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How to Prevent and Repair Diastasis Recti

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Preventing Diastasis Recti While Pregnant and Healing DR Postpartum

Diastasis recti is also known as mom pooch and abdominal separation. It is estimated about 60% of women suffer from some level of diastasis recti immediately postpartum.

Learn what the condition really is, what causes diastasis recti (DR), how to best prevent it from occurring to you, and how to repair your abdominals if it does!

*It is important to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program and get medical clearance. Perform exercises at your own risk.*

postpartum fitness to repair and prevent diastasis recti

The Best Way to Learn About Preventing and  Repairing Diastasis Recti is from the Professionals

I am a certified personal fitness trainer, which qualifies me to whip you into shape postpartum after proper medical clearance. But, what you need to be focused on first and foremost throughout your pregnancy is health and repair.

Your body is going to go through a lot of changes, stretching, and damage to house and expel a tiny beautiful human. Before beginning an exercise routine postpartum, and in conjunction with your prenatal workout you should be doing physical therapy recommended exercises to strengthen and repair your core.

More rigorous exercises will only exacerbate the problem and drastically extend the healing time required for diastasis recti.

So I brought a doctor of physical therapy to Vigor it Out today to answer all of our questions about exactly how to prevent and repair diastasis recti! Dr. Jena is a friend of mine, a wonderfully qualified doctor, and a mother of 4! Let’s learn ALL about preventing and repairing diastasis recti from prenatal through postpartum the right way!

the milky mama's postpartum plan

Who are you and what are the qualifications that make you such a wonderful choice to aid in writing this collaborative post?

I’m Dr. Jena Bradley, a Physical Therapist who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, the #1 ranked physical therapy school in the nation. I have been practicing for 10 years, and I have had a passion for women’s health ever since having 4 babies of my own, naturally.

I created my blog Live Core Strong with a mission to motivate the next generation of healthy moms by providing medical recommendations and practical advice on fitness and parenting with the goal of creating a strong core lifestyle which is the foundation to a healthy body and unified family.

The core muscles are my favorite part of the body to exercise, and I found myself excited to have an opportunity to write about the importance of having a strong core as part of one’s overall health.

As a mom-to-be, a mom in postpartum or seasoned mom, the core tends to be the part of the woman’s body that gets focused on the most. It has gone through some drastic changes, hasn’t it? From a pregnant belly to a postpartum belly and for some of you who have multiples, that cycle repeats! That belly doesn’t quite look or feel the same anymore, and it definitely doesn’t support you the same way it once did.

Moms have questions and concerns about their core, and I want to be a reliable resource for those women who need medical advice on how to restore their abdominal muscles the proper way.

My blog, Live Core Strong, is focused on serving moms with expert fitness advice as well as reliable mom tips. I hope to serve my audience by encouraging them to live a life focused on developing a strong core within their body and their family.

Diastasis recti can happen to anyone but is highly prevalent in pregnant women. What makes diastasis recti usually surface in pregnancy and what causes it?

how to repair the mom pooch postpartum

Have you ever had that favorite pair of pants you loved to wear while relaxing at home on the weekends?

Remember how over time the elastic liner got stretched to where it never fit nice and snug anymore but was over-stretched?

That’s basically what happens to your abdomen during pregnancy. As your baby bump grows, it causes the muscles and tissue/skin to stretch gradually.

There is a fancy term for the center point of your belly that runs vertically straight down through your whole abdomen – the linea alba.

Normally, when you contract your abdominal muscles, the linea alba is strong and tight and holds both sides of your stomach muscles together. However, for many women, as their pregnancy advances and their belly grows, the linea alba gets more and more stretched, and in some cases does not go back to being tight and firm after delivery.

With diastasis recti, when you contract your abdominals, instead of the linea alba staying strong, it bulges straight up, causing the vertical bump in your stomach region.

So just like that favorite pair of elastic waisted pants you had, once it gets stretched out, it’s hard to maintain its original shape again.

Fortunately for us, unlike elastic that gets stretched out and can never get tight again, with proper education and exercise, diastasis recti can typically either be prevented or fixed as the core muscles are re-taught how to contract properly.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise before, during and following pregnancy, along with knowing what exercises are appropriate and NOT appropriate after delivery will help overcome this common condition.

RELATED: Physical Therapy Exercises to Repair your Pelvic Floor Postpartum

What causes diastasis recti during pregnancy?

The most common reason why diastasis recti occurs (in both pregnant women and non-pregnant people who have a larger stomach) is simply because of the significant stretching and weight gain that occurs in that part of the body.

While pregnant, it is important not to use the reason of “I’m pregnant” to justify eating tons of extra junk food or mega portions of your favorite treats. Check out 8 healthy snacks to keep you full and nourished during pregnancy.

Be careful not to fall into the mindset that you are “Eating for Two.” Just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you are supposed to eat two pieces of cake at your nephew’s birthday party instead of one.

By eating responsibly with healthy foods and appropriate portion sizes, you can help prevent gaining TOO much weight during pregnancy.

RELATED: Healthy Pregnancy Breakfasts to Nourish Mom and Baby

Another common reason diastasis recti occurs is because of weak core muscles.

Sometimes people get offended and think that “weak” core muscles means they never exercise.

But the term “weak” means your muscles don’t have enough strength for what your body or activities require of them.

What muscles can you strengthen during the prenatal period to prevent diastasis recti?

repair your abdominals after baby

The main muscles that attach to or are a part of the linea alba down the center of the abdomen are as follows from superficial to deep:

  • external abdominal oblique
  • internal abdominal oblique
  • rectus abdominis
  • the transversus abdominis

In Latin, the term “linea alba” means “white line.”

It is a connective tissue that is formed when all these muscles join in the middle of your stomach. Keeping these muscles strong in ways that are medically safe for you in whatever stage of life you are in is important to help prevent diastasis recti.

the milky mama's postpartum plan

What are the best physical therapy exercises a woman can do throughout pregnancy to help prevent diastasis recti from occurring?

  1. Abdominal Bracing Supine (on back)
  2. Abdominal Bracing With Alternating Heel Slides (supine on back)
  3. Abdominal Bracing Sitting on a Physioball
  4. Abdominal Bracing Quadruped
  5. Abdominal Bracing Quadruped Alternating Arm

See this elaborate post detailing exactly how to do each of these diastasis recti exercises for pregnancy through postpartum.

Jena’s Tip: Each exercise is safe to do throughout each trimester; however if lying supine on your back is uncomfortable for you due to your growing belly, I recommend performing these exercise at an incline (prop some pillows under your back while lying down in bed).

**Want to know the most exciting thing? Dr. Jena has now created her own master program teaching you how to slowly, safely, and correctly restore your core postpartum! As a doctor of physical therapy and mother of 3 she knows EXACTLY what to do and so can you if you pick up her Postpartum Ab Rehab program now. **

If you already have severe or even mild abdominal separation starting how can you begin repairing it?

If you feel you have DR, be sure to have a proper diagnosis by your doctor or a physical therapist. I highly advise you to see a physical therapist who specializes in women’s therapy.

If you find that your DR is severe (or even if it’s mild), you want to gradually progress your rehab program. Slow progression is the safest way to restore your core muscles. You want to be careful not to further worsen the separation in your abdomen by pushing too hard, performing the wrong exercises or starting too soon.

As advised by all OBGYN’s, do not start exercising until you are cleared to begin a workout program at your 6 week postpartum check-up. There is no need to rush, and you could do more harm if you begin too early with exercises that are too aggressive.

What are the best exercises to begin postpartum to repair your diastasis recti?

For the best 11 physical therapy recommended exercises to restore your postpartum Diastasis Recti belly, you will want to read “11 Diastasis Recti Core Exercises For Your Postpartum Belly.”

Here you will learn how to exactly begin restoring your core the safe way using a program that is designed by a physical therapist. I also include a Video for you to follow along with and will be easier for you to understand. Be sure to check it out.

How long must you focus on repairing your abdominals when suffering from DR before progressing to more difficult exercises?

I often have young athletes ask me, “How soon can I get back to playing my sport?” My answer is always the same, “I expect for you to be able to walk or perform basic activities without pain or difficulty before I want you trying to participate in your sport at full speed.”

People also often think they need to run to “get into shape.” What they don’t understand is that you need to “be in good shape” in order to tolerate running and not injure yourself.

The same goes for dealing with diastasis recti. You need to be able to perform very basic core strengthening exercise first BEFORE trying to advance in your workout program.

There is no strict or set timeline for this since everyone is different with respect to the severity of their DR, their previous exercise experience and their unique body.

Everyone heals at different rates. You will know you are ready to progress your core exercises to more difficult ones when you can perform the easy/basic ones without pain and WITHOUT that small bump popping up in the middle of your tummy (the pooch as most new moms call it).

Wrapping up how to prevent and repair diastasis recti.

We covered a lot of ground in this article. It’s understandable if you continue to have questions or concerns about diastasis recti. I want to be a helpful resource for you. You can always contact me directly on my contacts page on my blog. I respond to every message promptly.

You can also get updates and the latest information on topics such as diastasis recti and other fitness related posts by signing up for my Newsletter. As a bonus, you’ll also receive my FREE total body workout which includes the best Physical Therapy exercises for each major muscle group. It’s perfect for those busy moments when you just want to get a quick, yet effective workout in. Or get my new program now, Postpartum Ab Rehab as I walk you step by step how to repair your core postpartum in 12 weeks. Enjoy!

Related post on Postpartum Fitness

This has been a wonderful guest post from Dr. Jena BradleyDr. Jena Bradley live core strong.

Dr. Jena Bradley is a mom of 4 darling little girls, a physical therapist and founder of Live Core Strong, a blog focusing on motivating moms to live a life that incorporates fitness and fun throughout their motherhood journey.
She aims to be the friend you always wanted to have who could guide you through the “fog” when faced with an “I don’t know what to do” mommy moment. At the most inconvenient time of her life, she embarked on a journey of sharing her story and expertise to inspire the next generation of healthy moms. You can learn more about Jena and check out her blog here.

Preventing Diastasis Recti While Pregnant and Healing DR Postpartum

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