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When your abs separate ...

Many, many of us mamas grapple with our post-partum health.  Can someone offer their experiences and advice on what to do when your abs divide?  Lesley emails:

I have Diastasis Recti, the separation of my abdominal muscles due to my gigantic tummy during both pregnancies. (I first had a cesarean, then a VBAC, which I hear compounds the problem but is not a prerequisite).  It's time I deal with it.  Two years after the birth of my second (and last) child, it's not going away alone.  It wasn't noticeable after my first birth, so I didn't even know about it, much less do exercises to strengthen my abs. I felt like the pilates I was doing once a week after my second birth was not enough.

My muscles are a good 3 fingers apart and I've read that it can lead to back and other health issues
as I get older. So, I'm looking for resources to help me heal and fix my body. Do you have this, too? Have you been handling it with results?  Does anyone know a person who treats this? I'd prefer to do exercises; Surgery is pretty scary to me.  Help! It's not only a health issue, but I'm tired of having this poochy, saggy tummy!


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Check out the book Lose The Mummy Tummy. I thought is was worth owning for pregnancy as well as recovery. Good luck.

Try bellydance - when I used to teach, some of my students had wonderful results getting rid of post-partum "belly sag". It could take a few months, but it should help a bit!

I feel you mama. I have the same thing and have been laughing about it. But truthfully, it's pretty scary to think it's here to stay. I'd love to find out more ways to help. Perhaps the ab work I constantly put off may be the only way.

I ran a new mom's support group for many years back in Atlanta, so I saw this a lot. I had a guest speaker who was a physical therapist, Tara Burke, come and check the moms quite often. We always found a couple of mom who had bad separations.

To fix....

lie on floor with large beach towel under you... as if you are about to do sit up....then instead of a sit up cross the towel across those muscles so that the towel is giving you a firm hug.... lift your chin... release.... do 10 or 20 of these a couple of times a day within a couple of weeks, the separation should be coming back together..... do not attempt regular sit ups until your abs are back in place with one finger separation or less... otherwise you could be doing yourself some serious harm.

I second the Mummy Tummy book recommendation. I wouldn't call it a particularly well-written book, but it does have very basic, yet pregnancy-specific, exercises to help with ab separation. I used these exercises during pregnancy to strengthen my abs and afterwards to get rid of my two-finger-wide diastasis.

thank you all so much! it's good to hear from others out there with this; i'll check out every bit of information and advice that i can!

philomom, do you roll the towel under your lower back or do you lay it under you flat perpendicular to your body?

thanks. cheka

You and the towel make a plus sign on the floor. That way the long ends of towel can be used to give yourself the bear hug across those muscles you are trying to pull together.

I think it may be time for a physical therapist. I have an extremely physically demanding job and tried many other approaches to "get back my abs. My old routines didn't seem to work. I went to a PT and I learned it's much more complex then just "getting muscles back." It's reteaching your body (muscles) to work together. Anyway--I loved loved my PT and will recommend if you'd like.
good luck and great of you to motivate!

i'd certainly take a referral to a pt. does yours (or any?) specialize in post-pregnancy recovery? i wonder if anyone does or if the cause of condition is irrelevent.
thank you. i'm going to try exercises but also in the back of my mind i think i might need professional help (in more ways than one! hee hee. )


OK--I've used David and he has been kind, patient, very empathetic and helpful! Here's a link to their site so you can get #, address and see what insurance they take. They were planning on starting to offer classes that included post-baby classes last I heard, too.
good luck! You'll be glad you went! He'll give you exercises specific to your needs and write them down so you can make yourself do them all week at home!

Diastasis is very real and affects 2/3 of women postpartum and during pg. IF your rectus abdominals(6 pack) have split postpartum, there are certain moves you need to avoid so that it does not worsenand affect alingment and cause back pain.

1) any fexion (bending forward) w/out support of abdominals.
2) Major twisting/ rotation.
3)Major extension (yoga "snake', drapping yourself over a ball backwards)

To assist in repairing this (getting your 6 pack to "weave" back together)
1)draw abdominals to your spine WITHOUT ALLOWING YOUR ABS TO BULGE whenever you are exerting or bending forward (lifting baby, car seat, emptying dishwasher)
2)Only rotate 50% of norm.
3) Strengthen your transverse abdominals (inner home depot belt)+ obliques Becuz these are still intact.
4) Definately see a PT if your separation is greater than 2 fingers width.
5)Pilates is very helpful postpartum because all exercises are started by recruiting your abdominals w/ out bulging. Needs to be practiced minimum of 3x week for major results.
6)Use manual support as you do abdominal exercises.
Lie on back. Place a theraband or towel under back at the highest point of your separation. Hold ea end of towel in opposite hand (criss cross). As you exhale, engage your abs, draw them towards spine WITHOUT ALLOWING YOUR ABS TO BULGE. Pull the towel across and towards your belly as you do this.Inhale release teh pressure , exhale repeat. Do this 10x then move band or towel down 2"-3". Repeat. Keep doing this, traveling down your back until you are at the lowest point of separation. Do this 5x week for 3-4 weeks and you should notice significant results!

thank you all; it's really good hearing from everyone, but especially helpful and supportive to hear advice specifically related to this... it's not your average post pregnancy belly stuff.
i appreciate it.

I know you said you did pilates but I would also like to recommend Wendy Foster of divinepilates who specializes prenatal and postpartum work. She is great and can work with you privately or in a class.

The best results (without surgery) are possible if new mamas allow the muscles to heal for a good 5-6 weeks postpartum. I know there is a very strong urge to get back to ab exercises and lose the postpartum belly, but introducing intense ab workouts too early can actually have the opposite effect, making it more difficult for the muscles to come together after pregnancy.

You can look through a list of exercising equipment that can help you build healthy strong core here: http://www.absflat.com/ and read the reviews. But you should really start paying more attention to your ab muscles and exercise gently and more often.

Do Beach Body's Brazilian Butt Lift, it's an over all workout. I'm getting results & I'm on week 5.

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