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By the time I found out I was pregnant I had reached the peak of my fitness journey. I was in the best shape I had personally ever been in, and had accomplished a lot of the fitness goals I had set for myself.
Upon reading the positive pregnancy test, I couldn’t wait for the big round belly, and that glow you often hear of. This feeling lasted until about 32 weeks into pregnancy when I had reached a point where my shoe literally busted its seam due to the uncontrollable swelling of my feet (the feet I could no longer see because of that big belly).
Don’t get me wrong, I was so grateful for the blessing and experience of carrying my daughter, but let’s be honest, we all reach a point where we just want that baby out!
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It was around this time that I also started to freak out about losing the weight I had gained, once I had my baby. Okay, when I say freak out, I mean like hyperventilating, sobbing on the living room floor begging my husband to tell me I’m beautiful, then turning right around and snapping some comments like “you don’t have to lie to make me feel better, I know I’m HUGE!” Poor guy.
Anyways, I am here to tell you that you don’t need to freak out and that you will lose that weight. Regaining my pre-pregnancy physique had become my number one goal. However, to my surprise, I found that before I could get back into a gym, I would first need to fix the separation that occurs in your abdominal muscles during pregnancy: diastasis recti.
I will get into that a little later as I break down the exercises for diastasis recti. Exercises, that I personally used to bring my abdominal wall back together in just 5 weeks.
*Disclaimer:* I am not a doctor or any type of medical professional. Please consult your doctor before attempting any of the following exercises. Depending on the circumstances, what worked for me, may not be suitable for you. I had a natural delivery and the healing process is very different from that of a C-section. Do not attempt without the approval of your doctor or provider.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti by definition is the separation of the abdominal wall. It is classified by a gap greater than 2.7 cm in width (about two fingers).
Determining Diastasis Recti
Start by lying flat on your back and placing one hand behind your head at the base of your skull and placing the other hand on your stomach just above the belly button
Using the support of your arm, gently lift your head up, chin to chest, keeping your shoulders on the ground. Using the hand on your stomach, take your fingers and gently press down into the mid line of your stomach, 1-2 inches above or below your belly button. A gap of two fingers or more is classified as diastasis recti.
Anatomy of Diastasis Recti
To fully understand how to “undo” this separation, we must first understand a bit of anatomy. There are four main muscle groups that make up the abdominal region of our bodies.
- Transverse Abdominis: The deepest layer of the abdominal muscles. It stretches from hip to hip and almost resembles a corset. Commonly referred to as TA muscles, these are the main support for out pelvic floor and do most of the work supporting your growing baby while pregnant.
- Rectus Abdominis: Commonly known as the “six-pack” this muscle stretches from pubic bone to rib cage. This is the visible part of what comes to mind when we think of someone having “abs.” The function of this muscle is to support motion between the upper and lower body.
- External Oblique: This muscle is the most superficial of all the abdominal muscles meaning they are the easiest to see, because they are the outer most layer. These muscles run horizontally up and down our sides connecting from hip to rib cage. The external obliques help stabilize the spine and allow us to twist and bend our bodies.
- Internal Oblique: Located just behind the external obliques, these muscles also help stabilize the spine and support the opposite side of the body from where each muscle is located. For example, when we twist our body to the right, we are contracting the left internal oblique and vice versa.
As you can see the abdominal region of our bodies, is a complex network of muscles all working together to keep everything connected and in place. During pregnancy this network of muscles work together to expand and make room for your growing baby.
Your TA (transverse abdominis) and pelvic floor act as a sling for your growing baby, and by the time you deliver, the integrity of those muscles have been compromised.
Along with the expanding TA muscles, the rectus abdominis (six-pack) have now separated creating a gap down the middle line of your stomach. This is diastasis recti, and what is commonly known as the “mom pooch.”
How I Fixed My Diastasis Recti
Now don’t panic, there are plenty of ways you can repair diastasis recti. It just takes some time, concentration, and proper technique.
First things first, set attainable goals for yourself. Know your body, and know what you can realistically expect out of it. Remember you just grew a human, and it took nine months. Give your body time to regain its strength and heal.
About a month before I gave birth, I had set a goal that I would give myself 3 months before I even stepped foot in a gym and at least 6 months to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. These goals were specific to my body, my pregnancy, and my pre-pregnancy BMI.
While I was pregnant, a trainer had given me some simple exercises for diastasis recti. About a week postpartum, I started doing these exercises at home, and when I went in for my 6 week postnatal checkup, my doctor told me that not only was I clear to go to the gym, but the gap had closed!
I’ll repeat, these exercises had completely fixed my diastasis recti by the time I had gone in for my 6 week check up! I was in shock, I could’t believe it, so I made a vow to myself to share these exercises with other mommas.
Beginner VS. Advanced
Just like any trauma to your body (surgery, car accident, etc.) you must start the healing process slowly. So I have created two different circuits according to difficulty.
Start with the beginner circuit, no matter what. This process will take loads of patience but I promise the results are worth it. Remember to avoid what is called coning-get familiar with this term.
Coning happens both during and after pregnancy. Its best described as a ridge or bulge that pops out down the middle line of your stomach. It typically occurs when an exercise is done improperly. To avoid this, follow one simple rule. Engage your core by keeping your belly button pulled in towards your spine.
This circuit contains 5 different exercises that are ideal for any momma that is just starting out. I recommend this circuit to everyone, especially in the beginning, becauae it will help you gauge your intensity and endurance levels. Do not push yourself, these exercises are not meant for that. You can move on to the advanced circuit once you are comfortably able to do the beginner circuit 3 times a day for a week.
- Pelvic Tilts- 10-20x
- Sliding Leg Extensions- 10-20x
- Pillow/Blanket Squeezes- 10-20x
- Arm Raises- 10-20x
- Lifted Leg Extensions- 10-20x
This circuit contains 4 moves that are more advanced than the ones we see in the beginner circuit. Like I mentioned before these exercises are not meant to push yourself, they are designed to help you heal and strengthen. Please do not attempt the advanced circuit if you are not ready or experience pain or coning of any kind. Go slow, listen to your body and move on when you are fully ready. That being said, when it is time to advance in your workouts, try and work up to doing the advanced circuit 3 times a day for a week.
- Hip Bridges- 10-20x
- Sliding Leg Raises- 10-20x
- Walking Hip Bridges- 10-20x
- Alternating Arm & Leg Extensions- 10-20x
It is important to remember that everyone is different and what has worked for me, may not work for you. Please be cautious in attempting any exercise, and please consult your doctor before trying any of these. I talked with my doctor before attempting these exercises and went as slow as my body needed.
I also had a natural delivery, and I know the healing process for a C-section is extremely different. Do not try these exercises if you have had a C-section.
Give Yourself Time to Heal
Your body just performed a miracle and grew a baby over a span of 9 months. The healing process will take time. Set attainable goals for yourself, and listen to your body.
It is important to remember not to push yourself too hard. Go slow and be patient. The results will come and they will be so worth it. This is my story and my journey, that I am sharing to help other mommas.
What did you do to help your body heal from labor and delivery? I love hearing from my Mommas and would love for you to share your stories, progress, and victories! We are all in this Momma club together, and I would love nothing more than to celebrate your triumphs big or small!
Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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