Diastasis Recti/abdominal separation – stretching of connective tissue.

I was at a party recently telling a woman- what I do for a living. When I got to the part about helping women recover from diastasis recti – she shook her head indicating I had lost her on those words. “You know- mummy tummy, mamma pooch. When your abs separate post partum and you always look pregnant even though you are not.” Now the lady looked scared. “Separate post partum?” She had never heard of that and it sounded awful. What happens to your guts? She wanted to know.

This conversation is not a new thing. Many if not most women have never heard that your abs can separate during pregnancy. However what was shocking about my encounter with this woman is that she discovered right then and there, at this party that she herself has a diastasis recti. Yes I had her lay down and gave her the quick 20 second test on her abs and sure enough they were separated at the midline. Needless to say she was shocked and a bit angry. Shocked that no doctor had ever given her an explanation for her “mummy tummy” and angry that there was a solution out there that didn’t involve surgery and no-one had ever told her. All these years she thought it was just what happened when you had a baby. Your belly stayed “saggy,” as she described it.

Before I get to the “fix,” I just want to clear up some definitions because “mummy tummy,” “jelly belly,” and “mamma pooch” are not my favorite terms nor are they scientific. (And no, this does not have to come with the territory of pregnancy. And yes, men get it too.) Diastasis Recti (referred to as DR) is where there 2 halves of your abdominal muscles have separated creating a gap in your midsection, making it seemingly impossible to regain core strength much less feel good in a bathing suit. It sucks. It can feel awful, frustrating and like your body has totally let you down. Many women feel body shame and it is no wonder so many resort to surgery with the extreme pressure to toned, fit and thin that prevails.

 

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Plastic surgery statistics tell us that over 100,000 people are getting abdominoplasties every single year. Proving that one of women (and men’s) most coveted physical real estate is the tummy. Invoking mama earth, desire, fertility, sexuality and a svelte silhouette all at once is a heavy load to carry in our midsection. It’s also often the area we are hardest on ourselves as mother’s. Many women post partum work feverishly to do 1000 crunches, bootcamp and cardio blasts to get a flat tummy again. For women with diastasis recti, these things can actually make it worse and not better!

Diastasis Recti is usually fixable but it requires a different approach than you might be used to.

I have worked with hundreds of women with a diastasis recti and I can tell you that it is not a death sentence. Our exercise culture and fitness world loves to blame things. You are overweight because you eat too much, you can’t get thin because of your metabolism, and your mummy tummy is from pregnancy and childbirth. These myths and lies have us aiming for perfection rather than fostering healing.

The first part to closing the gap (the term used to describe fixing a DR) is giving up on the goal of a perfect body as seen in mass media and recognizing that what your body needs most right now is a re-educating of sorts. Most wear and tear injuries like DR have a root cause. Rather than focussing on ways to get a flat belly as fast as possible, I highly recommend you to look why you have a DR. DR is caused by too much pressure in our abdominals.

The real question is: Where is the extra pressure in the abs coming from?

The common culprits to extra abdominal pressure are: body alignment- the way you stand or sit all day can put a lot of extra pressure on your abs; use/overuse/misuse of muscles can also create extra pressure; and one of the main culprits that always surprises people is your breathing patterns. A belly breathing pattern once again puts a lot of excess pressure on your abs. Once you peg the root causes and go about resolving the muscle imbalances, your breathing patterns and alignment of your body- your diastasis recti should get better and with the right exercise program- you can close the gap and build a functional core.

The second part of the closing the gap healing process is to realize that diastasis recti is not a death sentence because it can be an opportunity to practice self love, acceptance and compassion. We have been brainwashed into how our bodies “should” look- hard, toned and slim. (We are often not told that hard, toned and slim does not equal healthy and balanced.) Embracing health is not unlike any other emotional issue – it means accepting where we are at first, the choices we made to get here and then looking at creating a healthy relationship with ourselves again. The path to embracing your body rather than shaming it and having unrealistic expectations can lead to a more rewarding overall experience.

Just as there’s no cheat-sheet for parenting, the same goes for loving and accepting our post baby bodies no matter how many years it’s been. If you have tried the get-thin-quick, have-a-flat belly-fast programs only to find that they do not work for you try getting to the root cause of the imbalance and then search for some online communities that support a restorative approach. Having a supportive community of like-minded women who are on the path to healing helps as we find our way back to the trust we once had in our physical bodies. Knowing that the only death sentence we face, is the one where we don’t change our perspective on how bodies “should” look.

Join Lauren’s private FB group for practical tips, videos and articles for all things post baby body related: Restore Your Core.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-mummy-tummy-a-death-sentence_us_57a0dbb8e4b00e7e26a0541c

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