You know what ain’t pretty? Diastasis Recti. It’s one of the less desirable side effects of pregnancy where the abdominal muscles separate. Normally the two sides of the abdominal wall come together and meet in the middle. During pregnancy, everything losens and the abdominals shift apart to make way for Baby. In most cases this space closes back up a few weeks after delivery and everything is hunky-dorey again. But, sometimes the space doesn’t close. This gap is what causes the mom-pooch (but there are other things that can cause that as well), back pain, even constipation. It is most common in women over 35 or who have had high birth weight babies, and/or multiple pregnancies, especially close together. Raise your hand if you meet any of those — yup, I knew it would be a lot of you.
I had my first baby when I was 25. I was young & fit & fantastic. I think I was back in shape before I even birthed the placenta. I got even fitter and even stronger, and 18 months later birthed my second baby. I was still young & fit, but he was a good sized baby; 9.5 lbs on my wee 110 lb frame. There was a little space there, but nothing serious. I could fix it. Only, it was harder to work out with TWO babies, and before I knew it, I was pregnant with my third. I was six months pregnant when I tripped in the woods while running. I yanked and pulled all sorts of stuff. The next morning I couldn’t stand and I certainly couldn’t walk. I tried to put on a pair of pants and simply fell over. My fall in the woods had resulted in Diastasis Pubis, a separating of the pubic bones. It.was.god.awful. Probably the most painful running injury I’ve ever sustained. It also put me out of running (and pretty much every thing else) for the rest of the pregnancy. It was a full six weeks post-partum before all the pain was gone, only to realize I had Diastasis Recti. But because I was still young (29!) and (sorta) fit, it would heal with sit-ups, lots of running, and will-power.
Wrong. As it turns out you cannot will your muscles to change locations. I didn’t properly rehabilitate my muscles, mostly because I didn’t know how, and despite the hundreds of miles I logged, I still had a flabby belly. I also could not do a single sit up. I could hold a plank for days, but not sit up. Now, doctors recommend that you rehabiliate the muscles before another pregnancy, but of course I didn’t do that! So, in my fourth pregnancy, my gap went from about two fingers wide to three fingers wide. Yup, that means that even though I can get on my college jeans, I have a flabby protrusion just above the waist band. Like I said, it ain’t pretty.
When the muscles are engaged (like in the plank shown above), the protrusion is more pronounced. After the surrogacy baby, Cedar, was born I was left with a size three, maybe slightly larger gap. Yikes! But, in my defense that was four births, three of them only 18 months apart (Cedar was 3 years after my last child), I’m now over 30, and my babies where all fairly heafty. Does that mean I’m doomed to walk around forever with a water balloon belly?
NO! Even after multiple births you can rehabilitate your abdominals. Nicole Crawford from BuildingMuscle.com has a 12 week workout plan that I’ve been following and it’s already gotten me all but cured! I started with about a three fingers’ width gap and only two weeks in I am about ONE fingers’ width. It really is amazing to see something that I had all but given up on, assuming that that was simply going to be part of motherhood, vanish. It does take patience and time, so don’t even think about rushing it. Put yourself back together, one piece, one day at a time.