Self-Test: Do you have Diastasis Recti aka “mommy tummy”?

diastasis recti, a split in the belly muscles, referred to as "mommy tummy" may be disregarded or surgery given as the only option in many cases. But it can be treated through specialized fitness training and massage.

Diastasis recti, a split in the belly muscles, referred to as “mommy tummy” may be disregarded or surgery given as the only option in many cases. But it can be treated through specialized fitness training.

The major reason diastasis occurs is because of a distended belly, almost always due to poor core function. It happens when the abdominal muscle connective tissues stretch and weaken at the midline or linea alba. The left and right sides of the abs look and feel separated.  Poor alignment and doing the wrong abdominal exercises only make it worse. Some hints that you may have a diastasis include low back pain, “mommy tummy” that you can’t seem to heal, and loss of control of your pelvic floor.

Diastasis Recti

66% of women who have diastasis recti also have problems with their pelvic floor function.

Dysfunctions include at least one of the following:

  • Pelvic floor pain
  • Weak pelvic floor
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

The gap will become most noticeable when you lie down and relax. The loose skin above or below the bellybutton may seem to sink into the center gap. There may be a jelly like texture to the skin instead of a solid abdominal wall. When you lift your head and shoulders slightly from the floor and engage the abdominal muscles more deeply, you’ll see that the midline or linea alba gap will reveal itself to be deeper and wider.  If your fingers are not pressing into the gap, it may seem to protrude outward, as if the inner contents are pushing out of the midline.

Diastasis Recti

Checking for Diastasis Recti:

  1. Lie on your back with feet on the floor and knees bent. Arms should be by the sides.
  2. Place your two fingers horizontally into the stomach just above and below the navel.
  3. Inhale.
  4. Then exhale as you raise your head just off the floor.
  5. If there is a gap, the fingers will sink into the abdominal cavity.
  6. One to two fingers’ width soon after the birth is normal and will tighten over time with some modifications to exercise.
  7. Three or more fingers’ width means steps must be taken to close the gap.

Formula for Healing Diastasis Recti (according to The Center for Women’s Fitness)

  1. First Realign
  2. Then Exercise

An internal pelvic floor assessment with a qualified physical therapist is a very effective starting point. Ask your midwife or OB/GYN, or your doctor if it’s been many years, for a referral. Many of the postnatal health issues in the US can be prevented and treated with this foundational care. It is standard procedure for postnatal mothers in the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Australia. You can find out specifically how to support recovery including whether your pelvic floor is too tense/tight or weak/lacking tone and (whether and which) kegel exercises will help you come back to balance.

Proper breathwork techniques are the first and foundational exercise. They can help to gently rebuild and realign the core and pelvic floor muscles. Breathing should be fluid and not too extreme (neither too expanded during inhales or constricted during exhales). Fit for Birth, a leading organization in the prenatal/postnatal fitness world, encourages breath work as the beginning of diastasis and all core rehabilitation.

Some basic breathing exercises:

  • Extended inhales
  • Extended exhales

Avoid exercises that put pressure on your already separated, therefore weakened, abdominal muscles. This includes excessively heavy lifting as well as planks, push-ups, and sit-ups. A postnatal corrective exercise personal trainer is an excellent and effective way to ensure that you will get the customized tools you need to rehabilitate your core and come back stronger and healthier than ever!

I’m certified by Fit for Birth as a Core and Diastasis Consultant. As a postpartum rehabilitation specialist, I offer these services in Miami, Florida as well as online via live video call sessions in the US and internationally. Fit For Birth is also a great resource for finding a qualified professional in your area.

Your body has worked hard to create, nurture, and give birth to your baby. The process of rebuilding the core and healing diastasis recti can be slow, especially if you have had it for many years, so please be patient with yourself.

Dancing Life to the Beat of Your Own Drum

 

image dancing M2M Nwsltr May 2015

When was the last time you danced because you felt like it? How does it feel when you let yourself dance for no particular reason?

Dance is everywhere in our culture, often organized in classes, performances, and entertainment in the media. Some people don’t like to dance but many eventually love it once they feel safe and less self-conscious. There’s a common belief in our culture that dancing is only for special, highly trained and extra talented individuals. But dance as a natural expression of daily life is in the roots of human culture throughout history and enjoyed globally by all generations.

I dance for the joy of it. I’m happiest when I don’t care what others think, when attention and approval don’t matter. The challenge is to focus on the sheer sense of freedom, release, expression, celebration; like a meditation, stepping inside of the music and the rhythm, allowing it to lead me.

Dancing Life

Dance Walking with a group of fellow sweet souls in downtown Portland, Maine. (Photo by Robyn Wiley, author of “My Happy Book: A Guided Journal to Light Up Your Life”)

Why don’t people dance down the street? I do. Usually by myself. Why is it considered normal to watch others perform, but not move your own body? I was delighted to find dance walking was a “thing”. Have you ever turned up the music and just danced your heart out? How about with your kids or loved ones? How did they respond?

This is a public health issue. Everywhere you look, people are stressed and frazzled; even little children. What is going on? The dangerous foreign invader that we keep missing is the epidemic of fear we’re carrying inside.

What if instead of fighting with themselves and others, people chose to turn up the music and sing or dance? Dancing can also help eliminate depression more than aerobic exercise or listening to music. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine considered 11 different physical activities. Researchers found that dancers have a sharper mind and are at a lower risk of developing brain disease in the long term than non-dancers. Dancing was the only activity of the 11 studied that lowered the risk of dementia by at least 76 percent.

I am a dancer. I dance because it comes from and nourishes my soul. I have to dance so I weave dance throughout my life. I make that effort because it made me miserable to deny myself this joy and the happiness of generally being myself.

WHAT DO YOU DO THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?

Even if it’s just for 5 minutes? It doesn’t matter what it is. Dancing is just an example. Try something different! What have you always wanted to try but felt like you couldn’t because of what others might think?

My point is sSelf Portrait Sept 16 2014imply that we can BE OURSELVES and DO WHAT MAKES US HAPPY in the context of our lives right now.  Hiding your true self and stuffing your truth is sure to make you sick and unhappy. I know because I’ve been there myself and I now know there is another choice.