Early on in my pregnancy I learned about this thing called diastasis recti. It’s a common condition caused by the separation of the abdominal ligament down the center of your abdomen from pregnancy, giving birth to a large baby (this was meeee), or picking up something heavy the wrong way! This separation can leave a woman looking pregnant even after giving birth and losing the extra weight. Why? The rectus abdominis acts like a corset keeping all your organs held in and stabilizing your core, when it’s weakened the gap makes your belly looked “pooched”. As if that’s not bad enough, it’s associated with a weak pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor is why you may pee when you sneeze or run now!
Things to know!
Though these condition aren’t always considered severe there are cases where you may need to see a professional. Speak with a doctor if you suspect you may have diastasis recti or you have developed a hernia. You should also take precautions while pregnant to make sure you don’t worsen the separation: like not letting your belly cone during workouts(or even rolling out of bed) or not lifting anything heavy. After giving birth avoid exercises that can put more pressure on the gap: crunches, planks, mountain climbers just to name a few. That’s right! Crunches will not flatten your tummy if the “pooch” is caused by abdominal separation, they’ll actually make it worse!
Yay! No crunches! Then what can you do if you have mild ab separation? I got you covered, girl! I have listed 4 simple exercises below to help close the gap. I used all these 6 weeks after giving birth. You want to start early because after 6 months the gap will be harder to close. But again get your doctor’s release to start working out. (even thought these are very low impact exercises and are usually safe to begin immediately.)
Now before we dive in to the fun part, I want to point out that you should be doing these exercises very slowly! Don’t rush. Focus on activating the necessary muscles as you do each movement and not how many reps you can get done.
Also, make sure your back remains flat and isn’t arched during each movement.
All exercises will be performed on you back so grab a yoga mat!
Start with knees up and feet planted.
On an exhale, Activate the muscles right above your hip bone and pull your belly button towards your spine. Imagine yourself pushing the gap together.
Lower one leg as far as you can without raising your spine off the ground.
Release muscles and take a breath as you bring your knee back up.
Repeat on other side.
2. Reverse Knee Raises
Start with knees up and feet off the ground. Make sure your calves are parallel with the ground. I’d say mine are not quite even enough.
Again on an exhale activate the same muscles and slowly lower toes to the ground. Remember to keep spine flat on the ground.
Release muscles and bring toes back up on an inhale.
Repeat with the other leg.
3. Lying Bent Knee Abductions
Again start on your back with knees up and feet flat on the floor.
On and exhale activate the same muscles, suck in your belly button, and lower you knee slowly to the ground. Only go as far as you can without arching your back.
On an inhale release the your muscles and bring the knee back up.
Repeat with the other leg.
4. Pelvic Squeezes
This one is the simplest. You don’t move anything!
On your back with feet up, activate your pelvic floor muscles like before and pull you belly button in towards your spine. Hold a few seconds.
On an exhale release.
You can put a pillow between your knees if it helps you activate your muscles.
That’s it guys! Aim for 5 rounds of 15 reps each leg. But give yourself grace, you just had a baby! If you can’t do every rep, don’t worry. Your muscles will start to strengthen and you can work your way up.
To read more about diastasis recti visit Babycenter.com. This is where I first learned about DR while pregnant.
Did you know about DR at the beginning or end of your pregnancy? Do you have any helpful fitness advice for new mother’s? Leave it all in the comments!