MOMMY'S BODY AFTER BABY:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BUT NOTHING MUCH’S SAID.
Confinement period done? Checked.
Postnatal massage done? Checked
Doctor checkup done? Checked.
“Ah, time to flatten out this rounded postpartum jelly belly. Let’s hit the floor with a good circuit training of crunches, planks, oblique curls, push-ups and burpees, right?”
I understand because I’ve been there! I had learnt the hard way after my firstborn’s delivery. After 6 weeks of rest, I’d felt physically strong. So I was back to my usual yoga practices and running, back to back with the new task of managing a baby (bending, squatting, lifting). As a result, I’d hurt myself. Without the important knowledge of postnatal fitness to dos and don’ts, the recovery of my body from within took a longer route. Almost 2 years in fact.
Sure, we yearn to put on those pre-preggie clothes and perhaps, prance around at the beach like the celebrities. But health from within? Gradual strengthening of core and pelvic floor? No one has mentioned that before.
“Its ok. This pooch can be a valiant badge of motherhood.”
Really? Should you just “accept” it? HELL NO!
This is a time to take care of yourself. Too often, women suffer with this condition for years, wearing protection to keep their urine leaks from showing on their clothes, tolerating pain during sex, and convincing themselves that the weird feelings down there are just part of the price we pay for being women and bearing children.
SO, WHAT IS THIS MOMMY POOCH?
When coming up from a lying position on your back, you see a ‘pooching’ or ‘doming’ of your stomach, especially. Sometimes you appear still a few months pregnant.
It turns out the jelly belly actually has a medical name: Diastasis Recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles. Also associated with a weak core (and pelvic floor). This can lead to a lack of strength and stability in the entire pelvic region and midsection, such as pee- leaks and backaches.
WAIT. DIASS…WHAT? HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Diastasis Recti arises during pregnancy because the growing fetus pushes the abdominal muscles apart — specifically the rectus abdominal muscles, the muscles that give you a 'six pack, and they go vertical from head to toe.
The rectus abdominal muscles should be right next to each other, on either side of the belly button. However, during pregnancy, a gap opens up between the muscles, right around the belly button. Sometimes that gap closes on its own, but other times, it stays open.
That leaves a spot in the belly where there is very little muscle to hold in your stomach and other organs, a spot that can be 1 to 2 inches wide. That lets the organs and overlying tissue bulge out — and cause mommy pooch.
In rare occasions, the tissue in the abdomen is also torn a bit. This can cause a hernia. If there's a defect in a layer of tissue called the linea alba, then the bowel can poke through and that's going to be more dangerous.
Look below for examples to understand a little more.
Fig.1. An example of a protruding belly while crunching. Also, An obvious sign: lying down and contracting your abdominal muscles, alike crunches, and the stomach protrudes. Another sign- belly button is an ‘outtie’ instead of the usual ‘innie’
Image Dome shaped: 3 finger gap vs half finger gap
The different types of Diastasis Recti.
SHOULD I BE CONCERN ABOUT THIS?
This addresses all women who have delivered a baby.
Let’s put it this way:
For many women the gap remains widened at 8 weeks, and left untreated, this distance at 8 weeks remains unchanged at 1 year postpartum. Surgery is sometimes considered if the separation has not improved with more conservative interventions.
Yes, diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems tend to go together as they are both symptoms of having an uncoordinated core and faulty internal pressure system.
Women- months, years, even decades- after childbirth may be facing the same challenges because they never reconnected with their cores. Until you address it, these issues won’t go away!
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE IT?
A simple way to check for diastasis recti:
DOES THAT MEAN FLAT TUMMIES ARE OK?
The thing is, it isn't the same for everyone. The mommy pooch may not necessarily equate to Diastasis Recti, and you can have a decent sized gap with no pooch.. Heck, this topic may be complicated. However, in all certainty, we have delivered a baby and with that, we ought to practice mindfulness in our fitness regime towards our bodies. Do your check! We can recuperate, strengthen and tone the right and smart way, not the hard and hurtful way.
I HAD A POSTNATAL MASSAGE AND WORE BINDERS, THAT’S NOT ENOUGH?
Water retention is out of the way,the uterus is back to its size, and you wore a split, or abdominal binder, to flatten the stomach. But you have yet to restore stability in the midline. Most experts say that wearing a binder is not a sustainable solution. In fact, wearing an external support device for long periods can inhibit the muscles proper functioning.
Also, simply doing basic ab exercises with the midline splinted closed is not effective.
Both of these common, yet less effective, methods do not teach the transverse abdominis to do its job -- stabilization -- properly.
EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT THE CORE. WHAT IS ‘THE CORE”?
I don’t mean your abs. These muscles include the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, multifidus and pelvic floor muscles. You need all these muscles to be in good working condition to help support your body. It is important to properly engage your transversus abdominus muscles. This will ensure that you have an optimal loading pattern when moving around throughout your day.
TICK TOCK. WHEN CAN I START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?
The general recommendation is to wait about six weeks post-pregnancy. I have found this to be still very effective during the first 6 to 12 months following delivery. And No! you are never too late. You can do the right exercises at any stage postpartum, improve the gap and rebuild your core.
HOW LONG POSTPARTUM CAN I PLANK AND WORK MY ABS?
No exact number of weeks or test or criteria that say – you’re ready.
YOUR BODY’S CLEAR SIGNALS THAT IT IS NOT READY OR STRONG ENOUGH TO DO WHAT YOU’RE ASKING IT TO DO.
OH! WHAT SHOULD I AVOID DOING?
Skip any movement or exercise that places strain on the midline or causes the belly to bulge outward, like crunches, sit-ups and planks. When this action is repeated forcefully, and frequently, the degree of separation can actually worsen.
NOT TO DO (Not a comprehensive list but types to avoid)
I BEG TO DIFFER. I DON’T THINK CRUNCHES ARE BAD.
Now, I don’t think a crunch is categorically awful, but a personal experience and common sense suggest it can be counterproductive in the wrong circumstances.
Unless you ensure that you are engaging the right muscles, pressure with the right breathing techniques and not strain the pelvic floor, why go through all that worry and risk? There are many other exercises one can do to obtain physical strength, recuperate and tone in the right way.
HOW SHOULD I DO IT THEN?
Think of your abs as a corset that goes from the hip bones up the ribs, and think of the action that you would do to tighten the corset: Both hands pull towards the center from the sides. Only working the oblique muscles will bring the two abdominal walls back together.
Importantly, we want QUALITY of the deep transverse muscle activation during exercise, so that we not only narrow the gap, but we restore and use these deep muscles to gain function and strength.
In short, we 'recuperate+ strengthen+ tone', rebuilding improved core strength, reduce potential back pain, reduce waist size and gain a flatter tummy!
Click the following button to learn the right method and get started already!!
Lynn Tham, is a blogger, speaker, prenatal and post-natal fitness advocate, a mother of 2 girls aged 3years old and 4 months, owner and co-founder of The Fierce-Hearted, a company that promotes and is centered on the recognition, wellbeing and a voice for mothers. She endeavours to be open to whatever the universe throws in her way and practices her yoga off her mat, most times with her baby. As a teacher, she strives to share information of health and fitness to what most mothers are deprived of. Through her classes, she makes fitness accessible and possible, encouraging each mom to tap into their own strength so as to grow both physically and mentally. Come join her, the lovely community of moms and their adorable babies in these sessions!
All 3 of us sisters will be sharing stories from our different perspectives. The good, the bad and the ugly, we're telling it as it is.