Why do I still look 5 months pregnant? Could I have a Diastasis ?
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
When I first found out I had separated abdominal muscles( a.k.a Diastasis), I thought that my stomach muscles had stretched so much during pregnancy that they had ripped apart (relax -this not what happens, in case you're worried).
I thought my abs were damaged so I went on "DR Google" looking for answers and only managed to confuse myself with all the conflicting information out there.
Let's get rid of the confusion and talk about what having a diastasis really means..
What happens to your stomach during pregnancy?
When you're pregnant, your stomach muscles and the connective tissues stretch out to make room for the baby.
This is your body's natural and amazing ability to adapt, and every mom will have some degree of diastasis by the time they get to full term.
After giving birth, your abdominal muscles usually come together and the connective tissue will firm up again during the first six to eight weeks.
In some cases (about 30% of moms) this healing doesn't happen and the stomach muscles and connective tissue lack the ability to hold tension and remain soft. This is called Diastasis Recti..
When the connective tissue (or fasica) between your muscles stretches out during pregnancy, it's supported from the inside by your baby and your uterus.
Once you give birth, this support or internal pressure is lost and your body has to figure out how to re-establish the correct internal pressure again.
I like to think of it like blowing a bubble with chewing gum.
Once you pop the bubble and the air escapes, the gum is all stretched out and floppy.
If your fascia or connective tissue is still floppy and soft then the muscles can't function properly to support your internal organs and uterus.
When your uterus pushes forwards into your softened belly tissues, it pushes out on your stomach when you are standing up. This is why you can have a "mummy tummy" or look like you are still 5 months pregnant.
When your core lacks support and stability, the extra load of supporting your body is shifted to other muscles groups- often your lower back and pelvic floor, which can lead to back ache, sore hips and pelvic floor problems.
How do I know if I have a Diastasis?
I think every mom should learn how to check themselves for diastasis.
This is so that you can advocate for your own postpartum care if you need to. (Unfortunately most doctors don't check for diastasis and pelvic floor function at the 6 week check up ).
Often the first clues that you have a diastasis aren't just a rounded belly, but aches and pains that are the result of core instability.
Signs to look out for are:
Lower back pain
Hip and pelvic pain
Leaking when you cough, sneeze or laugh
Pelvic floor issues (like Pelvic organ prolapse)
Your belly button stays an "outie" rather than going in again.
Poor posture - slumped forwards or sway backed.
Feeling bloated or constipated
If you have any of these symptoms then you should check to see if you have a Diastasis.
Watch the video for a step by step guide to checking yourself for Diastasis.
I think I have a diastasis- now what?
If you have tested yourself and you think you have a diastasis then you will need to reconnect with and strengthen your deep core muscles.
When you have lost contact with your deep core muscles and pelvic floor, you will need specific exercises to help you to reconnect, retrain and strengthen these muscles again.
This is not something that will get better by itself.
The research shows no improvement to diastases up to a year postpartum without any specific training or exercises.
It's important to re-activate your core muscles as they are a vital part of the support system that stabilizes your whole body.
Without them, your lower back and pelvic floor are more prone to overuse and injury.
If your central support system or core doesn't work properly, then it can affect how well muscle groups function up and down your body.
Healing a diastasis is about so much more than just trying to flatten your mummy tummy.
Wanting a firmer stomach can absolutely be part of it, and the best way to achieve it is by regaining the function and tension in your connective tissues and deep core muscles.
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