Guest post By Jen Dugard

All sorts of strange, wonderful and not so wonderful things happen to us and women when we are growing the beautiful baby that is now the apple of your eye. Many things we are warned or told about but many things we are not – at least until you have entered motherhood. Then, and only then do women share ALL of the extra bits and pieces… I’m still not sure whether I would have preferred to know beforehand or not! I also found that you are often given lots of information about your own heath prior to the birth but this tapers off afterward and is replaced with the seemingly hundreds of things that you need to know about looking after your child.

This is where I come in, I want to help you look after you. To show you that mums can be fit and healthy, you can still be sexy and attractive and feel good about yourself. I truly believe that if mum isn’t happy then her baby will suffer in the long run. You can’t sacrifice yourself for your child and your family, and you must be a little selfish sometimes to achieve this. Take that time out, go for that jog or that massage and put as much thought and preparation into your own meals as you do for your baby and the rest of the family.

Today I am talking about a common postnatal condition that many women have – just most of them don’t know it.

The abdominals are made up of three main muscle groups, rectus abdominals, internal and external obliques and transverse abdominals. Today we are concentrating on the rectus abdominals. The rectus abdominals run vertically from your ribs to your pubic bone, they are the ones often referred to as the ‘six pack’ and are probably the most visible of the abdominal muscles.

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During pregnancy, especially the later stages many women suffer from a condition known as diastasis recti or abdominal separation. This is where the two sides of the rectus abdominals split in the middle to form a gap. This separation is caused by the growing baby causing the uterus to push against the abdominal wall. The connective tissue is softened by pregnancy hormones and results in a separation. This gap can occur anywhere along the connective tissue (linea alba) but is most common at the belly button.

It is imperative that you know if you have diastasis recti before you embark upon physical exercise following pregnancy, especially abdominal training. Diastasis recti leaves the abdominal wall weak, reducing its strength and functionality which can aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. If you don’t know you have abdominal separation you can’t do anything about it and it will not go away on its own.

How to check for Diastasis Recti

  1. Lie on you back with your feet flat in the floor.
  2. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor in a mini crunch position and hold contacting your abdominal muscles.
  3. Use your fingers to feel from your ribs down to your belly button. You should feel the two sides of the rectus abdominals and probably a gap in between.
  4. At the widest part of the gap use one hand to see how many finger widths you can fit in between the two sides of you rectus abdominals.
  5. Remember how many fingers and where between your ribs and your pubic bone that you tested. Most women will find the biggest gap at their belly button.

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If you are six weeks or less postpartum it is common to have a gap of about two finger widths. If you have a gap of more than this, no matter how postpartum you are then you definitely need to be doing exercises that will help to promote the rejoining of the rectus abdominals. They will not just suddenly heal themselves, you need to play an active part in helping them to rejoin and you should avoid all traditional crunching exercises until your separation has improved.

 Knowing that you have diastasis recti will enable you to be on your way to rebuilding your post baby body. The retraining of the abdominal muscles will help to get rid of your ‘mummy tummy’ and avoid back injuries often caused by lifting small (but heavy) children from various angles. Fixing this issue now is most important in your sustained health and well being. Leaving this condition unaddressed can lead to a herniation, back problems and increased damage during subsequent pregnancies.

The help and advice of a heath professional can be of great benefit during this time – please feel free to contact me. I am available to check for diastasis recti and advise on exercises that will help to correct this condition. Please note: If you are working with a personal trainer or fitness professional that is aware that you have recently had a baby and hasn’t check your abdominal separation it might be wise to check their experience and question them on this topic.

For a more visual way of checking for separation you can check out my YouTube video here

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