slide one heel away from your bottom. Repeat this exercise on both sides, remember slow is always best. Your focus here is all about engagement and keeping that back pressed into the floor. You should feel a very dull ache or slight shake in your mid-section. Constantly remind yourself to pull your belly button down towards your spine to keep that core engaged throughout.
How do I Know if I’m Doing These Wrong?
It’s really hard to tell as with a weakened muscle we can find our body takes short cuts to still perform the exercise. Always check that you are pressing you lower back into the floor and you are taking your time with each repetition. Try to avoid doing too much too soon, planks, full press ups and crunches should be avoided if you are wary of the separation. If you do these sorts of exercises the abdominals can fuse back together but in a dome like manner as the muscles have a gap they then bridge and cause a dome like structure. Again, if this is evident you must seek professional help.
Studio 281 offer a post-natal screening service