Updated: Apr 22, 2020
As I've mentioned, I'm a mother of two young children, 5.5 and almost 3. They're incredible. I'm grateful for them. Both were relatively easy pregnancies.
But WOW did they manage to leave their mark on me - physically.
What'd those kids do to you, girl?
I'm approximately ;) 5' 2.75" on a good day, and when I was pregnant, my stomach stuck out like a torpedo. The nurses at my OB even nicknamed me the bullet. I looked normal from the back, verrrry pregnant ("with twins"? ...insert eye roll here) from the front.
So, my abdominal area was overstretched and overworked... Little did I know that I would long for my stomach to look the way it looked when I was 3 months pregnant with my first: an adorable baby bump that looked like I may have just had a burrito for lunch.
Now, my distended, stretched out stomach looks like I'm about 3-4 months pregnant all of the time. Mom jeans and one pieces are a girl's new best friend. Thanks to breast-feeding and a new-found postpartum interest in running, I was able to knock the weight off.
But my stomach stubbornly refused to flatten itself. My innie belly button had become some odd outie and the excess skin on my stomach, like the stretched out remnants of a popped balloon, became a giant sagging frown.
I googled relentlessly trying to figure out what was wrong with my stomach, and talked to other friends who were also new mothers.
Girl, same. What'd you find?
I finally found a name for my new stomach's situation - diastasis recti- a condition especially common among petite postpartum women.
The abdominal wall generally separates to accommodate the growing uterus, and retreats to its original position after delivery. In some women, the trauma is too severe, and instead, it remains stubbornly open. That leaves us more vulnerable to abdominal injury, hernia, and a constant barrage of 'so when are you due?' questions from an absurdly large number of unwitting people, most of whom, in my experience, have been women.
For some reason, most physicians don't make you aware of this - you have to ask about it. And the only advice I've received has been 'take pilates' or 'consult a plastic surgeon'... the latter which is an elective surgery which requires a minimum 10K price tag, and a recuperation period that makes you unable to carry heavy items (e.g. a toddler) for at least a month.
How'd you diagnose it?
The self-diagnosis technique is the same they'll do at your physician's office.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
2. Place your arms behind your head, and do a slight crunch.
3. Take one hand and place it near your navel, then try to insert your fingers horizontally between the gap between your left and right abdominal muscles.
4. Count the number of fingers you can insert, width-wise.
5. Resume resting position.
Typically, a gap of 2 fingers or wider is considered Diastasis Recti.
How I tried to 'fix' it sans surgery.
So, I did some post-partum pilates classes. They didn't help.
I went to a physical therapist who (sort of) specialized in diastasis - but really, moreso pelvic floor therapy. That helped- a little.
Finally, I just went to a regular old pilates class at our local Y. I mentioned my injury and the teacher wasn't even aware of the term - fortunately I was at least reasonably informed so I could do modifications when I knew I shouldn't do a particular exercise. Finally, I started seeing some results.
Results?? Say more.
I didn't say a miracle. My stomach still looks like a prune- but less so. If I'm bloated, well - I look bloated. But the 2-3 finger separation I once had has narrowed, and it has done a tremendous job for my confidence.
Just committing to a regular Pilates routine has been helpful. But now that my routine has been entirely shifted due to my new job as a homeschool teacher, it has been hard to maintain.
In an effort to try to bring my routine home, I bought a nice, inexpensive Pilates Mat on Amazon, and a block; Fortunately Mat Pilates requires just about no equipment, though the same can't be said for Reformer Pilates.
As usual, American health care is backwards.
That being said, if I would have given birth in Europe, pelvic floor rehabilitation, which is also related to diastasis, is par for the postpartum care course. In the US, it's a total afterthought, which is largely considered an out-of network expense.
But, if Viagra and Cialis are considered medically essential... why wouldn't restoring your protective, abdominal wall and bladder control also count in that group? Things that blow my mind...
You can also have diastasis without having gone through childbirth. In fact, many men with potbellies generally also suffer from degree of it, too. (Maybe it that was better known, surgery would be considered medically essential!)
Do any of you have diastasis recti? Have you attempted to, or successfully remedied? Would love to hear from you.