Diastasis Recti 101

Aah, the mum tum. The pooch. The overhang. While the post-baby jelly belly is something most mums expect to encounter to some extent, fixing it isn’t always as straightforward as you might first imagine. It took nine months for your tummy to get that big, so it’ll take at least nine months to fix it, right?

But what if it doesn’t shrink? What if you still look 4 months pregnant months (or even years) after delivery, and nothing you do seems to be shifting the baby weight?

You might be amongst the 60% of mums who have a Diastasis Recti

From a medical perspective, (according to the Mayo Clinic):
“During pregnancy, the growing 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 to separate — a condition called diastasis recti or diastasis recti abdominis.”

These muscles form part of a wall of muscle that holds the uterus, intestines and other organs in place and lends support to the pelvic floor. Typically, the gap will go back to normal around 8 weeks postpartum.  However, the gap sometimes does not close on it’s own, which can cause a number of health issues (not to mention leaving you perpetually frustrated at your stubborn tum).

Signs you may have a Diastasis Recti include: 

  • lower back pain
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • poor posture
  • incontinence that lasts for more than eight weeks postpartum (separated abs can cause issues with your pelvic floor)
  • a pooch or bulge in the middle of the stomach
  • dome like bulge in the stomach when coughing or getting up from lying down

Before you start to panic, it’s not all doom and gloom. Below is a list to help you check yourself for a diastasis, and what to do if you think you have one.

Checking for a diastasis

  1. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees together and bent.
  2. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor so that you can see your tummy.
  3. Place your hand flat on your stomach, fingers pointing towards your toes.
  4. Try and feel for the gap between the muscles above and below your belly button. You might feel them squeezing your fingers tightly. You might not. That’s ok too.
  5. Note how many finger widths you can fit in the gap, and how high up your torso that measurement is. You may find your diastasis is larger at the bottom than the top, or vice versa.

Typically a diastasis recti is measured as 1 finger width = 1cm. Therefore, if your diastasis is 3 finger widths, it is 3cm wide. If you feel a gap wider than 2cm, you have a diastasis. A gap wider than 4-5cm wide is considered severe.

What to do if you think you have a diastasis recti

If you’ve found that you have a diastasis, it is more than possible to improve it. The best way to do this is to get guidance from a physiotherapist, who can advise you on the best exercises to do to close the gap. In the meantime, here’s a list of things to avoid:

  • traditional crunches, sit ups and planks, as these can increase intra-abdominal pressure and actually make the gap worse by putting too much strain on the muscles, effectively pulling the gap wider rather than closing it.
  • holding baby on one hip, if it is painful
  • coughing without supporting the ab muscles
  • lifting or carrying heavy loads

Alternatively, there are many diastasis recti repair exercises on youtube, which you may like to follow along to. Just be careful you don’t put too much pressure on your stomach, as this can delay your healing and even make the condition worse.

Last but not least, if exercises from your physical therapist fail to improve your condition, surgery is always an option, however this should be a last resort, and always discussed fully with your medical team.

Needless to say, if you’re experiencing any physical difficulties postpartum (be it months or years) you should always speak to a medical professional about your concerns. While having a Diastasis Recti can be a pain (both literally and figuratively), it can be improved over time.

You’ve got this, mama.

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Have you checked your lemons, melons or mangos? 

How many of us ladies can honestly say that we check ourselves out frequently? When did you last check? I know that we’re not quite as bad as the boys at checking ourselves… But I am very aware that I personally only ever used get round to doing it when I get reminded by online campaigns

CHECK. YOUR BOOBS png

As it is breast cancer awareness week, I thought i’d share my scare experience with our readers in the hope that it might encourage some of you to get checked out, if you’re having any breast related worries!

A few months ago, I finally made the big step in getting myself checked out after having a boobie scare. Why am I telling you lucky lot about it?! Because changes to our breasts honestly need to be spoken about more!

How many of us ladies can honestly say that we check ourselves out frequently? When did you last check? I know that we’re not quite as bad as the boys at checking ourselves… But I am very aware that I personally only ever used get round to doing it when I get reminded by online campaigns etc.

I saw the image above, on Facebook and decided that it was time to confront one of the changes I had noticed since having Florence nearly a year and a half ago. I knew that changes in your breasts and breast tissue was very common after large hormonal changes, like having a baby, but worried because I had a mark that looked like a cross between what these two lemons depicted…

Lovely I know,  but I have no time to blush when I’m here to inform! 

 

I called up my local doctors practice and asked for an appointment to discuss a concern I had with one of my breasts. I was told that as no female doctors were in and that there wasn’t a chaperone available, that I’d have to wait for the duty doctor to call me the following day and book me in, to see a lady. I said that as I was so concerned, I didn’t mind who I discussed my worries with but that I’d prefer to be checked over by a female when I came to practice.

Sure enough, the duty doctor called me the very next morning. I explained my worries over the phone and put me down for an appointment to see a lady doctor for less than an hour later. So off I went!

She asked me what my concerns where and tried to make me feel comfortable before instructing me to remove my upper layers and lye down on the examination table to be checked over. She checked my nipples, breast, armpits and even commented on how my glands felt perfectly normal.

The changes that I had been so worried about, was slight scar tissue, all caused by to me trying to breast feed and pump for almost two months with no supply. She told me that this was nothing to worry about but well worth getting checked out.

I am so relived that my scare was down to nothing more sinister and felt pleased that I had finally been brave enough to seek some help and advice for my worries.

The doctor explained how I could check myself and said that either in the shower, bath, lying or sitting down in bed whilst relaxed would be the perfect time to check myself and to try and do it as frequently as possible (but to aim for once a week!).

How do you check yourself? 

Strictly speaking, there is no right or wrong way to check your breasts. It is so important to know what your breasts usually look and feel like. Then you’ll be more likely to spot any changes quickly and get help from to your GP.

The NHS state that a good way check yourself is to “Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit, all the way up to your collarbone. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and up under each armpit.
You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.”

So- when should we seek help or advice from a GP? If you experience any of the following symptoms make sure you book to see your GP as soon as possible…

  • a change in size or shape
  • a lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like the skin of an orange)
  • redness or rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • your nipple has become inverted (pulled in) or looks different in any way.
  • liquid or any discharge that comes from the nipple without squeezing.
  • pains or pangs in your breast or your armpit
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.

Any of these changes could be down to normal bodily hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, labour, breast feeding or menopause- but please, if anything is new or is worrying you, GET CHECKED OUT…

Useful links-

NHS information about Breast Cancer.
Breast Cancer Care Org

Thank you for reading!
(Please remember that you can never be too safe!)