Pregnancy is often the primary cause of a pesky, unflattering condition known as diastasis recti abdominis. Although it may have a fancy, medical name, you may simply know it as the “mummy tummy” or the “mommy pooch.” For new mothers who still look pregnant months after giving birth, this postpartum abdominal condition may be the culprit.
How it occurs
If you think that you have “DRA,” you are not alone. Diastasis recti abdominis is actually quite common. In fact, about two-thirds of pregnant women suffer from it. The condition occurs when a woman’s uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen. This can cause the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen (rectus muscles) to become separated by an abnormal distance. This can result in a soft, jelly-like bulge in the middle of the abdomen where the two muscles separate.
Who develops it
Women who developed diastasis recti from a previous pregnancy will most likely develop the condition if they are expecting once again. You are also more likely to develop diastasis recti if you are carrying multiples, have poor muscle tone, have a sway back posture, or are 35 or older and are of small stature. Your medical history could play a factor as well.
The side effects
Diastasis recti abdominis is far more than just a cosmetic issue. For some women, it can have psychological implications, too. A decrease in self-confidence and an increase in anxiety or depression can also result from the condition. It can also weaken the abdominal muscles, resulting in lower back pain. This, in turn, can make it difficult to lift objects or do other common daily activities. While rare, sometimes the tissue in the abdomen isn’t just stretched, but it is also torn. This can result in a hernia.
How to prevent it
While surgery can repair muscle separation and re-store a women’s abdomen to its pre-pregnancy condition, exercise shouldn’t be ruled out. Certain workouts can actually help women regain some degree of abdominal strength. They can also help tighten and tone the midsection after giving birth. Here are eleven exercises to consider:
1. Pelvic Tilt
Lie on your back with your knees bent, legs apart and feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be flat by your side. With your lower back pressed into the floor, brace your abdomen and tilt your pelvis forward. Hold this position for five seconds as you squeeze your glutes and tighten your ab muscles. Repeat.
2. Heel Slide
Tighten your core as you pull your heel by approximately 90 degrees toward the rest of your body. Return your leg to an extended position. Release the tension in your core before tightening it again and bringing your opposite foot toward your body and repeating the process.
3. Bent Knee Fall Outs
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat while maintaining the normal curve in your lower back. Tighten your abdominal muscles then gently lower one leg out the side while keeping the other leg bent and pointing upwards towards the ceiling. Keep your pelvis stable throughout this exercise. Return your leg to the starting position and repeat the process with the other leg.
4. Dolphin Plank
Get into a planking position and brace your abdomen and hips and straighten your back. Then lift your hips into an inverted ‘V.’ Try to hold for at least 30 seconds. If you can, try to do three sets of fifteen.
5. Yoga Boat
Sit on a mat with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Take your hands and put them behind your knees and slowly rock back lifting your feet off the floor. Begin to straighten your legs, activating your quads and pointing through the toes.Keep the neck long and maintain the pose for thirty seconds.
6. Side Plank
Lie on the floor on the right side of your body. Position your elbow directly under your shoulder. Raise your body until it forms a straight line. Hold this position while you maintain a drawn in core and contracted glutes. Perform the side plank on the left side.
7. Clam Exercise
Lie on your back with legs bent. Next, slowly lengthen one leg forward on the mat, hovering it above the floor, while keeping the hips still and the abdominals drawing in and up. Bend your leg back in and repeat on the other side.
8. Bridge Exercise
Lie down on the mat and bring both feet and legs together. Then bring your hips up to form “a bridge.” As you lift your hips forward, squeeze your glute muscles, inner thighs and core. Try to hold for at least thirty seconds.
9. Transversus Abdominus (TVA) Breathing
Sit or lie down and inhale through your nose nose into the back body and sides of waist. Drawing your navel in, exhale. Do this while making a ‘Ssssss’ sound may help you find the right deep abdominal muscles.
10. Tabletop Exercise
Get on your hands and knees and place your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Lift your chest forward as you inhale, drawing in your stomach closer to your spine. Finally, exhale and repeat.
11. Wall Sit Exercise
Lean against the wall and slide down into a squat without your knees at a 90 degree angle and your thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your back flat against the wall and your hands and arms away from your legs. Draw your stomach in closer to your spine Maintain this position briefly before letting your legs and abdomen relax.