Why do I still have “mummy tummy” is the most common question that I get from many of the women I train? You are working out, trying to eat well and you still can’t get rid of that tummy! You are most likely dealing with a Diastasis Recti (DR aka abdominal separation), which is a separation of the Rectus Abdominis. I teach Stroller Fitness and one of the most common complaints when people come to me is that they are frustrated because they still look pregnant and they ask me “why do I still have this mummy tummy?”. I’m going to give you some answers Mama!
Why do I still have Mummy Tummy and what can I do?
What is “mummy tummy”?
Simply put, it is a separation of the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle (called Diastasis Recti Abdominis, aka Diastasis Recti / abdominal separation). You know that brown line we get down our bellies during pregnancy? That is the linea alba, and during pregnancy it stretches to accommodate a growing baby and uterus. You can imagine the stress of the pelvic floor during pregnancy (which is only meant to support 3lbs.).
There could be more than just the diastasis (DR). You could have weak connective tissue and be lacking the ability to create tension needed to support the core. Did I mention, “It is not normal or OK to Pee your Pants, read the Article”. This too indicates pelvic floor dysfunction. Read our related Fit Blog article.
Photo courtesy of Bellies Inc.
- Pelvic floor
- Transversus abdominis
My colleagues and favourite experts at Bellies Inc. will tell you that the “Core 4” must work together as a team to create pelvic floor stability in every movement. It’s like a relationship, if one is too bossy, it doesn’t work. If one is too lazy things don’t get done.
The good news is we can help and there is a solution other than surgery (which is the last resort). The only thing I enjoy more than working out is the strength of my Pelvic floor muscles and not “peeing my pants” as a result of a strong floor.
How do I know if I have a DR?
- Possible back pain because of a weakened pelvic floor
- The “bulge” that never goes away
- “Coning” of your belly when you try to sit up from a lying position
- Pain in your pelvis
- Peeing your pants (i.e.: when coughing, sneezing, walking)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
If you are not sure if you have a Diastasis Recti get help. Find a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist or contact certified Post Natal Expert Trainer, Trina Medves at Fit4Females in the Hamilton and surrounding areas. It is important to start rehabilitating as soon as possible and we can get you the help and resources you need.
Diastasis Self Assessment
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
Keep your head down and your abdominals relaxed.
Take 2 or 3 fingers just above the belly button (keep them straight and pressed together with your palm facing towards your head).
Press your fingers gently downwards into the belly and feel for the integrity of the connective tissue – does it feel mushy? Stretchy? Taught like a trampoline? Can you push down really far – so far that you can feel your pulse? Make note of what you feel.
Now you want to feel for the actual separation. With your fingers still pressed in and keeping the fingers straight, slowly start to lift your head as if starting to do a crunch.
This is the curl up task and you need to move slowly and as you move feel for the ridges of the muscle come to ‘hug’ or ‘squeeze’ your fingers. The trick is to feel the first hint of this ‘hugging’ – the higher up you come, the smaller the separation will feel. If you don’t feel a ‘hug’ right away, come back down and add another finger and check again and so on. Diastasis can be present anywhere from the sternum to the pubic bone so you want to check all along the linea alba.
It is very common to have a separation all along and the measurement can be completely different at the belly button than it is higher up or lower down. In our experience, a measurement of 5-6 finger widths is common at the belly button and between 2-4 finger widths above and/or below the belly button. Don’t worry if you find squishy connective tissue and a separation – there is a solution!
(Self Assessment Courtesy of Bellies Inc.)
This is me 38 weeks pregnant with my 3rd
I delivered three beautiful children almost 9 lbs. I was not exempt from pelvic floor issues or back and hip issues. I took and still take the time to rehabilitate my pelvic floor and Core. Trust me, you will thank yourself. It’s just like training your butts and biceps. Slow and steady wins the race.
What do I do if I have a DR?
- Avoid abdominal exercises that put strain on the rectus abdominis i.e.: sit ups, crunches, burpees, abdominal curls, v-sits, boats, planks, anything on all fours, running, skipping, jumping (it seems like a lot but your goal is to rehabilitate)
- Get up in a “sexy side slide” from all lying positions – roll to your side and push yourself up with your chest and arms, head is the last up and make it sexy
- Focus on pelvic floor exercises i.e.: core breath, kegels, baby hugs
- Mind body connection – engage the pelvic floor muscles during every movement i.e.: breathing, sitting, standing, squatting
- Take the time to heal and know that it doesn’t stop there. I am mindful during every movement, connecting my pelvic floor and core during boxing, squats, planks, bicep curls, you get the drift…
- Restore the form and function of our inner core with Kim Vopni (try this Instructional Video when you are at home)
If you think you have DR post partum
It is important to note that doing exercises, which engage your rectus abdominal muscles (e.g. crunches), may worsen DR and lead to increased pelvic floor dysfunction. Take the time to restore from the inside out.
My Friends at Bellies Inc. have incredible videos and products to support Diastasis and Post Natal Recovery
Remember, it’s not too late to get help, even years after giving birth. Please share this article in the share link buttons below because there are so many people that have no idea what Diastasis is.