Does your stomach look like it is dented peculiarity after giving birth, and you suspect that it's not normal?
Well, funnily enough, you are not the only one as half of the women who have given birth will experience diastasis recti, a condition impacting the muscles in your stomach.
In this article, we will talk about what diastasis recti is in more detail, how to know if you have it and what exercises can you do to help get your stomach back to having a strong core which you will need especially now that you have a new baby to keep up with!
What Is A Diastasis Recti?
When your body is brewing a baby inside it, the anatomy is changed as there needs to be room in your body for the baby to grow. The muscles that are in the abdomen separate as the tissue stretches.
These muscles are split into the left side and the ride side and because of this, a noticeable indentation running down the middle can be seen.
It is normal for there to be some of this separation but when the gap between the muscles is quite extensive, it is considered as being diastasis recti.
Diastasis recti are so common that one in two women who have just given birth will have it.
The symptoms of this condition include feelings of weakness in the abdomen as well as pain in the back which can range in severity.
Usually, the muscles will heal by themselves and will go back to their original place, but it can take a bit of time and if you are feeling the physical effects of diastasis recti as well as the general feeling of a lack of confidence then there are some exercises that you can try that will help you speed up the recovery.
How To Know If You Have Diastasis Recti
Before we get into the exercises, we will first talk about the ways in which you can check whether you really have diastasis recti.
You can visit your doctor to get a professional opinion, but there is also a way that you can check for yourself by doing some simple physical tests.
The test begins with you lying down on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent.
Then, lift your head up off of the floor like you would if you were doing crunches, engaging the abdominal muscles.
Take your finger and feel along the indentation by starting at the naval and running your finger slowly above and below it.
If you are able to press down your fingers, it may be a sign that your abs are separated.
Do not panic though because keep in mind that it is normal for the abs to be a bit separated after childbirth but if the gap measures wider than three fingers then it is classed as diastasis recti.
If you do have diastasis recti, you should not be experiencing any pain from the ab separation itself, but you may feel core weakness and find daily tasks such as lifting heavy things more difficult.
You may also be able to feel a certain jelly-like texture in your stomach when you feel along the gap when your abs are contracted.
Healing Diastasis Recti
Rebuilding your core strength from the inside out is how you recover from diastasis recti.
The main muscle that you need to strengthen is called the transverse abdomonis muscle which is the deepest one in the abdomen and gives structure to the rest of them.
The basic and straightforward at-home workouts shown below can aid in the rebuilding of your TVA muscle.
However, it is also critical to recover strength in your pelvic floor, which acts in tandem with your ab muscles. When performing these exercises, remember to breathe and activate your pelvic floor.
The more TVA you strengthen, the more tension you will experience. Track your development over time; when your gap feels somewhat robust, like a trampoline, you should be ready to add more ab exercises.
Avoid crunches and planks until you've restored ab strength and begun to bridge the gap in your abdomen because practicing exercises that are too demanding might exacerbate the diastasis recti.
Exercises For Diastasis Recti
It is recommended that you do not do all of these exercises at once straight after you have given birth as it might be too overwhelming for your body.
To prevent any harm or discomfort, you should consult with your doctor before you do any of these exercises.
For this move, start off with going onto your hands and knees whilst relaxing your back.
Next, take a deep breath in and then exhale with a kegel exercise. Draw your tailbone downwards and curl your spine.
Return to your starting position as you take another inhale and keep your glutes relaxed.
Do this exercise 10 times but make sure that you do not rush through it and instead take it nice and slow for the best impact.
Kegel And Umbrella Breathing
From a standing position, slightly bend your knees. You can also sit on a chair or yoga ball instead if you prefer.
Take a deep inhale and expand your rib cage then exhale whilst engaging a kegel.
Empty out all the air that is inside you, beginning in your stomach, middle, then chest with your abdomen muscles engaged as you do it.
Leg And Arm Extension
Start off on your hands and knees and exhale your breath and take your core up towards your spine.
Keep your core contracted as you inhale again and out your right arm straight out ahead of you with your left leg extended in the air behind you so that it is parallel to the ground.
As you exhale, tap your right elbow and left knee together and inhale again as you put them back into the starting position. Do this exercise 10 times on both sides.
Leg Extension With Weights
To begin with, you should try these leg extensions without adding any weights, and then once you feel comfortable, you can add weights that weigh no more than two pounds.
Begin this exercise lying flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart and then take a breath in and take your knee to the tabletop position which looks like you are sitting on a chair, but you are horizontal instead of vertical.
Then lift your arms up so that they are framing your knees.
As you breathe out, take your leg into a high diagonal position and put your arms overhead sightly but remember to keep your back straight.
After this, move back to the tabletop position and do this for 10 reps on both sides.
Double Leg Extension
When you are able to do a single leg extension, you can try to go a bit further and do a double leg extension.
Like the previous exercise, you can start this off with no weights before adding them once you feel comfortable doing so.
Start off in tabletop pose and breathe in as your arms frame your knees before breathing out and reaching your legs into a high diagonal with your arms overhead.
This is a great exercise to do instead of a high plank as it is completely safe for your body as it is still recovering from childbirth. Side planks are also a fantastic exercise for hip pain relief.
Begin with your elbow placed directly underneath your shoulder with your top leg stacked in front of your other leg with both feet touching the floor.
Keep your hips and shoulders stacked and in line with your feet and head.
Things To Avoid When You Have Diastasis Recti
It is safe to do any of the following maneuvers if you can accomplish them with correct core engagement. The issue is that having diastasis recti makes proper interaction difficult.
Doming and bulging refer to the bulge that appears on your tummy when you attempt to do a maneuver without fully engaging.
If you see your stomach forming a bread loaf shape or a bulge coming out of your midline, it suggests you're placing pressure on the connective tissue and should cease the exercise.
Yoga techniques like backbends might feel great, especially if your back is sore from pregnancy, but they can put a lot of strain on your already weaker connective tissue between your abs.
You want to avoid overstretching this tissue with a backbend so that you don't accidentally weaken it.
You must remember to give your body plenty of time to heal after going through childbirth as it is a very physically demanding time and resting will let you recover faster from it.
The human body is pretty amazing and in time, it will start to heal from the diastasis recti but by doing the exercises in this guide, you can start to build up your strength again.
Do not try to rush this process though and do not be too hard on yourself. Pushing your body beyond its limits during this time will only cause more harm than good.
If you are experiencing pain with these exercises, then you should stop doing them and consult with your doctor.
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