Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Weakness - What they are and how to FIX them

Lets start off with a quick description of Diastasis Recti (aka DR), technically speaking it’s an unnatural separation of the rectus abdominis muscles (six pack muscles).  This separation happens 100% of the time in pregnancy, so at the time of delivery every mom has this condition. The belly has to grow and expand to accommodate baby or babies so it makes sense that these muscles get pushed to the side and stretched out. The fascia or connective tissue that lies between and over these muscles, along the linea alba, gets thinned out, stretched and weakened as well. Hands down, almost every mother out there will tell you that their midsection was never the same after having a child. In fact, 3 months postpartum, nearly 60% of women still have this unnatural separation. It can improve on it’s own, but for a good majority it doesn’t. 

How do you know if you have DR? Some women are checked for DR at their postpartum follow-up appointment, but most are not checked or they are unaware if they were checked. One of the telltale signs of DR is the dreaded mommy pooch that just won’t go away. This pooch can appear all along the area of the linea alba or it can be more pronounced at or below the bellybutton. Another common presentation is when the front of the abdomen appears to protrude. This protrusion can start right under the chest and go all the way down to the pubic area. Low back pain can also be connected to DR in some instances.

abdomen.jpg

As a personal trainer and someone who suffered from DR I can’t stress enough how important it is to properly assess DR and the sooner the better. Proper assessment is important because the most common ab exercises to “tone” or “strengthen” the core are the absolute worst moves for someone that has DR. Planks, sit-ups, crunches, v sits and rollups are some examples that can further weaken the area and put someone at risk for a hernia or prolapse. So knowing which moves to avoid while incorporating the right moves and breathing techniques is an essential place to start in order to fix DR. 

When I was told that I had DR nearly 6 years ago, my GYN said that I needed to avoid the typical ab exercises. At the time I wasn’t a trainer, but had a personal interest in fitness and all things movement related so I set out looking for what I needed to do to correct the issue. Surprisingly the available info thru books and media was very sparse so I just continued to avoid the ab work my GYN warned me about. Fast forward a few years I decided to take my interest in training to the next level and became certified as a personal trainer as well as a specialized kettlebell instructor. By this time I had found some useful information on exercises to help correct DR and decided to take a certification course (Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist with Dr. Sarah Duvall) that specialized in DR and Pelvic Floor. This course was amazing!! It was the missing link that I needed to completely correct my DR.

An added bonus to correcting my DR was the realization from this course that I also had Pelvic Floor weakness (yeah!!). I would leak when I sneezed and sometimes when I coughed if I didn’t brace for it. I jumped on a trampoline at SkyZone and felt an immediate heaviness in my pelvic floor, it was so uncomfortable that I had to stop jumping IMMEDIATELY. These issues were random so I never thought too much of them, that is, until I took this course. It turns out that sneeze-pee and leaking with or without exertion is so common among moms and we just ignore it or think that its just the norm after having children. Well, let me tell you it’s not normal and you can correct this. I stopped leaking literally 2 weeks after I started implementing the work I learned in the course, it was such an ah ha moment. Pelvic Floor and DR often go hand-in-hand, but they don’t have to. What’s awesome is that most of the exercises and breathing techniques I teach will address both and I can customize it to fit the exact needs of a client. Pelvic Floor weakness can present in other ways as well, like urgency to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping flow of urine, pain with penetration, tampon falls out or moves down on its own or unexplained pain in the genital, hip, butt or pelvic area.

I hope this post has peaked your interest in finding out more about your DR and/or Pelvic Floor weakness. My goal is to help women fix this issue once and for all by implementing specific  breathing mechanics and personalized core strengthening moves while keeping you safe and avoiding injury. Join me at Jaya Yoga for a 4 session Diastasis & Pelvic Floor Fix workshop starting July 22nd. Space is limited to ensure each participant receives a custom program that works for them. Click Here to Register. 

- From Jessica Doncses of Optimize to Thrive