Pregnancy and Diastasis Recti
Being pregnant is such a blessing!
For some it is a wonderful experience for others not so much!
But I think we can all agree that our bodies are amazing, being able to grow and nurture a little human.
HOWEVER, it really can do a number on our bodies, and this isn't often talked about in pre-natal classes.
You get taught about how to care for your newborn baby, but what about YOU.
Pelvic floor issues, Diastasis Recti the fact your body doesn't just go back to how it looked before (Say what!).
In this post I want to talk more about Diastasis Recti, why it occurs during pregnancy and how you can lessen its impact.
Did you note I said lessen not stop it from happening?
That is because 100% of pregnancies by 35 weeks have Diastasis Recti (don't know what this is check out my post here). Mota et al 2014
Every abdomen expands during pregnancy and everyone’s linea alba (your connective tissue) is somewhat stretched in the third trimester. This stretching allows the rectus abdominis to separate to give the baby room to grow and move.
Most bellies recover after delivery and the midline ‘gap’ narrows and is able to stiffen or tense normally when the abdominal muscles contract.
However, some do not. We don’t know why this happens but we have some ideas about how to lessen the impact and there is a much greater understanding on how to treat it.
First lets look at the things during pregnancy that are known to possibly make your Diastasis Recti (DR) worse:
Excess weight gain during pregnancy (more than the recommend amount)
Multiple pregnancies, especially if they are close together
Being pregnant with twins, triplets etc
Your posture during pregnancy
At this point, I do want to point out that you may do everything correctly and still have a large DR, I think genetics has a lot to do with this as well. This may impact the elasticity of your connective tissue) - my personal opinion ...
I also have noted:
Very strong Rectus Abdominis (6 pack abs) prior to pregnancy seems to have a negative impact not a positive one on DR - again personal opinion from talking to a lot of ladies with DR - no scientific proof
Lets look at each one in turn
Excess weight gain
Diastasis Recti is caused by pressure on your abdominal wall. If you gain more than the recommended weight (or are overweight before getting pregnant) it stands to reason that there will be MORE pressure on your abdominal wall from excess fat as well as the baby.
Think of your linea alba as an elastic hair tie. When you first get it and go to use it, it is really hard to stretch and it bounces back to shape.
But over time and uses, it starts getting easier to stretch and stops returning to its original shape.
This is the same for your connective tissue. In your first pregnancy (unless you have been very overweight) your connective tissue wouldn't have stretched before, but with your second pregnancy it has. This is also a reason why you show sooner with your second.
If you have your babies close together this does not give your body time to heal and strengthen your connective tissue so it may be stretched even further.
Twins, triplets ...
As explained above the gap occurs due to the pressure on the abdominal wall, with multiple babies at once more room is required, therefore more pressure.
This is a big one. If you allow your back to arch and pelvis to tilt (a normal pregnancy pose) not only are you going to end up with a sore back but also more pressure on your abdominal wall.
So thinking about your posture, when standing and sitting is very important - use pillows and towels to get your body aligned if need be!
The position of the baby also impacts how much pressure is on your abdominal wall - so listen to the advise of your midwife (or carer) on this.
So what can you do?
Apart from the obvious of making sure you are eating healthily and correcting your posture, here are some tips for you:
1) Reduce your risk BEFORE you get pregnant
If you are not already pregnant, but plan on becoming pregnant, reduce your risk by:
Getting to a healthy weight
If this will be your second, look to reduce your DR gap (if you have one) and strenthen your deep core muscles TVAs (see exercises here)
Improve your posture - check out my Facebook page for lots of videos and exercises here
2) If you are pregnant
If you are currently pregnant, you can still reduce your risk by:
STOP any ab work that works your recus abdominus - crunches, sit-ups, head curl-ups
STOP anything that causing doming - make sure you roll to your side to sit-up or lay down
STOP front loading positions (especially important later in the pregnancy) - think about it when you are in a plank position gavity is pushing your organs down against your abdominal wall, now add a baby to that pressure .... so no frontal planks, push-ups etc If you are a fitness fanatic do tall planks or wall push-ups. Limit your time on your hands and knees as well - breathing exercises etc are fine but try to limit it otherwise.
STOP straining - incontinence happens during pregnancy - I know! so keep up your fiber and get yourself a stool or squatty potty (these are amazing!) to help yourself out - trust me you will thank me for this! Straining also occurs when lifting or anything when you find yourself holding your breath
Start or continue with exercise - walking or swimming are fantastic if you don't currently exercise, but if you do you can continue as long as your doctor is ok with it
Start thinking about your posture - try to keep the neutral spine curve when sitting and standing. This is especially important if picking up or holding another child - check out my facebook page for videos on how to do this correctly here
Start or continue with deep core engagement exercises (TVAs)
How to do TVA Exercise when pregnant:
An efficient abdominal wall not only helps to support your growing belly but also helps you deliver your baby.
During pregnancy, the best position to train your abdomen is in the position of delivery – a squat.
Bend your hips and knees, tilt your trunk slightly forward and let your belly go, relax.
Cup your low belly just above your pubic bone with one hand and gently try to lift the lowest part of your abdomen off your pubic bone and away from your hand.
Keep your chest relaxed and breathe while you maintain several 3-5 second contractions of this deep abdominal.
Do this often during the day; transversus abdominis is your internal Baby Belly Pelvic Support!
From Diane Lee - author of Diastasis Rectus Abdominin
For some you may need extra support - especially whilst exercising or if you have a long day walking around of lifting.
A support band such as the Upsie Belly by belly bandit can be useful. This not only helps support your pregnant belly off of your bladder, if also helps to prevent back aches, and helps promote good posture.
When looking for a belt look for something that supports both your belly and your back.
I hope this has helped.
As always please comment below if you have any questions.
And if you found this article useful - please share with others.