Many women struggle with the appearance of their belly after giving birth. They may wonder why they still look pregnant even months or years after delivery. They may also feel frustrated by the lack of results from diet and exercise. In this article, we will explore the causes and solutions for the post-pregnancy belly bulge, also known as diastasis recti.
What is diastasis recti and why does it happen?
Diastasis recti is a condition where the rectus abdominis muscles, also known as the six-pack muscles, separate along the midline of the abdomen. This creates a gap between the muscles that can cause the belly to protrude or sag. Diastasis recti is very common in pregnant and postpartum women, as the growing uterus stretches and weakens the abdominal wall. It can also occur in men who are obese or have abdominal obesity.
How to diagnose and measure diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti can be diagnosed by a simple self-test. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place one hand behind your head and the other hand on your belly, with your fingers pointing towards your navel. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and gently press your fingers into your abdomen. Feel for a gap between your muscles above and below your navel. You can measure the width of the gap by counting how many fingers fit into it. A gap of more than two fingers is considered diastasis recti.
How to treat and prevent diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti can be treated and prevented by strengthening the core muscles, especially the transverse abdominis, which is the deepest layer of the abdominal wall. The transverse abdominis acts like a corset that supports and stabilizes the spine and the pelvis. To activate this muscle, you need to practice proper breathing and posture. Here are some tips and exercises to help you:
- Breathe deeply and exhale fully, drawing your navel towards your spine. This will engage your transverse abdominis and reduce the pressure on your abdominal wall.
- Avoid movements that can worsen diastasis recti, such as crunches, sit-ups, planks, twists, and backbends. These can increase the separation and cause bulging or herniation of the organs.
- Perform gentle exercises that target the transverse abdominis, such as pelvic tilts, heel slides, toe taps, and knee lifts. These can help close the gap and improve your core stability and function.
- Wear a supportive belt or binder around your waist to provide compression and support to your abdominal wall. This can help reduce the pain and discomfort caused by diastasis recti.
- Consult a physiotherapist or a postnatal fitness expert for a personalized exercise program and guidance. They can help you assess your condition and monitor your progress.
What are some myths and facts about diastasis recti?
There are many myths and misconceptions about diastasis recti that can cause confusion and anxiety among women. Here are some of the most common ones and the facts behind them:
- Myth: Diastasis recti is caused by postpartum weight gain or belly fat.
- Fact: Diastasis recti is not related to weight gain or fat accumulation. It is a muscular separation that occurs due to the stretching and weakening of the abdominal wall during pregnancy. Losing weight or fat will not close the gap or reduce the bulge.
- Myth: Diastasis recti cannot be fixed or healed.
- Fact: Diastasis recti can be fixed or healed with proper physical therapy and exercises. It may take several months or even years, depending on the severity of the condition and the individual factors. However, it is possible to restore the strength and function of the core muscles and improve the appearance of the belly.
- Myth: Diastasis recti cannot be corrected after a long time postpartum.
- Fact: Diastasis recti can be corrected at any time postpartum, even after several years. However, the longer you wait, the more difficult and time-consuming it will be. The best time to start working on your diastasis recti is as soon as you get clearance from your doctor, usually six to eight weeks after delivery.
- Myth: Diastasis recti can only be managed with ab exercises.
- Fact: Diastasis recti cannot be managed with ab exercises alone. In fact, some ab exercises can make it worse by increasing the separation and causing more damage. You need to work on your whole core, including your pelvic floor, your back, and your hips. You also need to pay attention to your breathing, your posture, and your daily activities.
- Myth: It is not possible to do crunches or planks or burpees for women with diastasis recti.
- Fact: It is possible to do crunches or planks or burpees for women with diastasis recti, but only after they have healed their condition and regained their core strength and stability. These exercises are not recommended for women who have an active diastasis recti, as they can aggravate the problem and cause more harm than good.