Firstly I must apologise. In my previous blogs I assured you there would be no half-dressed progress shots of my body because I am exercising for ME and to FEEL GOOD not because I am chasing the illusive “pre baby body”.  But I am going to have a tiny bit of flesh out – for a good cause! I want to make as many new mums as possible aware of Diastasis Recti – abdominal muscle separation – because I see so many women who have never heard of it, never been checked for it, throwing themselves back into exercise and doing more damage to themselves than good.

What is it?

Simply put – The right and left halves of the rectus abdominal muscle (your 6 pack muscles or where they would be if you had them!) spread apart tearing the connective tissue between them.  It sounds awfully nasty but it is not in all cases. The muscle thins and widens during pregnancy because the uterus is exerting so much pressure pushing against it and the pregnancy hormone relaxin has softened the connective tissue.

Is it common?

Absolutely.  It can even happen in men! But for the purpose of this blog I am only talking about women and pregnancy. Some separation happens in all pregnancies and is completely normal, but at least 30% of women, if not more, end up with a gap of more than 2.5 finger widths apart and this can be a problem if it is not addressed.  Reduced strength of the abdominal wall can lead to lower back pain and pelvic instability and seriously 9 months of that is enough!  4 months after having my second child I had constant lower back pain that was not getting any better and a trip to the physio revealed I had abdominal muscle separation – a gap of 3 finger widths above my belly button and a gap of 5 finger widths below.

What does this mean?

This just means I have to be very careful about the exercises I do and make a conscious effort to do things to help close the gap. Muscle separation does not require surgery and will go away – but this can take weeks or months depending on the severity of the gap and how sensible you are. Many traditional core exercises that you might think will help get rid of your “mummy tummy” like sits ups, crunches, bicycles and twists can actually make the gap worse and prevent it from healing. I have been given very, very gentle exercise from the physio and am learning to love slow walking and gentle swimming.

Why have I got an anchor on my tummy?

This is Kinesiotape applied by the Physio to make it easier for me to perform the abdominal strengthening exercises I need to do. The tape pulls the skin together to reduce strain on the belly and provide some relief from discomfort enabling deep breathing to do the exercises without too much difficulty.  The tape helps to stabilise the diastasis and prevent further separation while I work on re -strengthening my ab muscles.

What now?

Put simply – before you resume exercise after giving birth ask a health professional to check if you have abdominal muscle separation. If you do and it’s more than 2.5 finger widths apart you can officially say sit ups, crunches, twisting movements etc.  are off limits for the time being.  Get help from a professional experienced in post natal health and fitness to guide you through exercises that are safe and will help you strengthen your abdominal muscles and heal any separation.  Above all – Be sensible, be nice to yourself and take it easy!!!!!

There is no race to find your “pre baby body” again. As I have said before, I really don’t like that term. Let your old body go, embrace and love the new one that just created and nourished a life.

If you would like more information about the taping I have had done, strengthening your abdominal muscles (getting rid of your “mummy tummy”) exercises that are safe and exercises to avoid, here are some contacts you might find useful:

North Kincumber Physiotherapy – Natascha Flohr : (02) 4369 2922

Landete Health – Post Natal Fitness Specialists – Les and Kate : 0421854274