Post Partum Health

Diastasis after pregnancy

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Since my last post I’ve had a second baby, another gorgeous boy. Looking after two is certainly keeping me very busy!

For the past 5 months I’ve been having physio for pregnancy related diastasic recti – ab split to you and I. After my second son was born my stomach felt so heavy I had to hold it up when I walked. My midwife diagnosed diastasis. Immediately after childbirth I had a 3 finger gap between the muscles running down the middle – my stomach resembled a huge balloon that had been slowly deflating down the middle. Attractive eh?

I wish I had clicked during my second pregnancy that my ab muscles had separated, I had some stomach muscle pain in the last few weeks and thought nothing of it. My son was also 2 weeks overdue – (that’s another post I need to write about)! Along with this pain on the right of my stomach, my bump went into a doming/v shape whenever I laid on my back or side.

Diastasis Fact
I have since learnt that there is a a higher risk of developing diastasis if you have a petite frame, have multiple pregnancies and/or two pregnancies in succession quite quickly. In my case I fell pregnant with my second when my first was 12 months old, and as he was still breastfed my body never really got rid of the pregnancy hormones, or had time to heal properly.

I’ve had two different physio’s, and seen a postpartum pilates instructor. This is some of the advice I’ve been given:

  1. Increase your water intake. Aside from being hydrated, water can help to improve the elasticity of the skin
  2. Exfoliate your body 2-3 times a week in a circular motion – this can help to rejuvenate the skin, increase blood circulation and replenish the elasticity 
  3. Keep your stomach well moisturised. I like to use Kokoso Coconut Oil as it leaves my skin nice and soft, is light and might help to reduce stretch marks. Yep, I couldn’t escape tiger stripes this time around!
  4. Eat well and try to lay off the cakes and unnecessary calories in pregnancy in the first place
  5. Lead an active lifestyle
  6. Post partum: wearing a tubular bandage around your stomach will compress and  encourage your ab muscles to push together. Plus I find whenever I wear my tubular bandage it forces me hold a better posture
  7. You really don’t need to pay a silly amount for diastasis recovery. I know there are a few websites and techniques which claim to work miracles at healing diastasis. But personally I think it’s a massive waste of money. A tubular bandage will cost you £5-£10. And gentle exercise at home doesn’t cost a thing!
  8. Accepting the fact that my ab muscles may never be fully ‘closed’

These are a few basic exercises I’ve been given from my physio and pilates instructor:

  1. Only exercise when you feel up to it. And stop when you start feeling it’s too much. You don’t want to set yourself back further by damaging yourself
  2. PELVIC FLOORS: Cannot emphasise how important it is to maintain your pelvic floor exercises after the pressure of carrying a baby for 9 months
  3. DEEP STOMACH BREATHING: This is one exercise I have done daily for the last 5 months x 20. Technique: Lie on the floor with your legs out straight. Pull up your pelvic floor, whilst breathing in tense your stomach, and push down so it feels like you’re trying to push your rib cage into your hips.
    I’ve been told a lot about contracting the inner muscles of my abs (transverse abdominis) which is the deepest muscle layer. Hence why almost all core restoration will focus on deep abdominal breathing and strengthening those muscles first
  4. SITTING EXERCISE: Sit on a chair and tense your glutes and ab muscles at the same time x 20
  5. HIP BRIDGE: 20 of these daily should help. I hold a pilates ball in between your knees to help strengthen your inner thighs at the same time
  6. HIP BRIDGE WITH EXTENDED LEGS: Raising one leg at a time (unilateral hip bridge). Same as above, but straightening and lowering one leg at a time – maintaining the hip bridge the entire time
  7. THE DEAD BUG: This exercise is great for strengthening the core (make sure you have the OK by your doc/physio before you do this). Lie on your back with both arms extended out front, and both legs raised and bent at a 90 degree angle. Tighten your abs and slowly straighten out one leg towards the floor and bring the opposite arm overhead towards the ground behind your head x 20
  8. SIDE PLANK: 30 seconds either side. No pulsing
  9. I could list several more exercises for diastasis. Your physio should be able to recommend a range of exercises relevant to your diastasis personally

5 months post partum and five physio sessions later my ab gap just below the breastbone has ‘closed’, and just a 1/2 finger gap above and below the belly button remaining. Still a while to go yet and I know with the physio exercises and tummy band I’ll strengthen my core even more and bring the ab gap closer – even if it never fully closes.

Disclaimer
a). If you have diastasis your midwife should refer you for physio at one of your postnatal home visits
b). Obviously a physio or medical professional is best placed to treat you. I’m just sharing what I’ve been told
c). Direct ab exercises such as sit ups, crunches and the plank can make diastasis worse. Mainly because the action of these exercises can make your stomach dome and your organs protrude through your ab gap. Nice eh! Avoid them at all costs until you’ve been given the all clear

 

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