Does Your Tummy Still Look Pregnant After Childbirth?
You’ve done all the right things since you had your baby. You’re breastfeeding, taking care over what you eat and even though you’re exhausted you still make time for a little exercise. So why does your tummy look as though you’re in the early stages of pregnancy?
A condition called Diastasis Recti Abdominis, also known as abdominal separation, could be causing the problem. The central sets of abdominal muscles are called the rectus muscles
and these muscles stretch into two halves to move aside during pregnancy in order for your ‘bump’ to grow larger. After the birth of your baby, the rectus muscles should slowly return to their original position. Except, that it doesn’t always go to plan.
Often the rectus muscles don’t move back to the correct position, which can leave the
abdomen with significantly weaker support. It can contribute to lower back pain, loss of balance, trouble lifting, poor pelvic alignment, pelvic floor dysfunction and a surprising number of women can suffer with this condition. No amount of dieting is going to reduce this type of Mummy Tummy.
Good core strength is essential for pain-free everyday movement. Carrying and picking up babies and young children can put increased pressure on a Mother’s body and it’s important to ask for help before further damage (like a hernia) is caused.
A trained midwife, Physical Therapist or Medical Practitioner will ask you to lie on your back with knees bent to 90 degrees & head slightly lifted with the chin tilted towards the chest. After asking you to tense your abdominal muscles, the Therapist will place their fingers in the ridge presented in the abdomen. If the measurement of width separation is more than two fingertips width apart, it is likely that Diastasis Recti is diagnosed.
Often the size of the separation is larger in women who didn’t exercise prior to becoming pregnant. Also women who are older mothers and have had multiple births, twins and/or large babies can be at risk of developing Diastasis Recti Abdominis.
The good news is that a variety of exercises can help to repair the rectus muscles. However, incorrect exercises such as crunches can do more harm than good. Also incorrect are sit ups and straight leg raises. A weak core may also cause problems with the sacroiliac joint which can lead to further pelvic instability. Professional help is strongly advised and should cover the following:
- Core strength
- Correct posture
- Lifting techniques
- Retraining of concentric and eccentric abdominal muscles
In extreme cases, if physiotherapy efforts haven’t been able to help or the separation width is too large, Diastasis Recti can be corrected with surgery.
Physical Therapy can be extremely effective so long as Patient and Therapist work together as a team. The patient must continue to do the entire program of exercises regularly at home as instructed. But with patient compliance, results can be achieved and the problems can be significantly reduced.