We take it for granted that women can produce babies. I’ve had three pregnancies (although the middle one didn’t last longer than 9 weeks). I’ve marvelled at the beings growing inside of me, went through depression at how they made me feel in the early months (nauseaus), was kept awake at night as they kicked and squirmed intent on not allowing me to sleep, and marvelled at how I was growing a living thing inside me.
Many women’s bodies go through such a toll during pregnancy. But we sort of expect it to don’t we? When a woman complains of back pain – we cluck sympathetically but hey, that’s expected isn’t it? When a woman is seen waddling we nod knowingly and chuckle.
But post baby the world expects us to bounce right back to how we were before. But we are embarrased and mortified that our bodies haven’t shrunk back to it’s pre-baby size. I remember doing the math with my first baby : I put on about 10kg, my baby weighed 2.1 kg (she was a preemie), my boobs had grown in size somewhat but not enough to warrant the extra weight, amniotic fluid was gone, erm… what else? Oh yes – placenta – gone. Surely I was to be at least, AT LEAST 5 kg lighter yes? How depressed was I to find out I had barely lost 3 kg? Sigh.
One thing a few women discover is that their tummies don’t quite look the same after the pregnancy. I’m referring specifically to the jelly-like ripple of the abdomen. And how if you lie on your back, the skin seems to sink into a vertical line that goes through the belly button. The medical term is Diastasis Recti. Which means the rectus abdominus has split.
All right let’s ditch the medical terms. You know that Abercrombie & Fitch model that shows off his 6 pack? You know that line that goes right through the squares of muscle? That’s called the Linea Alba. When you are pregnant, you get bigger (duh) and the muscles (6 pack) are stretched. If a pregnant woman continues working her abs by doing crunches (for example) then this would cause great pressure from behind her abs, and may lead to these muscles splitting right down the middle – through the Linea Alba.
And when it’s split, there is a gap. If you lie down and try to lift your head and upper back up, there will be a domeing of your tummy – the internal organs are being pushed upwards because of the gap. The more crunches, the more pressure there is, and the wider the split will become.
A lot of women are mortified by this, but they don’t know what it is. They think they will never wear a 2 piece suit again. When your OBGYN is testing you after birth to see how many fingers wide you are, they are testing to see how wide the split is. 2 fingers the first month or so after birth is normal. But after that – not so normal.
What should you do? Let’s start with what you should not do.
- Don’t do crunches.
- Don’t get up from lying by coming right up – roll onto your side first
- Likewise, don’t lie down on your bed from a sitting up position reclining onto your back – roll onto your side first.
- Don’t ignore it.
You don’t want to put any pressure on the gap. It needs rehabilitation. Yes, I used the word rehab. It takes time, it takes work. But it’s necessary. A client today came in and she had a split 4 years ago after her 2nd pregnancy, this was her 3rd baby. She still has a gap. And, her lower back is hurting. Are they related? Maybe. You need to keep the abs strong, because this helps keep your back strong, and this in turn will help to ensure you are using proper body mechanics when carrying out your daily routines.
Remember my post about Niggles? We don’t want to ignore this one. Ladies, if you suspect you have a diastasis recti, then speak to a health professional. I am a pre/post natal pilates specialist and was trained by the Center for Women’s Fitness (USA). They have trained many other people like me to deal with a diastasis. On their website there is a list of their trainers. You may want to look them up to see if there is someone in your neighbourhood who can help.
I’ve gone in a round-a-bout route to home in on my point (I think I have one). Post natal women – if someone asks you if everything is going well post pregnancy, it’s okay to not paste a grin on your face, and answer in a super bright voice “yes everything’s just great! Just great!”. It’s fine to say that you’re depressed, your body is still enormous, and that maybe you have a ripple in your tummy and you’re too embarrased to talk about it. Having a baby is natural and wonderful, but it sure does cause some havoc on your body.
Sure, your body may be slightly broken. But let’s have a reality check : you’ve made a baby – inside of you! Your body changed dramatically, and you went through pain to bring your precious cargo into the world. So, I think you’ve earned the right not to be perfect.
Side note : Many women who have a diastasis don’t have the jelly ripple effect. If you feel like your lower tummy is just “out there” and you can’t seem to pull it in then you will need to get it checked. Let me know if you need to know how.