The Dreaded Baby Bump and Why it Just Won’t Disappear

 

 

“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.”

-Jennifer Garner

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.

Curbing the Crazies During Pregnancy

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Everyone knows that us pregnant ladies are a little nuts. We can’t help it, it’s the hormones fault!! However, as a mama with 6 other littles at home I can’t just give in to the irrational irritability all the time. Some days I do better at curbing the crazy than others, but here are some of my go to tricks for keeping myself under control.

Raspberry Leaf Tea

My giant mug|smithsquad.com|red raspberry leaf tea|organic pregnancy tea
This time my big mug was full of hot chocolate and marshmallows, I’ll let you imagine the tea.

OK, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical about this one at first. I heard about it several pregnancies ago, and never actually tried it until now, with baby #8. I am actually quite amazed by how well it works! I have a giant mug that I put 2 bags of Organic Pregnancy Tea and 1 bag of Celestial seasonings fruit tea in. I really like the Raspberry Zinger and the Peach Sleepytime tea is also really great, especially right before bed. I’ve been doing this once or twice a day and seen pretty impressive results. My episodes of craziness have definitely decreased. I forgot to drink any for a few days and yesterday I was getting rather nutty. Had a big mug last night and another one this morning. My mental state is definitely on a much more even keel now.

Epsom Salt Bath

In addition to the crazies I tend to get leg cramps and restless leg syndrome in later pregnancy. These are often caused by a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency can also cause nausea, fatigue, and insomnia; all of which can contribute to that irrational irritability. It can also lead to pre-eclampsia or preterm labor. One easy way to get some extra magnesium is by taking an epsom salt bath. Added bonus a warm bath in and of itself can be VERY relaxing and rejuvenating. I really love Dr. Teals Epsom salts that also include essential oils. The Chamomile and Lavender are my favorites, though it is recommended to wait till the second trimester to use oils during pregnancy. For an added dose of relaxation play some soft music or meditation tracks and enjoy your pregnancy tea while you soak. Yesterday when my crazies were especially present I sat in the bath for over an hour while the youngest kids napped and the older ones watched a movie. I drank my tea, read “The Gift of Giving Life” and did some deep breathing. It was magical!

Yoga

prenatal yoga|smithsquad.com|cosmic kids yoga|yoga for relaxation
The kids like to do yoga too, and they get the same calming benefits.

Yoga is something I discovered with my 4th pregnancy. We had joined the YMCA and I started attending classes. I was blessed with an amazing instructor who was great at giving me modified poses as I progressed during my pregnancy. Those modifications are definitely necessary, so if you can find a prenatal class in your area it will be better for you than a regular class. I also have a few DVD’s that I love to do when I can’t get to the gym. In the Gaiam Prenatal Yoga DVD there are three examples, one for each trimester, so you can follow along with the woman who most accurately represents your current abilities. In the Elements Prenatal Yoga DVD there is only one instructor, but she does tell you how to modify if necessary as you grow larger. This one also includes a postnatal yoga routine. One reason why yoga is so relaxing is because of the deep breathing that is consistently encouraged throughout the practice. By relaxing your breath you can also relax your mind.

Meditation

This is something that I am admittedly not very good at. My mind goes a mile a minute and it is hard to shut it down. I have started consciously deep breathing and trying to empty my mind each evening before bed. I use this time to try to connect with my body and my baby. I imagine her moving around in my belly and picture what it will be like when she is born. Visualizations are very powerful in accomplishing a peaceful and empowering labor. When I am able to focus back on these moments during my labor and slow down my breathing in the same way it calms my mind and reduces pain. When I do it during pregnancy it allows my mind and body to relax and washes away the tensions that cause all my irritability.

Iron Intake

I am definitely prone to anemia during pregnancy. For me this manifests as EXTREME lethargy and tiredness in both mind and body. It is incredibly difficult to remain calm with an emotionally immature child when my brain is just not fully functional. I try to really focus on high iron foods while pregnant, but still often need an iron supplement to get me through. I can feel a HUGE difference when I forget to take it (which happens much more often than I’d like to admit).

Fresh Air and Sunshine

curbing the crazies in pregnancy|smithsquad.com|fresh air and sunshine|vitamin d deficiency in pregnancy
Getting outside with the kids gives me fresh air and sunshine along with a little exercise. I do lots of squats while photographing little ones.

Vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to lethargy and tiredness. As a species we spend FAR more time indoors than we have in years past. This, along with several other causes, is leading to Vitamin D deficiency being very common. Getting outside to take in the fresh air and sunshine for 20-30 minutes a day can make a huge difference. It has also been proven that simply being in nature can help reduce stress and increase satisfaction and happiness. Sometimes, however, the most beneficial thing for me is to send the kids out for some fresh air and sunshine while I hide inside and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet!

Get Active

I know it is soooo hard to do when you are exhausted and grumpy, but regular exercise can really help you get out of the doldrums. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy, simply going for a walk or a swim can work wonders. I love the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp and Catherine Cram. Dr. Clapp has been studying pregnant women for decades, and this book is exceptionally well researched and written. they discuss the effects of exercise on pregnancy, postnatal recovery, and milk production. They also give great advice on developing an exercise routine and maintaining healthy nutrition.

Hopefully something in here will help you curb the crazies during your own pregnancy. I’ll be the first one to say I’m no expert at following them all myself, but when I do I know that they work!

Do any of these things work for you? What other tips do you have for expectant mom’s to help keep their emotional state on a more even level?