Diastasis recti maybe what is keeping your jean and skirt from zipping up or fitting properly after childbirth because there is a separation in your abdominal muscle.
It is that frustrating pooch that doesn’t go away and often leads to the “when are you due” question even though your baby is 7 years old .
It is that thing that keeps you wearing body shaper and drinking all sorts of concoction that promises flat belly all with nothing to show for it.
For most women pregnancy and giving birth comes with a lot of joy and sometimes a tummy that refuses to get flatter no matter what you do.
It is in the quest to find out what the true cause of the pooch is that many women come across the term Diastasis recti for the first time in Nigeria. It is one of those things that women rarely talk about. They talk about their experience in the delivery room, potty training, the sleepless nights, the sore breast, episiotomy, perinea tear, scars, and sit bath.
But most never talk about their tummy that makes them look 5 months pregnant even though their baby is somewhere between 1 – 7 years and are reluctant to talk about the urinary, and pelvic problems they experience postpartum.
One major reason women don’t talk about Diastasis Recti (DR) is that you don’t want others to see how pregnancy has really changed your body; you want to show that you still have your “Mojo.” So you wear body shapers, tight fitting girdles and suck in your tummy and do everything else except the needful.
And it is not because you don’t want to do the needful. It is really not having the right information to help you take the right decision and step necessary in getting your body and confidence back.
The other reason is that you may believe that all women experience the same thing after pregnancy, so you keep quiet and bear it. The other woman also believes it’s normal and keeps quiet as well.
What you now have is a multitude of women from all over the world believing that Diastasis recti is normal and that it is normal for post partum women to have it.
Whenever you consider something normal, it gives you a measure of relief and prevents you from finding out what caused the problem and finding solution to it.
The knowledge of Diastasis recti comes sometimes months or years after giving birth when you realize that no matter the workout and diet plan you follow, you experience stays the same: you experience fat loss everywhere else except in your tummy which refuses to budge.
Instead, it maintains its pooch with unnerving tenacity even though you can now win a regional award on the number of crunches you can get off in 1 minute.
What exactly is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is when the right and left Rectus Abdominus muscles (your 6 pack) which covers the surface of your tummy separates, leaving a gap in between the muscles. The two sections of this muscle are connected by connective tissue called the linea Alba. When the two sections of the muscle separate and widen, stretching the linea Alba, a gap forms.
This gap is called Diastasis recti.
How will you know if you have Diastasis Recti?
There are certain signs to look out for:
- When you are coming up from a lying position on your back, do you see a “pooching” or hallowing or doming in your stomach?
- Do you still appear a few months pregnant even though your last baby might be anywhere from 6 months to 10 years?
- Do you still get the “Are you pregnant questions after 6 months to 10 years of having your last baby?”
- Is your belly still the same in spite of all your effort in exercising and eating healthy?
- Do you pee your pants when you cough, jump rope or jump onto a box.
If you are experiencing any of these signs; it is not normal
These may be signs of Diastasis recti.
To be sure you need to test yourself.
Testing yourself for Diastasis recti
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Relax your head and shoulders and place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button.
- Lift your head and neck very slightly until your shoulder blades are off the floor. At the same time press down with your fingertips and feel for how many fingers you can insert between your belly muscles. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers.
- If you feel a gap or have a separation of 2 or more fingers or, that’s the Diastasis.
- The separation may be above your navel, below or run straight down from above your belly to your lower abdomen.
It can be 2 – 4 fingers separation or greater between the two sides of the rectus
Abs separation is a common occurrence in pregnancy. As your baby develops it needs more space. Your abdominal muscle doesn’t really make this possible, so your linea Alba stretches to make room for your baby.
Your linea Alba is where your navel is located or the white line on your tummy. It is the line of connective tissue that runs from under your sternum to your pubic bone, and connects the two sides of your “six pack” muscles, also known as the Rectus Abdominus.
The stretched linea Alba becomes thinner and wider as the baby grows and this laxity leads to a separation between the abdominal muscles
This separation is called Diastasis recti.
This separation is not usually something to worry about as it’s expected to go back to its normal position after delivery. It becomes a cause for concern when the muscles do not go back to their original position months and even years after childbirth.
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Why is it a problem?
Apart from the desire to have a flat belly and look good and confident, the impact that Diastasis recti has on how your body functions on a daily basis is a cause for concern.
Your core muscles especially the rectus abdominus, Transverse abdominus and the internal and external oblique acts as a belt holding your belly and all of your organs in their places and helping them work together to give your core and spine stability.
However, due to the separation of the Rectus Abdominus in your mid-line or linea Alba, your intra abdominal pressure will either become low, difficult to manage or nonexistent.
This makes other parts of your body and muscles to work harder during your normal daily activity like walking , exercising and sitting to make up for the recti inability to function properly
It not only makes you look pregnant, it also affects your quality of life. Incontinence (peeing involuntarily when you sneeze, cough, jump or laugh), back pain, weak pelvic floor, altered posture; irregular bowel movement and sometimes painful sex are some of the effects of weak abdominal muscle.
With all these challenges, closing the Diastasis recti becomes essential to your functional and emotional health not just aesthetics.
Causes of Diastasis Recti
Diastasis recti is caused by excessive and uncontained pressure in your abdomen. One major pressure point is from pregnancy and childbirth; other things that can cause excessive pressure include sucking in your belly or holding in gas, retching when vomiting, poor posture when sitting or standing and high heel shoe.
Who can develop Diastasis Recti?
Although it’s common in post partum women, it can also occur in women that are not post partum. Because excessive pressure is the true cause, pregnant women are not the only ones who may develop Diastasis recti.
Even women who are extremely athletic (as well as men and children) may develop Diastasis recti if they have an unstable core or train in a manner that increases abdominal pressure. Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, even developed Diastasis recti!
How do you start the process of closing the separation?
The first step is to start training all your core muscles – the Transverse Abdominus, pelvic floor and your spine to start:
- Working again.
- Working together
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