Forest Trees

Mummy tummy and diastasis recti

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What is mummy tummy

If you have had a baby, then you will likely have experienced what we lovingly call a ‘Mummy tummy’. It’s that soft, squidgy, bulging belly that so often occurs after having had a baby, and for many women it persists for a long time afterwards.

 

It’s helpful to remember, that your mummy tummy exists for a good reason. It is there because your body underwent a huge physiological wonder that allowed you to create and nurture your baby. So, when you think about your mummy tummy, try doing so with kindness, patience, and love towards yourself.

Your mummy tummy is created because of several different physiological factors that combine to create

the effect of a larger belly. These factors include:

 

  • Stretched skin, muscles, and connective tissues - which affects your appearance.

  • Diastasis recti - which affects your core strength and function.

  • Excess body fat - which increases your risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

  • Excess water retention - which affects your weight and appearance.

 

When we consider the causes of a mummy tummy, we can see that there are good reasons to try and reduce it, as it may be affecting your core strength and function, your weight and appearance and also increasing your risk of developing certain diseases and conditions.

Mummy tummy recovery tips

Because your mummy tummy is caused by several different factors the best way to recover and reduce its appearance is to take a holistic approach by following the tips below:

 

  • Practice self-acceptance and self-love for your body and everything that it has been through.

  • Practice gratitude for having had the opportunity to create a mummy tummy.

  • Massage your tummy to release stuck tissue, mobilise fluids and show it some love.

  • Reduce your body fat and apply weight management strategies.

  • Stay hydrated so that your body is less likely to retain excess water.

  • Check whether you have diastasis recti and follow the Diastasis recti recovery tips (see below).

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What is a Diastasis Recti

A Diastasis recti is a separation of the two sides of your rectus abdominis muscles (six pack). These muscles run vertically down the middle of your belly and are connected in the middle by connective tissue known as the Linea alba (the white strip between the six pack).

The connective tissue of your midline is made of collagen and sits behind your belly button, running from the bottom of your rib cage all the way down to your pubic bone.

As your baby and uterus grows both your Linea alba and abdominal muscles stretch wider to make more space. So, a diastasis recti is a natural occurrence that every woman will experience during a full-term pregnancy.

For most women this natural separation will usually have returned to normal between 6 weeks - 6 months after birth. But for some women it can persist for longer if not treated effectively.

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Diagnosing Diastasis Recti - How do you know if you have a diastasis recti?

A diastasis recti is measured and diagnosed using a simple method of feeling and measuring how wide the gap of the Linea alba is (in finger widths), and how much tension (strength) you can generate in your core muscles.

  1. Lie on your back on a firm surface with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Turn one hand so that your palm is facing you and place your fingers into your belly button.

  3. Exhale and gently raise your head and shoulders off the floor (in a low static crunch) and feel how many fingers you can fit into the gap.

  4. Take a rest and then repeat above and below your belly button.

 

When a gap of 2 fingers width or more exists either above, below or at your bellybutton, then a diastasis recti is diagnosed. If a gap of one finger or less exists, then it is not classified as a diastasis recti, but rather a natural sized gap. This can be diagnosed by a doctor, physiotherapist, trained fitness professional or trained soft tissue therapist or you can self-diagnose by checking yourself. 

 

The important things to check are:

  • The width of the gap.

  • The depth of the gap.

  • The firmness of the gap.

  • Whether you see bulging or doming.

 

No matter the size of your gap is, if you can restore your core strength and firmness

then it is likely that you will regain your core function and therefore won’t need to be

too concerned about the width of the gap.

How to check to see if you have diastasis recti - video demonstration.

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How diastasis recti affects your body

It is important to know that your core muscles and connective tissues are comprised of your abdominal muscles, back muscles, pelvic floor, and diaphragm, which are all interlinked to each other and many physical functions within your body, including:

  • Maintaining your posture and alignment.

  • Stabilising your spine.

  • Managing increases in pressure when you lift or move your body or lift heavy objects.

  • Protecting and holding in your vital internal organs.

  • Affecting your diaphragm and breathing.

  • Affecting the function of your pelvic floor and continence.

  • Affecting pressure through the pelvic floor and the risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse.

 

So, having a diastasis recti will likely affect many of your physical functions, causing symptoms during your postnatal recovery, especially during your 4th trimester.

Symptoms of Diastasis Recti

Symptoms of diastasis recti usually cause functional problems throughout your soft tissues. These symptoms can persist long-term if not treated effectively and include the following:

 

 

Most of these symptoms will improve as your gap narrows and your core strength is restored. However, for some women diastasis recti can be persistent and the symptoms can last for years if it is if not treated effectively. So, it is a good idea to apply some wellness tips that will support your recovery.

Diastasis recti recovery tips

For most women a perinatal diastasis recti will naturally heal itself as the Linea alba naturally knits back together and the gap closes. But there is lots that you can do to help it along (as detailed below).

  • Adequate rest.

  • Nutrient dense food for healing soft tissues.

  • Adequate hydration.

  • Correct your postural realignment from head to toe.

  • Correct your breathing technique.

  • Not doing activities that can make the problem worse or delay healing.  

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects and/or exhale on exertion to naturally brace your core.

  • Don’t do movements and exercises that make diastasis recti worse or delay healing (see below). 

  • Start a safe and gently progressive postnatal exercise programme after 12 weeks postpartum.

 

https://www.tims.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/8.5-TIMS-DRA-After-Pregnancy.pdf

https://wiltshirehealthandcare.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Diastasis-recti.pdf

What to avoid when healing from diastasis recti

When you have a diastasis recti it is important that you try not to do activities that will place too much strain, twisting or pressure on your core as this can make the gap bigger or delay the healing process. So, you should try to avoid the following activities:

  • Twisting exercises.

  • Crunches, sit-ups or planks.

  • Heavy weightlifting.

  • Running within 12 weeks after birth.

  • Activities that promote poor posture and muscular imbalances e.g. one side baby wearing or carrying etc. 

 

Once your diastasis recti gap has reduced, and/or you have restored your core strength then these activities can be gradually added back in slowly. 

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Red flags - when to seek help

 

It is vital that you take care of yourself and focus some of your time and attention on your recovery. This will help you to speed up the closure of the gap and prevent it separating further.  Familiarise yourself with the list below and make sure that you tell your GP if you experience any of these symptoms, as they could indicate a problem that requires further investigation or support.

  • If you have a gap of 2 finger widths apart and/or have no core tension.

  • If your diastasis recti persists long-term despite following the advice above.

  • If you notice a lump or bump protruding from your abdomen as this could be an abdominal hernia.

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How you can support your partner

You can support your partner by ensuring that they are well nourished, well rested, have the supplies and emotional support that they need and are watchful of their health. Below are some ways that you can be supportive:

  • Ask your partner how you can help and support them.

  • Purchase and prepare the healthy nutrient dense foods.

  • Ensure your partner is well- hydrated.

  • Prepare or purchase collagen-rich foods or supplements.

  • Encourage your partner to be patient and self-supportive as they rehabilitate their core.

  • Encourage them to seek the support of a physiotherapist or exercise specialist trained in diastasis recti recovery.