Is This the End of Your Abs?
Childbirth is a miracle, there’s no denying that. Carrying a life inside of you for 9 months seems like something out of a sci-fi movie, not real life; and yet it happens everyday. If you’re a mom, you’ve probably spent countless, sleepless nights Googling all the things that could go wrong pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, and then after. It’s a wonder you didn’t try to “Return to sender” after you read your first 1,000 articles. With that said, you (hopefully) gave birth to a health, bouncing baby, and couldn’t be happier.
But then, you look at your body.
It’s not quite the way you left it 9 months ago, is it? Sure, you have a stunning tiny human to show for it, but still. You worked hard for that hot bod, and you’d like it back – PLEASE! One of the most common occurrences which happens to the female body post-pregnancy is called Diastasis Recti. “Diastasis” from New Latin/Green, meaning “separation.” “Recti” refers to the rectus abdominis, aka your abdominal muscles. DR is what occurs when when the two sides of your abdomen stretch during pregnancy and separate (usually in the middle), leaving a space. Usually, it occurs during your last trimester, as your baby is growing quickly, but can also happen with twins, bigger babies, or after your first pregnancy.
One friend describes it as follows, “Even if you are super fit while pregnant, you will have a large and soft belly after the baby comes out. It takes many weeks or months to go back to normal; and if you have DR, the pooch remains, even after you take the weight off. Once all the baby weight is gone, the DR isn’t as noticeable, but it still feels like a long road ahead.” This is a sentiment echoed by SO many fit moms around the world.
While you may be wondering when your abs are going to go back to normal, Karen S. Weeks, a physical therapist with the Northwestern Medicine Integrated Pelvic Health Program in Chicago, says that it’s not just about how you look. DR affects more than just that – it’s about functionality, too; “… It’s not just aesthetics or the ‘mummy tummy’ that is concerning about DR. I regularly see first-hand the effects of [DR] on a woman’s ability to function, whether it be leaking urine while she lifts weights in the gym or struggling with daily tasks like lifting her toddler or running to catch a cab.” While she makes the situation sound dire, there is an easy (albeit long-term) solution to DR as long as you’re willing to put in the time and the effort.
- Leg lifts (BUT learn to use your “deep” core to do this)
- Strengthen the transverse abdominals using exercises like glute bridges and quadruped lifts
- Taking deep diaphragmatic breaths into the back of the ribs. Think about knitting the muscles together, and drawing in and up.
- Pelvic tilts
- Work the obliques. Ilaria Cavagna, a New York-based pilates instructor, suggests starting with the oblique muscles as a means of bringing together the separated muscles. “Only working the oblique muscles will bring the two abdominal walls back together.”
Remember to always keep the belly pulled in and tight, rather than trying to breathe heavily and push out.
- Any movement that causes a visible coning, or doming, in your ab muscles
- Back bends and spinal extension
Essentially, try to avoid exercises that increase stress on the abdominal tissue, as well as very heavy lifting, which places strain on the midline and makes the stomach bulge outward.
So give it time. Just like it took you months/years to get that stellar six-pack in the first place, it’s going to take you a bit of time to get it back