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.

 

Prepare to Plank

Let’s talk planks.

An amazing exercise for building core strength, for working the whole of your body and there is so much you can layer and add into a plank.

Also one of the exercises that therefore needs great technique or a lot can go wrong. All too often people are encouraged to dive head on into a full plank without knowing the hows, why’s and why nots. I love a challenge, but I don’t like the planking challenges. Personally I do not see the benefit to being able to hold a static plank. I have a body that rarely stays that still and so far more useful is a moving plank with levers and motion.

Many people are just not strong enough to launch into planks. These are not beginner exercises. Done incorrectly the intra-abdominal pressure will build up and it has to go somewhere, so if you have weak abdominals these may sag and bulge or the same with your pelvic floor. I remember attending a mums and babies fitness class with mums there 6 weeks after having baby – all being told to plank for 1 minute. If your core is not ready, do not do a full plank, if you have recently had a baby and you are rebuilding your strength, do not plank, if you have a weak pelvic floor, do not plank. Now that may sound harsh and rather black and white… so here is the softer version. There is a version of a plank that everyone can do, it is just finding your level and knowing which muscles to use plus ensuring you breath.

So what about if you really want to plank or if you are in a class with planks and you need a variation? Here are some plank progressions for you, including a standing version that I use with my pregnant and postnatal ladies.

 

I’d love to hear how you find these. For more videos and tips do follow me on Instagram and Youtube.

 

 

 

The 3 top benefits of postnatal pilates.

It strengthens your core and fixes your body. This is HUGE NEWS. Mums are lifting, bending, rotating, reaching, rocking, pushing and feeding babies. A whole lot of work and strain on the body. The core is made up of the abdominal muscles, the back muscles and the pelvic floor. This cylinder provides the support for the rest of the body to move. After carrying a baby in your womb for 9 months there has been quite a strain on the core. Your abdominals have been stretched and may have stretched apart slightly (diastasis recti). Your pelvic floor muscles have been supporting a heavy load and then may have helped push a baby out. Your lower back muscles will need supporting and strengthening as your baby grows and gets heavier. This is where Pilates has been invaluable for me and it fixes me weekly. Yes there are plenty of other fitness classes you can do postnatally, but a specialised postnatal Pilates is the one you want to do FIRST. It provides you with the foundation that you need to rehabilitate your body after pregnancy and labour. If you do not strengthen your core and get your posture sorted then later along the line you could suffer set backs and problems such as leaking and abdominal separation that doesn’t heal up. If you have this issue come see me for a 1-2-1 session.

If you have pelvic floor issues then you need to be on my pelvic floor workshop.

There are a couple of ways we work on core strength in classes.

Firstly BREATHING. It is something we all do all of the time but breathing using the diaphragm will help the core work in synergy. The Diaphragm, abdominals, back muscles and pelvic floor are all involved in breathing. Try this out:

1. Place your hands around your ribcage. Inhale feeling the breath come into your ribcage. So your ribs move out to the side, your back expands, your chest expands.

2. As you exhale, breath out with pursed lips, feel the tummy come in, the lower back tense and try to get right to the end of your breath to feel an tension in your lower abdominals and a lift in your pelvic floor.

3. Practise this for 5-10 minutes and it really can help, plus it relaxes you 🙂

All the Pilates moves are layered on top of the breathing. It can take a while to get the breathing at the right time and in the right way but suddenly it will click.

It reconnects you with your body. As a mum your primary focus is on your gorgeous baby. There is less time for you to look after your own body and this can get pushed down the list of importance. However your postnatal period is an important time of recovery for you.

A postnatal class can teach you how your body feels when you do certain movements. I know I can be busy rushing around all day and then suddenly in a class I realise my shoulder is out of alignment or my hips ache. It makes you focus on your tummy and pelvic floor, an area many mums don’t want to connect with post-birth. Let’s  face it things are changed in or bodies but it is something to embrace and work to strengthen rather than to avoid. A class also means someone else also has a look at how your body is functioning, which can give you valuable insights and reassurance.

I myself go to classes so that someone who knows my body can give me feedback and push me further. We all need someone who knows us well to watch out for us.

It is you time. Our postnatal classes are run with a creche. I love babies, but having taught with one crawling around the studio, going under and over me… I know how distracting it is to doing the moves correctly. You tense up in order to ensure baby is safe which then means you do not get the full benefit from the class and exercises. You listen to their noises and not your body.

We’ve found over the years that having a creche away from the studio works best. Then the mums are not listening out to their babies, they aren’t all in the studio freezing each time a  baby makes a noise, working out if it is theirs, if so do they need to go to baby. It takes trust on the part of the mum, but James has been running our creche for 7 years now and has seen an awful lot of babies in that time. If he can’t cope and needs a mummy, he knows when to ask.

So if you are thinking about trying a postnatal class I would highly recommend you try Pilates. Yes I am completely biased, but I am also proof that it works. Having had 3 babies, I have rehabilitated each time with Pilates. It works.

What postnatal pilates can do for you.

When you are pregnant there is a lot of focus on keeping your body healthy, looking after yourself and putting you first. There is a lot more time to focus on exercising well, cooking good meals and thinking in general. The midwife and friends/family are asking how your body feels, how is the bump, what aches and pains do you have and giving plenty of advice. Then the delicious baby arrives and is totally the centre of attention. Your life is suddenly a whirlwind of feeds, sleepless nights, surviving as best you can. There is little time and energy left for exercise. Cake and chocolate can be relied to get you through the day or are part of a treat at playgroups. No-one really asks how your body is feeling or what they can do to help YOU, it is more about the baby.

The problem is that when you are postnatal your body is pretty vulnerable. It has been stretched, carried a heavy weight around and then birthed a baby. Now if you had a major operation you would lie in bed, rest, recover, have meals brought to you and be looked after for a few weeks. This is really what you need after having given birth. Instead you have a little person dependant on you, you cannot rest as much as you need and you cannot listen to your body.

Postnatal Pilates: why all mums need it

As a pre/postnatal specialist Pilates teacher this is an area I focus on and love to teach.

Postnatal Issues Pilates can help with:

POSTURE:
It is hard to maintain good posture when you are sitting up feeding, especially at night. However without good posture, those aches and pains slip in. Muscles get tight in the wrong places which can cause restrictions in your movement and cause you to compensate.

Over time poor posture can cause long term pain throughout the body, so it’s not something you want to ignore. Postnatal pilates when run by a specialised teacher will put in exercises to strengthen your upper back, talk through shoulder placement with you and use functional exercises to help with those motherhood moves that you do daily.

Sitting more will also lead to tighter hamstrings, so these need to be stretched out regularly.

The key really is to find out which part of your posture you need to focus on and which muscles need releasing. A good class and teacher will highlight this to you.

FLEXIBILITY:
There can be a lot of hormones flying around. Relaxin is a hormone that can affect the laxity of your ligaments, so this can leave you vulnerable to overstretching and potentially pulling a ligament. Learning to work within the normal range of movement for your body is the key here and not pushing yourself too hard, too soon.

PELVIC FLOOR:
Having carried a baby around your pelvic floor has taken a lot of strain. If you have then pushed baby out then that is even more damage that will have occured to the pelvic floor. Pilates will help you strengthen the whole of your core, including your pelvic floor. If you need more help in this area then check out  “Pimp Your Pelvic Floor”

ABDOMINAL SEPARATION:
Many ladies suffer from Diastasis Recti, this is a condition that is common in pregnancy and nothing to be concerned about as long as it is fixed postnatally! For some, the abdominals will naturally heal up by themselves, for others it will take more work. Exercises such as curls ups, planks and sitting up from lying on your back are not suitable and can make matters worse. A specialist pilates teacher with postnatal training will be able to help you.

PELVIC GIRDLE PAIN:
If you suffered from this in pregnancy then the likelikood is that it will disappear once baby comes along. However it is always a good idea to do some strenghtening work postnatally. If your hips and pelvis were struggling in pregnancy then some TLC for them can make all the difference in the long term.

LOWER BACK PAIN:
One of the common complaints I see in mums. Those babies get heavy when you are carrying them around a lot. Having a strong core and good posture when you lift and carry is so important. Pilates will help train your body so you are stronger and more able to manage this. The release exercises will also help mobilise and decrease any pain.

If you aren’t local to me, then check out my Postnatal Pilates DVD.

When should I return to high intensity exercise?

Exercise can be so so key when you are a mum and so many people I work with and talk to are desperate to get back to their former routine, jeans and get time for them. Having had 2 babies and about to have the 3rd I completely get it.

Why should I wait?

  • Your pelvic floor deserves a break. After 9 months of carrying a baby it’s had a lot of extra work to do, then there is the act of pushing out a baby. It’s understandable that it may need some R&R time. Jumping back into high impact workouts will put extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, preventing them from recovering properly and potentially damaging them further. A weak muscle is a muscle that is easier to damage. It is NOT right to need to wear protection in your pants when you exercise. Leaks should not be the norm.

tap drip

  • Your body has had 9 months of carrying a baby around. It takes 9 -12 months to recover nutritionally, so why would it take any less time to recover your physical body?

Pilates with Priya: Baby Bump

  • You need a good, strong, solid foundation before you build. Your core is your floor. So get that strong and the rest will follow. Your lower abdominals, pelvic floor, the postural back muscles and the obliques all functions together to provide your stable base. Don’t rush into running, lifting, jumping in order to have it crumble away under you.

How long to wait:

A lot of the time this is individual and depends on your previous fitness, how many babies you have had and how your pelvic floor function and core were before. But I recommend you wait a good 4-6 months and build up slowly. Listen to your body.

Things to watch out for:

If you feel a dragging or heaviness in your pelvic floor.

Have pain in your lower back, pelvis or abdominals.

Leaks when exercising.

It generally feels uncomfortable or wrong.

THEN STOP.

Go back to working on your core, get stronger and then try again in a couple of months.