“I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”
Like Jennifer I too have a lovely baby bump. Having had nine babies there are those that will tell me it’s just part of motherhood and I should embrace it, but I don’t accept that!
Most share this message to say love your body. Of course I agree with that, but today I have a different message. It’s fine to be sad about your bump. It’s ok to wish it away. It’s normal to have your feelings hurt when people ask if you are pregnant. It’s understandable to hate the fact that none of your clothes fit right. It’s perfectly acceptable to cry about it. It’s common to wear shape wear. Ladies it is ok to do whatever you want to do so that you can walk out that door feeling confident and beautiful. You are amazing and you deserve to feel like your outside reflects what’s on the inside!
It’s especially ok to say “I’m not going to let this baby bump hang around!” Yes, we need to have realistic expectations. We need to give ourselves time, but a baby bump does not have to be permanent. A long-lasting baby bump is often the result of a condition called diastasis recti, and I’ve got good news for you, YOU CAN HEAL IT!!!
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti occurs when the left and right halves of the abdominal muscle (Rectus Abdominis) separate. You then only have a thin band of tissue connecting these two halves of the muscle which is not enough support for all of your internal organs. Your belly then bulges out because there isn’t anything strong enough to hold it in. Diastasis Recti can also lead to other problems such as a weak pelvic floor and lower back pain.
After my 6th child I had a gap that my entire hand could fit inside. Through careful work I was able to narrow that gap down to two fingers and keep it there throughout pregnancies 7 and 8. Three months after baby #9 and I don’t have a noticeable gap at all.
Preventing Diastasis Recti
The focus of both prevention and healing is to focus on exercises that pull your core muscles in and up while avoiding exercises that cause them to push forward. For example sit-ups are absolutely horrible for diastasis recti, yet most people are regularly doing them! Pelvic tilts, on the other hand are excellent. When getting out of bed I’d be willing to bet that you sit straight up and then swing your legs over the edge of the bed; am I right? If you struggle with a baby bump try this instead, roll onto your side and then push up with your arms to avoid putting pressure on those stomach muscles.
Prenatal yoga is one of my favorite ways to strengthen my body in a safe and gentle way. It is important to maintain focus on pulling the navel in and up throughout the session. Yoga moves can easily transition from helpful to damaging if you allow your form to engage incorrectly. Be especially careful during twisting moves, as these can tend to push muscles outwards as we try to twist more than our body is ready to do correctly.
When doing other exercise programs simply be careful to focus on keeping that abdominal wall pulled in and up throughout the program. If joining an exercise class keep in mind that most instructors are not educated about the cause and risks of diastasis recti. It is best to research specific modifications on your own before attending class, so that you will know what to do.
Wearing a maternity support belt during pregnancy is another useful prevention tool. By relieving giving extra support to your abdominal muscles you can help prevent the ligament stretching that causes a stubborn gap.
Healing Diastasis Recti
So how do you know if you have a problem? Follow the steps in this video to find out if you have diastasis recti and how big your gap is.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when talking about diastasis recti. While many women are able to heal their gaps through a focused exercise regimen combined with belly binding there are those who need to consider surgery to repair the stretched out fascia muscles. Unfortunately this seems to have a lot more to do with luck or genetics than it does how hard you work postpartum to close the gap.
There are arguments both for and against belly wrapping as a healing tool for a large gap. Many say that it allows the ligament to retract and regain it’s tight elasticity. Others say it can squeeze your internal organs out-of-place leading to a uterine prolapse or bladder incontinence. Here’s what I think after doing a lot of research: binding is helpful, when done properly and in conjunction with an appropriate exercise regimen. Binding should be snug, but not tight. You should still be able to move and breathe easily. Binding should not be worn all day every day, your muscles need a chance to work on their own if you want them to get stronger. I use a Squeem for every-day wear under clothes. Supportive shapewear is also a good option for support without excessive squeeze. I also have an EzyFit for a little extra support without too much squeeze while working out. I do not wear my binder to bed and only wear it for a few hours each day. I would not recommend a tight corset, waist trainer, or anything that restricts your breathing or movement.
Binding on its own will do more harm than good. You also need a good exercise regimen. An exercise program needs to focus on strengthening the abdominals in conjunction with the pelvic floor and back. As a former Certified PErsonal Trainer I am comfortable just working out on my own at home or at the gym. You aren’t likely to find a DR friendly class at your local gym. Armed with the knowledge shared here, however, you should eb able to modify any program to work for you. If you don’t mind working out at home there are several great options. Lindsay Brin has an excellent post natal slim down DVD if you are looking for a simple work-out. If you want a more intense program check out the MuTu system or The Dia Method. These are a bit more expensive, but are also more focused specifically on healing your diastasis recti.
Love Yourself, but Strive for Your Best Self
Now I have to add that it’s important to love your body the way it is. You have accomplished something amazing by growing and birthing a new life. Honor those tiger stripes mama; you earned them! Then go ahead and tell yourself this isn’t the best you can be and you want, no you DESERVE more! You are of infinite worth and should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Sometimes that just means altering our mindset, but often it means working on altering our physical appearance in a healthy manner. Most often it requires both working together. Give yourself grace to be where you are while still striving to be the best self that you know you can be.
Do you have diastasis recti? What methods have you used to heal it? Please feel free to share any additional tips or resources in the comments.