Do I have Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is also known as abdominal separation. Sounds pretty scary but it is actually very common and some research suggests it happens in all pregnancies, but for some ladies it may heal up before it is noticed.

Why does it happen?

The rectus abdominals are the tummy muscles that run down the front of the tummy, from ribs to pelvis. I like to think of these are being like a zip. There are 2 bands of muscles that run down with connective tissue called the linea alba in between. When you are pregnant this area has to expand to accomodate the growing baby. This means the tissues and muscles are stretched, hence this separation can occur. For some it may occur sooner in pregnancy than others which can be due to a whole host of factors. Your pre-pregnancy muscle tone, your collagen type, if you are hypermobile or not, your nutrition and your current exercise routine can all be factors.

What can I do to help in pregnancy?

During pregnancy itself there are things you can do to minimise this seperation.

  1. Keep your core strong. Pilates is an obvious option! Do make sure that any exercise classes you attend or DVD’s that you do at home are suitable for pregnancy and taught by someone who knows what they are doing. A weekend pre/postnatal course is not enough and yet that is often the level of qualification fitness instructors have. So it is worth having a chat to check their knowledge base out and question any moves you are not sure about.
  2. Breathing is a great way to activate your core and practice the skills you will need postpartum to help with the healing. Breathing into your ribcage, your back, your tummy and pelvis. Letting the breath expand you and your muscles relax. Then exhale from the pelvic floor upwards and your core should engage.
  3. Don’t overload yourself. Loaded moves like lifting or anything that makes you strain should be reduced. This can lead to pressure on that abdominal area. Always exhale on exertion.
  4. Log roll like a pro. When you get up from lying always log roll onto your side rather than sitting up. In fact any sit ups, planks, or intense core work should be stopped.

What can I do to help after baby?

Initially you need your rest, so don’t feel the pressure of bouncing that body back or jumping into exercise. Exercise is the last thing on the list for healing, read here for why. Instead here are 3 things to do:

  1. Deep breathing. Use that core breathing to help your core fire and relax (the video below has breathing tips), your pelvic floor engage and relax and to chill our your nervous system, read more on that here.
  2. Nutrition. Eating a diet with plenty of fibre to help your bowels work without strain, fluid to keep things moving nicely, protein for the connective tissue and muscle healing and fruit and veggies for those micronutrients and antioxidants. It all makes a difference.
  3. Posture. Keep on top of where your ribs, pelvis, shoulders and neck are. It is key. When breastfeeding, nappy changing and sleep deprived your body will start to round forward. Yet these rounded shoulders and slumped postures mean those tissues are saggy and it is harder for them to heal up. So take time in your day to correct your posture. Ribs over pelvis, shoulders down, neck tall, pelvis in neutral.
  4. Abdominal massage can be helpful. It is good to know how your abdominals feel and to give them some love! Check out my video on this here:

If you need some help then I offer a postnatal package of massage, assessment, breath work and nutrition tips, possibly movement if it is appropriate. You can contact me: priya@pilateswithpriya.co.uk or book a slot in my diary here.

A session may include:

  • Some yummy massage to release those tight areas in maybe your neck and shoulders.
  • Some abdominal massage too to allow those muscles to let go and heal.
  • A diastasis recti assessement.
  • Teaching you about core breathing.
  • Nutrition tips if wanted.
  • Movement advice.
  • Home care tips for what to do to help you heal.

 

Postnatal Care – is it enough?

I’m not even sure where to start with this post. So I will start with my own experience. I’ve had 3 babies in the past 7.5 years and my youngest is about to turn 2 yrs. With each baby, my own recovery, my own postnatal journey and the care offered to me, has been different. I’ve had 3 babies who have lost weight post-birth, 2 of which required a period in hospital, each baby has had a tongue tie and it’s always been a stressful start in those initial weeks. Now I’m a well-educated, opinionated, determined (or bloody stubborn) kind of girl, which has got me through. What I have been, and continue to be surprised at, is the lack of support that is out there for new Mums. I had a hyper-tonic pelvic floor before babies, after babies I was complete unprepared for the change in my pelvic floor! I also had a diastasis recti after baby 2 and 3.

Having baby 1 is overwhelming, you are learning new skills constantly and becoming a new family. Subsequent babies are also equally overwhelming, suddenly you have to balance everyone’s needs. The babe becomes the most important in all of this and Mums come way down the list. But they shouldn’t. The early postnatal period is a critical time for recovery, by offering good support at this stage and preparing Mums we could actually help prevent some problems later on. Even by helping Mums with some simple stress management and practical ideas it could help them feel looked after, nurtured and reduce their cortisol levels. I know I was highly stressed after having my 2nd baby and it really had an impact on my body. Techniques such a deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and just having time off for Mum can make such a difference. I now recommend Mums have a 2 week chill-out after baby as much as they can and call in lots of help.

Mums are usually offered a 6-8 week check, however this is often more for baby than for mum. It’s a quick assessment and I think a lot more could be offered at this stage, however resources are thin on the ground. The Mums that I see and my experience is that pelvic floor is not really discussed, perhaps a cursory “are you doing your exercises”, abdominal separation is rarely checked but there is a screening for Mums mood and contraception.

Whilst it is great that Mums and babies are seen by the GP and continue to be monitored by the health visitors, I feel we are missing a vital opportunity. A chance to talk to women about their bodies, what is not right, where could they be signposted to get more help. I’m not suggesting these teams can provide the answers but they could link in with NHS or private services who could. For example, local women’s health physiotherapists and postnatal fitness instructors who really specialise in this type of rehabilitation.

We need a revolution in postnatal care, more chat, more information sharing, more love, more respect for how women’s bodies change and more holistic care. I’d love to know your stories and thoughts.

Beyond Your Bump DVD Testimonial

A long time ago, before I had my my lovely boy, I had a lovely lady come to my antenatal classes. She sadly had a complication and  lost her baby in the second trimester. Then over a year later I had an email and this lady had bought our postnatal DVD. Excitedly I contacted her and she had gone on to have another healthy, happy baby. Here is her amazing review:

So I love your Dvd. The instructions are clear and the visual really highlights the areas you are talking about. It still gets across your lovely personality and after a hectic day or bed time it’s my wonderful calm time and your voice and the music really help. I like that I can choose different areas on different days, and also that you constantly remind us to pull in that core!

Pilates with Priya: Beyond Your Bump DVD Blog image


The only section I struggle on is the prone and as a breast feeding mum I found them a bit sore on my chest so some alternatives on those particularly tender days would have been useful.


I find the window really great for releasing my neck, shoulders and upper back especially after carry and feeding our lovely baby.


She is nearly seven months now and I’m finding your Dvd still has the right amount of challenge and really gets the right areas.  I was wondering in a few months when I’m ready to move on do you have any more DVDs to go forward with?

Wow. Pretty glowing review. In answer to the question at the end: Yes I have a normal Pilates DVD that you could move onto when you are feeling like you are no longer postnatal – it includes some curling up so is not suitable if you have a diastasis recti.

You can buy our DVD’s via Amazon or via our website.

 

 

 

How to Exercise with Your Baby!

Life changes dramatically after your have a baby. Everyone told me this before I had baby 1 but I didn’t really believe it until it happened. Suddenly I went from someone who could spend long periods of time in the gym and go for a run whenever I wanted… to someone who had a baby who fed for 14 hours a day, someone who was living off a few hours sleep, someone who had a small person dependant on them.

Yet I can tell you I still managed to fit in exercise. Even after baby 2 when I had even less sleep and even less time. I wouldn’t say I’m a fitness addict or a superstar mum. I’m just someone who knows that exercise: 1) Boosts my endorphin levels so makes me feel good, 2) Gives me more energy, 3) Helps me tone up and get back in shape.

This is how I fit exercise in…

  • Walks with the pram. With my first baby I regularly went out for an afternoon walk to help her sleep and to get myself some exercise and fresh air. With my second baby I combine with with a trip to the park to wear out the toddler!
  • Running with the pram. I did this alot with my first baby, she loved it and still does at 3 1/2 years “Mummy go faster”.

Week 9 Post-baby: Picking up my trainers

  • I went back to teaching my Step Aerobics and Pilates classes as soon as I could. Personally I needed this baby free time. If you can find a postnatal exercise class then go and do it.
  • Put the baby in a door bouncer or a bouncy chair, put on a postnatal fitness DVD and let them watch. I now do this with the baby watching and the toddler copying me.
  • Wear the baby in a sling and go walking, up hill or up and down the stairs is especially good.
  • Once the small ones are asleep have a set night you go out to exercise or do some exercise at home.
  • Exercise with other mummies – either in a class or go walking together.

I’ve even been know  to teach and do Pilates classes with baby asleep in the sling…. but I wouldn’t recommend you try this out.

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

Try it out, I promise it will make you feel good 🙂

Postnatal Hair Loss, how to look after those locks.

One of the lovely side effects I had during pregnancy was to have thicker, faster growing hair. My hairdresser was always amazed when she saw me yet again for a trim.

This extra hair growth that some ladies see is due to the hormone levels, specifically the oestrogen. Hair has a cycle of growth and loss. Usually we lose about 100 hairs a day, however in pregnancy this hair loss can be reduced giving you those extra lush locks. All good things must come to an end however and as the oestrogen levels drop so must the extra hair. It is not uncommon for clumps or handfuls of hair to come out when you are brushing or washing it. So do not panic! Your hair will go back to how it was pre-pregnancy, you will not be bald (phew).

For some mums this will happen from birth and for others it will be when breastfeeding stops.

Pilates with Priya: postnatal hair loss

Top Tips:
1. Be kind to your hair, don’t was it excessively (as if you have time to with a baby!) and be gentle when styling it.
2. Try to stay away from hair dryers and straighteners, chemicals and treatments for a while.
3. Take a postnatal vitamins and eat a healthy balanced diet. Essential fatty acids are needed for hair to grow strong and healthy so no low fat diets.
4. Talk to your health visitor or GP is you feel the hair loss is excessive as it could be a sign something else is not quite right.

Losing the Baby Weight Week 6: my first training session.

So I’ve reached the 6 week post baby place. This is usually when you get an appointment with your GP and hopefully are given the green light to exercise. In my GP surgery the 6 week check is carried out at 8 weeks. Fortunately as a specialist in the antenatal and postnatal fitness arena I know what exercise is safe to do at this stage, so this weekend I made a start. I’d love to go for a run and do some high impact work, but I’m very aware that my core is not as strong as I’d like it to be yet and my pelvic floor is still regaining strength. Also Relaxin is still in my system making my joints prone to overstretching. So I’m being patient and holding back. Doing high impact activites such as running, jumping, aerobics can put extra strain on your pelvic floor and joints. So my thoughts and advice are to take it easy and go for low impact options after birth until you have regained some core strength first, this is like your foundation for all other exercise.  My Exercise this week: I’m doing some Pilates pretty much everyday. Just 15 minutes is really making a difference and I am now so much stronger than I was. I’m loving 1/2 roll ups, swimming in hands and knees and shoulder bridges with knee folds. I’ve even done a bit of Pilates with baby asleep in the sling 😉 Hard work indeed!

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

At the weekend I did my first weights session. I focused on squats, lunges, chest presses, shoulder rows and modified press ups. My toddler joined me with her imaginery weights and baby kicked along to the music on his playmat. Exercising with children can be done! It was nice to feel my muscles the next day! Walking is key for me too, I’m making sure I get a walk in 3 time a week, usually this is with baby in the sling or pushing the baby and toddler in the buggy – both make for a good workout 🙂

3 Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten

Losing the Baby Weight Week 4.

The past 4 weeks has on the one hand flown past and on the other hand it feels like its been forever that this little boy has been around. Life has calmed down with visitors being less frequent, more of a natural routine appearing and sleep deprivation properly setting in as the adrenaline wears off!

I’ve just gone back to post natal Pilates, very cautiously. It’s great to be back in my studio exercising with other mums but I’m pacing myself and only doing short bursts of gentle core work.  My tummy muscles separated a little in this second pregnancy, a condition known as diastasis recti, and I have a 1cm gap at present. This is nothing to worry about but I’m keen to close this gap completely before attempting any exercises that involve curling up.

For more on diastasis recti see here and here.

Here is my post natal mummy tummy. I’m keen to dispel the perfect tummy, air brushed celeb look and would love pics of your post baby tummies, at at any stage after baby for a blog post. Names optional! Please send them through to me – priya@pilateswithpriya.co.uk

 

Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Tummy Week 4
Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Tummy Week 4

I’m also trying to fit in a daily walk, the fresh air and cardiovascular exercise is great for me and baby. Plus having a toddler have to get out and about. It’s all about pacing yourself and planning I think. What are your thoughts?

Losing the Baby Weight: Week 2

This week has been mainly spent in hospital as baby Judah lost a little too much weight. Now most babies tend to lose some weight post-birth and they are allowed to lose up to 10% of their birthweight with no concerns. Little Judah ended up losing 15% of his birthweight so we were admitted for tests and monitoring.

Now hospital is not a fun place to be and with all the tests, feeding and being in a hospital room it became 5 days of mainly sitting and lying down with occasional sleeping 😉 So all the gentle walks I had been planning didn’t happen.

On of the questions the medical team had was over my milk supply and quality, so I focused a lot on feeding, expressing milk and eating well. You need an extra 3-500kcals per day when breastfeeding. The best thing is to ensure your meals are all balanced and then to eat according to appetite. I find I’m often hungriest last thing at night and at the night feeds.

All that feeding and expressing seems to be doing the trick as I’ve definitely lost weight this week and I’m back in my “slightly large, extra comfy” jeans – you know the type I mean. I’ve done a couple of very basic pilates exercises on occasions including single knee folds, pelvic tilts and standing heel floats. Don’t rush to get back into exercise at this point, just settle into getting to know your baby but do think about your posture when feeding and carrying baby. Stand/Sit tall, imagine you are lifted by the crown of your head towards the ceiling, slide your shoulder blades down in your back, have your weight balanced evenly over both feet and try to keep your lower back in a neutral position.

Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 14 post-birth
Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 14 post-birth

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you eat extra to enable your body to provide enough milk and good quality milk needed for baby.
  • Keep a snack box handy filled with healthy items you can munch on as you feed. For example healthy flapjack, nuts, raw veggies and hummous, oatcakes and peanut butter, dried fruit and cereal bars all feature in mine.
  • Keep going with your pelvic floor exercises, try to do these each time you feed baby.
  • If you can build in a couple of short, gentle walks.
  • Remember your posture.
  • Look out now for post-natal exercise classes and pilates classes.

Losing the Baby Weight, Week 1.

It’s day 7 post birth and slowly my body feels like it is returning to normal. My mummy tummy is shrinking gradually and the after birth pains are definitely diminishing. For me these after birth pains have been the worst thing. I didn’t have them with baby number 1, but everytime I feed it feels like another contractions. This is due to my uterus contracting and everything shrinking back to normal so it’s a good thing, but I’m not enjoying it!

Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth
Bump to Birth Pilates: Day 2 Post-Birth

Having a toddler means little time to rest so I’m quite active around the house. I’ve already learnt that I can’t lift my toddler, it’s too much for my back and lifting her led to some twinges (yikes) so I’m steering clear of heavy lifting for a while.

So what exercises have I been doing?

Pelvic floor exercises or kegels. I’ve been trying to do these everytime I feed the baby. If you aren’t sure where these are they are the muscles that now don’t work very well  😉 Imagine you are doing a wee and try to stop the flow of urine, it’s those muscles. Try doing some fast contractions where you squeeze the muscles all the way up and then release – imagine a lift going up inside you. Then also do some slow contractions where you slowly take the lift up, hold at the top for 5 seconds and slowly release. You really want to strengthen these muscle as otherwise there will be problems when you cough, laugh, sneeze, jump…. you get the picture!

TVA or core activation. Think about drawing in the muscles below your belly button. There is a belt-like muscle that comes all the way around your body like a corset. Try not to scoop in all your tummy but just tighten up the lower tummy muscles. It may help to place your fingers just inside your hip bones, then cough. Did you feel something tighten? That’s the muscle.

Rest time is also essential though personally this is the bit I find hardest to fit in as I seem to have babies that require a lot of feeding! Try to rest when the baby is napping and remember you don’t have to be superwoman at this point in life. If you have a slightly “messy round the edges house” no-one will mind 😉 Plus if you do too much you can affect your milk supply, so be kind to yourself.