Ok, it's 5 months since you've had your gorgeous little one, but you feel your belly is still looking pregnant. I'm not talking about the natural excess weight that we all put on during pregnancy, but instead, this is a noticeable belly 'pooch' that is not in line with the rest of your body. You may also have accompanied back pain, and, or some mild incontinence when you laugh or sneeze. What is going on? Is this normal after having a baby?
The answer is NO, but it's extremely common. What you are actually dealing with here is a separation of the abdominal muscles which happen during pregnancy, the 6-pack muscles (Rectus Abdominis), which runs the whole length of the abdomen, from the middle of the ribcage through to the pubic bone. In pregnancy, particularly at the latter stages, the muscles are designed to stretch from the pressure of the growing baby. For many women, within the first 3 months they naturally knit back together, but for so many other women, they don't. You are left with this 'gappy/protruding' abdomen, and all the potential other symptoms that I've listed above.
Here are a few different images which highlight what it may look like, but bear in mind everyone's body is very different. This is to give you an idea...some of these are quite pronounced, and yours could look different:
So if you feel all of this looks and feels too familiar I would say firstly don't panic and secondly, I'm delighted!! NOT that I'm delighted you are experiencing these challenges but delighted that I have drawn your attention to them and highlighted that the amazing news is that you can do something about it and FIX it! I'm all about getting strong from the inside out. When you are a tired new mother and you feel like your body might be letting you down...go easy on yourself. It just needs some specific TLC (probably just like you too), and I am here to give you that TLC!
Generally what most mamas do is they try to exercise the belly away - by doing crunches and planks and other similar exercises. And guess what?? They are actually the WORST type of exercises to do and will, in fact, worsen the gap :( Many Personal Trainers are NOT aware of this phenomenon so please be really careful if you have already started back in gym or bootcamp class which is SO common for New Mamas. I'd urge you to stop these until any potential D.R. is fixed. So I don't want any more unhappy, pis*ed off mamas around. I want you to feel strong, happy and confident so that you can be the BEST mama you can possibly be!
The first thing I want you to do is to watch this video which will give you a pretty good idea if you have an issue. It obviously is not a diagnostic test as I am not a trained Physiotherapist, but as I said, you'll know if there is an issue or not. So here is the link: https://www.nurturemamas.com/pl/2034. Watch this first, and do the test.
If you DO have a D.R. gap of more than approximately 2 finger-width distance and you are more than 3-4 months post-partum, then you do need to focus on very specific core exercises which will help you heal, close the gap and get strong again. Once you feel strong again, then, by all means, you can go on with your daily life and your more vigorous exercise regime.
I'm so thrilled to say that I am launching a D.R. Restore Program on 1st July :) It is a series of 10 easy-to-follow, progressive exercises which will help you to get strong again. It's really core-focused and you don't need any equipment. The exercises are short but powerful. Take a look here and begin your journey to healing: https://www.nurturemamas.com/store/zAA3fBMz. You'll find the course under the 'Online Courses' tab from the homepage.
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Yoga Instructor, working with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, birth and Motherhood. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business MumandBaby.ie