This blog post is to educate and make aware to women what could happen after pregnancy and how to take charge of it.
For those who have read my biography, learned that I have been in sports since a young age. So to stay on the top of my game, being fit from top to bottom was a must. Fast forward to pregnancy… What started out as a “cute baby bump” in the beginning, by my 9 month I felt like a walrus! The weight I gained seemed to go straight to the belly, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant until I turned sideways, but when I turned sideways, you better not be in the way or my stomach was going to knock you down! With my background in Exercise Science, I understood the changes my body needed to make to accommodate my growing bundle. With that being said, as my precious baby grew it wasn’t just that my belly was growing, my abdominal wall was separating to allow my baby the space.
After having my baby, I lost just about all my baby weight in a short period of time due to mostly breastfeeding. On my post 6 week check up I was cleared to start back exercise. Before I left the doctor, I asked what could I do to slim my mid-section. Now, I know being in the Fitness industry TONS of ways to help slim the mid-section but the answer I received wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. Lord knows I love my doc and all he did to help me from the beginning to end, but when I asked the question and the response was crunches, I figured I may not have made myself clear or maybe that WAS really the answer. I would soon find out myself the real answer.
I left my 6 week post check-up pumped that I could return to my workout routines and get back right and tight! Slowly but surely I gained my strength back and started sculpting my body back to fit shape. The one thing noticed the most during my get back to fit journey was my mid-section, at first it seemed to be going down, and you bet I was happy but after several weeks of getting back into shape, something started to change. My husband even noticed after a while that my mid-section seemed to be “growing” instead of shrinking. He knew my goals, so seeing that caused him worry that something could be wrong internally. He sent me a few articles, after doing research on women after pregnancy, and found information called DIASTASIS. Diastasis is the separation of the abdominal wall when a woman progresses in her pregnancy. It often occurs in women who are expecting more than one baby or carry most of their weight in their belly.
I found out that for women that suffer diastasis after pregnancy, doing crunches, sit-ups or other types of core exercises actually contradict the results you hope for when working your mid-section. Doing any form of crunches or other abdominals exercises could actually make your mid-section worse by continuing to separate the abdominal wall and even start making your organs push out making you appear pregnant when your not!! Ahhh
That’s exactly what was happening to me and I wasn’t even aware of it. What use to work for me back then, wasn’t the answer to get myself back tight in my stomach, I had to make serious modifications. I remember a friend/teammate/strength coach back in college who suffered a pretty serious degree of diastasis after her first child, and she had posted her experience. So I reached out to her and asked her what steps I should take in getting my stomach back in shape and I was so happy that there was hope!!
I found that diastasis ranges from minimal to severe. Every woman is different. To test if I even had diastasis and if so, what degree, I had to lie down and place my index and middle finger right above my belly button. Next, you could either cough or tighten from your mid-section. If I had diastasis, I would feel my abdominal wall close in on my two fingers, as if my abdominal wall was trying to close back together (doesn’t sound appeasing does it?). To know of the degree depended on how many fingers you had to place above the belly button until one felt the abdominal wall touch the fingers. The more fingers used, the more severe.
My friend’s diastasis was severe enough that she had to see a physical therapist to help show her the proper core exercises to do, to help close and tighten the abdominal wall. My friend was SOOOOO gracious enough to send me progression videos of what she was taught to help close the gap. I am forever grateful! Thank you girl! You know who you are, I appreciate you!!
In the videos you see next, I replicated the progressions she showed. There are only a couple differences I changed in the videos that can be done either way to help strengthen and make back tight while doing these exercises. Once you have mastered progression #1, then you move to the next progression.
I use one hand to slightly place under my lower back, and the other hand placed above my belly button. While performing the exercise I can feel and assure that I am tightening my core muscles by pressing my back down on my hand that is placed under my lower back. The top hand I can feel my abdominals tighten. The other effective way my friend showed was using a towel. By wrapping the towel around the waist, and slightly tightening the towel at the waist by holding each end of the towel while performing the exercises.
**IT IS HIGHLY SUGGESTED FOR MOTHERS JUST STARTING THESE PROGRESSION CORE EXERCIES TO USE A TOWEL TO APPROXIMATE THEIR ABDOMINAL WALL WHILE GOING THROUGH THE EXERCISES. AS IMPROVEMENT IS MADE/NOTICED, THATS WHEN THE TOWEL CAN START BEING WEANED OFF AND USING YOUR HAND FOR APPROXIMATION.