I was ready to pop in my third trimester, and as I hooked my elbow across my knee, pulling myself into a spinal twist, I felt a sharp and fiery pain down the midline of my stomach. I winced and released the pose, and the pain went away, but unfortunately, the damage was already done. After I had my baby, I was diagnosed with a 4-finger diastasis recti gap.
Nine months after I had my baby, I went to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist because my "mummy tummy" made me look five months pregnant. She explained that diastasis recti is a gap between the ab muscles of more than 2.7 cm or two fingers. This gap can lead to abdominal bulging, back pain, urinary incontinence (peeing a little when you sneeze or jump). It's very common after pregnancy. One study showed that up to 53% of women have diastasis recti after having their baby (1).
My pelvic floor physiotherapist recommended some healing exercises, gave me exercises to avoid as well as recommended a Belly Bandit Belly Wrap to help bring the muscles together and to provide support and protection while my muscles were healing.
Fast forward a few months, and I was able to successfully heal my gap without surgery.
The five things I did to heal my gap were:
- Exercises that that healed the inner core muscles, the transversus abdominis muscles. These included toe taps, heel slides, and pelvic tilts, among others. In this video, I walk you through diastasis recti healing exercises here (https://youtu.be/vG2t19B4zRk).
- I also wore a Belly Bandit Belly Wrap, which helped close the gap and flatten my tummy. It also reminded me to activate my core throughout the day and reduced my back pain. My favorite is the Viscose from Bamboo Belly Wrap because it was so comfortable to wear.
- I avoided movements and exercises that caused "coning." Most commonly known are the traditional ab exercises like sit-ups and Russian twists, but full planks and lifting may also cause "coning" not allowing your core to heal properly. Here (https://youtu.be/TI5RpnJktzk) is a video of all of the movements and exercises to avoid. If you do have to lift something (for example, your child), be sure to engage your core before you do so to help prevent "coning."
- I fixed my posture to limit intraabdominal pressure (excesssive inside pressure can be pushing apart your abdominal muscles)
- I learned to practice diaphragmatic breathing. You can learn how to breathe to help heal your diastasis recti here. (https://youtu.be/ThKahimNQP)
I felt so passionate about these steps that I took training to become a fitness instructor, and started a YouTube Channel, Pregnancy and Postpartum TV. My day job was as a registered dietitian in diabetes and weight management. Many of the moms I worked with wanted to get back to their exercise routine, but there weren't exercises that were diastasis recti safe where they could also get a good workout. To help them, I created a playlist of postpartum workouts on my channel that are safe and effective. I wanted moms to be able to work towards their health or weight management goals while healing and keeping their core safe.
During my next pregnancy, with more knowledge of what to avoid, such as leveraged twists, I was able to protect my core and limit my diastasis recti gap to 3-fingers. The belly wrap not only protected my core during pregnancy but helped me feel more comfortable exercising and reduced my back pain. After pregnancy, I was very quickly able to heal my diastasis recti gap again using the same five steps.
Jessica Pumple's Award-Winning YouTube channel is Pregnancy and Postpartum TV, where you will find pre and postnatal yoga and fitness, diastasis recti healing, and fun toy surprise kid workout videos. As a registered dietitian, certified diabetes, and bariatric educator, she also supports moms with gestational diabetes and weight loss.
- Hanneford R, Tozer J. An investigation of the incidence, degree and possible predisposing factors of the rectus diastasis in the immediate postpartum period. J Nat Obstet Gynaecol. 1985;4:29–32. [Google Scholar]