The Mommy Pooch has always been a reference to the hanging belly “left over” after you have delivered your baby.
It can be quite the self-esteem killer that leaves you looking like you’re a couple months pregnant, and you might have even been told that you’re stuck with it as it is a natural consequence of delivering a baby.
At least that is what I was told, but I didn’t want to believe it.
Sure your body changes permanently in beautiful ways (I got a little wider and my hubby loves it!), but, in some cases, you can actually determine to which extent that change occurs, during pregnancy!
You see, I really wanted to keep my flat stomach (of course as much as realistically possible), and so I scoured the web to find some hope for preventing that semi-permanent pooch.
Thank goodness I did because there was something I (and you!) could do!
You CAN have a belly only pregnancy!
I just wish I had taken it a little more seriously as I had to concentrate a lot of effort on losing it since I didn’t (I will do a follow-up post on the real ways to get rid of that mommy pooch soon, so follow me and stay tuned if you’re in the same boat as I was!).
Don’t make my mistake, start when you’re pregnant!
Your body will thank you later!
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Disclosure: I have included affiliate links to products that I have used and enjoyed. These are for your convenience. I do receive compensation without any increase to your own price. Thank you and I really appreciate your support in what I do!
How to Prevent the Mommy Pooch
The best thing you can do to avoid the mommy pooch is preventing it from developing in the first place!
First things first, you should know that the mommy pooch actually has a medical name: Diastasis Recti.
Once you develop diastasis recti the process of recovery is a commitment and since the muscle space has already been compromised, treatment can be reversed at any point if you are not careful.
That is why there is such an emphasis on prevention.
Risk Factors of Diastasis Recti
Also, taking steps in prevention can help you reduce the severity of Diastasis Recti if you are already predisposed to the condition.
– Having a damaged core prior to pregnancy due to excessive pressure exertion (doing a lot of ab-focused exercises incorrectly, having a chronic respiratory condition like allergies that causes a lot of coughing and sneezing, or suffering from a chronic constipation problem)
– Being overweight/obese before pregnancy
– Getting pregnant after 35
– Having more than one child especially when within a short time frame
– Having a heavy baby
– Having multiples
– Being petite
– Having a pronounced swayback (poor posture)
There is also a genetic link to Diastasis Recti, so if you have family members with the condition, you already know that you’re likely to get it, so you can really tackle prevention and reduce the severity of the gap.
Although 100% of women get diastasis recti in their third term of pregnancy, for some it is lost by the 8th week postpartum, otherwise, it is usually there to stay unless something is done about it (6).
So without further ado, here are some ways you can reduce the severity of Diastasis Recti and work to prevent it from staying after your pregnancy!
1. Strengthen Your Abs (Safely)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists primarily recommends abdomen strengthening exercises before and during pregnancy (1).
Having a poor abdominal muscle tone before getting pregnant is a factor that increases your risk for Diastasis Recti (5).
This is when doing things like crossover crunches and bicycle crunches is highly recommended because once you do have Diastasis Recti you should probably refrain from ever doing them again (1)!
Once you are pregnant, you should AVOID any exercises that put excess tension on the abdominal muscles, especially after the 20-week mark when the gap begins developing (1).
Tension causes your muscles to contract and get smaller, and the force of the tension also pushes out the underlying tissue at the gap, resulting in the pooch or making it worse (this can even happen when you aren’t pregnant so beware!).
This includes but isn’t limited to exercises like crunches, sit-ups, front planks, push-ups, press-ups, and double leg raises (5).
The only exception is if you have already been working on correctly strengthening your core before pregnancy, then continuing to workout your core is considered safe in the first trimester of pregnancy (5).
Once you are pregnant, the best core strengthening exercise you can possibly do is called the Vacuum Crunch.
The Vacuum Crunch
This exercise engages your transverse abdominal muscles which is what makes it such a great and effective exercise for both preventing and treating diastasis recti.
Also, it is best done on an empty stomach or about 2-3 hours after you have eaten, so plan accordingly.
This is how it works (5):
1. Pick your position. You can either do this exercise standing, sitting crisscrossed (or just sitting using a support pillow like the Bümmaa for posture support; this pillow is great for dealing with all things post-partum like perineal pain) or laying flat on your back (preferred AFTER pregnancy for diastasis recti post-partum treatment).
2. Put your hands on your belly and then take a deep breath, letting your belly fully expand in the process.
3. You then exhale while sucking in your abdominal muscles as far back as you can towards your spine, and then hold that position.
4. While you hold, continue to take tiny breaths. As you exhale each tiny breath, suck in your stomach further back and make it tighter.
5. Doing this at least 10 minutes a day has been shown to have great results (7)!
I have also found this illustration from Braceablity to be visually helpful
This illustration is helpful in showing how the stomach vacuum works, but I would recommend refraining from doing the stomach vacuum lying down while you are pregnant and instead do it sitting or standing up as it could reduce blood flow for your and your baby.
While the stomach vacuum works well before your belly starts to get bigger, between 18-20 weeks, once you hit that mark you should switch over to a variation of it referred to as belly breathing (or you could just do belly breathing throughout your pregnancy and the stomach vacuum after).
The belly breathing exercise, like the stomach vacuum, helps to strengthen your core and protect against diastasis recti.
This is how it works (8):
1. Pick your position. You could either sit with your legs crossed, on a stability ball, standing up or against a wall.
2. Relax your pelvic floor (you ‘tense’ your pelvic floor when you tuck in your butt) while keeping your shoulders back and still.
3. Slowly inhale, expanding your ribs.
4. While you exhale through your mouth, draw in your abdomen towards your spine and lift up/contract your pelvic floor.
5. Hold this position as long as you can, and repeat as often as you want.
Other Great Ab Strengthening Exercises to Try During Pregnancy
Although your list of core focused exercises is cut pretty slim, there are other core-focused exercises that could actually strengthen your abs and help with diastasis recti prevention during your pregnancy.
– Side Plank
– Dumbbell Side Bends
– Standing Side Crunches
– Cat Cows
– Standing Rotational Exercises
– Head Lifts
These variations of crunches, planks, and exercises in the quadrupe position (when you’re on all fours) should only be attempted carefully, with proper knowledge, and upon doctor approval.
2. Avoid the ‘Cone’!
We already mentioned that any tension on your abs during pregnancy can contribute to diastasis recti because the combined muscle contraction and force can cause the protrusion of underlying tissue creating the pooch.
However, tension isn’t only caused while we exercise.
Everyday tasks can cause the pressure in your abdomen to increase which causes your belly to narrow into a cone.
Avoid anything that causes this narrowing of your belly as this is an indication that your abdominal pressure is too high.
In addition to exercise, here are some other things you should watch out for while pregnant:
Roll Out of Bed Instead of Just Sitting Up
Did you know that getting out of bed incorrectly while pregnant can really cause some core damage?
I didn’t and I wish I did because I can guarantee that I made the mistake many times while pregnant.
No matter what stage of pregnancy you are in, make sure to roll out of bed.
Towards the end, though, this will be the only way of getting out of bed, honestly.
When you roll instead of immediately attempting to sit up, you avoid risking putting extra pressure on your core and spreading your abdominal muscles apart.
Just roll onto your side, if you are on your back, and then slowly sit up, while gently pulling your belly towards yourself, to get up.
Pull Back Your Belly Button Before You Sneeze!
Other seemingly harmless things that can do some major damage to your abdomen are sneezing, coughing, and laughing.
Although they’re harmless when you aren’t pregnant, once you add the weight of a baby pushing against your muscles, something as simple as sneezing can cause your ab muscles to tear.
What you can do to protect yourself is to pull your belly button towards your spine before you do anything that would cause any strain.
This also includes any constipation straining, so beware mommas!
Be Careful When Lifting Anything
Try not to lift anything heavy when you’re pregnant.
You really shouldn’t be lifting anything, but if you have to then prepare your abdominal muscles as you would before a cough or sneeze.
Just pull your belly button towards your spine.
This tightens the abdomen and creates a seal protecting the gap tissue between your muscles.
Also, use your legs instead of your back and core, and when you carry something, carry it with both hands while keeping it as close to your body as possible (4).
Remember to exhale when you pick something up as the tendency is to hold your breath, which causes core pressure (4).
Don’t Strain Yourself!
Constipation is a common symptom of pregnancy affecting 1 in 2 pregnant women at some point in their pregnancy (9).
It can be very tempting to push a little to encourage your bowel movement, but you should not do it!
When you strain yourself and hold your breath, you increase the pressure in your core and further encourage the separation of your abdominal muscles.
This is also something to be aware of during your delivery.
Breathing and not straining will probably be the last thing on your mind at that point, but try to practice breathing correctly and relaxing your pelvic floor in order to prevent as much damage to your core as possible while you push your baby out (4).
Here is a video that has some exercises that you could do to better prepare your body for labor.
The exercises that I wanted to emphasize on are the deep squat (starts at about 1-minute 45-seconds), which helps stretch and relax your pelvic floor, and the belly breathing exercise (starts at about 3-minutes 23-seconds), which helps connect your breathing with your core and, as we mentioned earlier, also strengthens your core.
3. Use Kinesio Tape to Protect Your Abs and Initiate Healing
I wish I had known about this little hack when I was pregnant as it is definitely something I would have liked to try.
Kinesio tape is used primarily by athletes as a part of muscle rehabilitation as it acts like an extra layer of skin that holds muscles in place to promote their healing while still allowing for their regular movement, however, it can also be used as a form of prevention against muscle injury (10).
Using Kinesio Taping During Pregnancy
Kinesio tape can be used on pregnant bellies to prevent against the separation of the abdominal muscles thus preventing diastasis recti.
Moms also use it to help support the belly which helps to alleviate back pain, a big issue during pregnancy.
If you are using Kinesio tape for diastasis recti, here is a good resource on where and how to apply it, but I would highly recommend working with a professional physical therapist to get you the best results safely, especially if you have no prior experience with Kinesio tape.
This technique works best when your belly gets really big, the third trimester (12).
The tape is water resistant and you can keep it on for sometimes up to 5 days at a time.
There are also other Kinesio tape techniques that indirectly protect against Diastasis recti by providing support for your belly so that your abs don’t take on the full force of your baby.
You can find the instructions for each of these here.
Use Kinesio Tape With Caution
As with any form of medical treatment, Kinesio tape is not without its risks.
Make sure to try using a small patch of tape and test it on your skin before applying it on a large and sensitive area like your pregnant belly to make sure you are not allergic to the adhesive.
When your belly gets really big, the skin there is already extremely sensitive because of all the stretching, so make sure to follow proper application and removal instructions (I’ve read that baby oil helps with releasing the adhesive), while consulting with a professional, if you do not want to be left with negative lasting side effects like stretch marks.
4. Wear a Belly Band to Support Your Growing Baby
It is the constant pressure of your baby pushing against your abdominal muscles, due to gravity and strain, that increases the likelihood of diastasis recti.
So reducing that pressure could diminish the severity of diastasis recti.
Belly bands also keep your baby bump more secure so that it isn’t bouncing around while you get on with your everyday tasks (also less abdominal pressure)!
Benefits of Belly Bands
Belly support also means that there is less pressure on your bladder and lower back since the weight of your belly is lifted and more centered and not just hanging and pulling you down on one side.
Another thing belly bands do is promote good posture which, as we will read next, also has a big impact on whether or not you will develop diastasis recti.
So, although they can get pricey, they are definitely worth it!
5. Fix Your Posture
I had no idea that posture was such an important component of a strong core!
Before pregnancy I could say my posture was great, but when your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, proper posture becomes a daily challenge whether you are standing or sitting.
However, if not corrected incorrect posture could wreak havoc to not only your core, causing diastasis recti, but also pelvic organ prolapse and hernias (13).
What is Alignment?
Alignment refers to the way your body ‘stacks’ when you sit or stand.
Having correct body alignment is what makes up good posture.
There are certain habits that can actually contribute to the misalignment of our bodies.
These include; sitting more than walking, putting our weight on our coccyx instead of our ‘sit’ bones, and wearing heels (13).
Consequences of Improper Alignment
Improper alignment (when our chest is out, our butt is tucked in, and our stomach is sucked in) increases the pressure of our core.
When the pressure of our core increases, it looks for a way out, that means it goes either forward, up, or down (the pressure can’t escape through you back because of your spine, but it can still cause back pain).
When this pressure is directed forward it causes diastasis recti, when it goes up it causes hernias, and when it goes down it causes hernias and pelvic floor dysfunctions (13).
How to Get Proper Alignment
Proper alignment essentially is when your neck, shoulders, and hips are aligned.
You could also visualize it as your three main cavities (thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic) are stacked right on top of one another when you sit and stand.
Your ribs/chest should not be puffed or thrust forward, your butt shouldn’t be tucked in (like when you clench your glutes), your stomach should not be sucked in, and your knees shouldn’t be bent (13).
You should be relaxed when you sit and stand.
This is a perfect illustration of how high heels could mess with your alignment and ultimately your core and pelvic floor!
If you really want to take this seriously you should definitely look into MuTu system (I am not an affiliate, I just ran across the program).
I have been struggling with alignment and it has been not only impacting my body but my breathing (I sing so proper breathing is a big deal for me), so it is definitely something I am interested in improving.
Check out this video on alignment and diastasis recti! by the founder of the program.
Another thing you can do is invest into the Bümmaa pillow not only is it great for your post-partum perineal recovery but it will help encourage proper posture while you sit!
Sitting on the Bümmaa pillow positions your body into alignment automatically so you don’t have to keep reminding yourself not to slouch!
6. Learn to Breath Correctly!
Breathing is not only an important component of your posture, incorrect posture can hinder effective breathing (feeling breathless often?), but it also plays a big role in your core’s health.
Proper breathing utilizes the thoracic cavity (the lungs and the ribs) and not the stomach (referred to as belly breathing, unless you are doing the vacuum crunch) or the intercostal muscles (referred to as chest breathing).
Improper breathing increases the pressure of your abdominal cavity and can contribute to the development of diastasis recti.
How Do You Breath Correctly?
To breath correctly you must use your diaphragm.
The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the lungs from your abdominal area.
When used properly, it can help stabilize your core, protecting your back improving your overall mobility (14).
This is how you can practice breathing properly (5):
1. Place your hands on the lower half of your rib cage and then take a deep breath.
2. Make sure that you feel the air to fill into the sides and the back of your rib cage.
3. When you exhale, gently draw your belly button towards your spine.
Practice this exercise until you are able to do it automatically.
It really will take some time (I know) as most of us are chest breathers for the most part, but the benefits to reap make it well worth it!
Breathing correctly means better support and oxygenation for your body and therefore more energy for you.
Your Breathing Determines the Effectivity of Your Diastasis Treatment Exercises
When you breathe correctly you are toning your deep abdominal muscles.
These muscles are critical in the treatment of diastasis recti and engaging and activating them during your exercises is what makes these exercises so much more effective (5).
7. Keep Active Throughout Your Pregnancy
I mentioned building up your core earlier, however, holistic exercise is also very beneficial to strengthening your core as well as your entire body.
Benefits of General Exercise During Pregnancy
Having a well-toned body can help you avoid unintentionally injuring muscles, like those found in your core, since you are less likely to strain or overexert yourself when doing everyday tasks (and during labor!).
Your posture reaps benefits when the muscles surrounding your core are activated and strengthened and we already know the role that posture plays in the development of diastasis recti.
Another obvious benefit of regular exercise is that you tend to keep off excessive weight gain when you workout, eliminating that risk factor to diastasis recti.
Your body is also better able to handle the growth and eventual delivery of your little bun meaning fewer aches and pain and a faster recovery for you!
Now that you see how beneficial general exercise is for you during exercise, here are some ways you can incorporate it during your pregnancy.
The great thing about pilates, apart from the fact that it helps increase flexibility, strength, and muscle tone, is that it is actually safe during pregnancy and can have a lot of benefits in diastasis rectus prevention and treatment (15).
The important factor being that it must be a ‘pre-natal’ version of pilates where your instructor is well aware of which exercises help strengthen your core and which exercises can actually make your diastasis rectus worsen.
Pre-natal Pilates usually emphasize on activating your traverse abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor.
Committing to it regularly can help you better support your posture, reduce your pregnancy back pains, boost your energy, and improve your labor experience (15).
Lifting weights can also be very beneficial in improving your posture and allowing you to better support your bump and your core.
However, it is highly recommended to talk to your doctor before you begin any weight lifting routine during your pregnancy.
Listen to your body and only do as much as you are able to.
If you never weight lifted pre-pregnancy, this might not be a good option unless you stick with light weights and low exertion exercises.
Make sure to breathe correctly or you can actually make your diastasis recti worse.
Don’t hold your breath but remember to exhale when you lift weights as not doing so increases the pressure of your core.
Here is a great resource if you are interested in weight lifting during your pregnancy!
Taking a daily walk might not directly target your core, but, like the others, it helps strengthen your entire body which affects the strength of your core.
For added benefit in diastasis recti prevention, do your pelvic floor exercises while you walk.
The best way to describe the pelvic floor exercise is what you do when you try to stop yourself from passing gas or peeing.
This manual contraction of the muscles found in your pelvis helps strengthen your pelvic floor so you can better support your pregnancy weight and heal faster post-partum (16)
More General Exercises that Could Help Heal Your Diastasis Recti
These exercises are an extension of the ab strengthening exercises except that they are more general in reaping benefits for your entire body along with strengthening your core.
– Kneeling Side Reaches
– Pelvic Tilts
– Glute Bridge
– Heel Slides
– Single-Leg Kickbacks
– Upright Pushups
Again be careful not to strain when doing these and make sure to get the ok from your doctor first!
8. Avoid Gaining Extra Belly Fat (Belly Only = Baby Only)
If you want to have a belly only pregnancy, you really do have to carefully watch your weight gain.
You could check out this link to see the average approximations that your baby will weigh throughout the course of your pregnancy.
However, the weight you should expect to gain during your pregnancy is not just limited to your baby (even if your pregnancy is belly only).
Average Pregnancy Weight Break-Down (17)
Here is the estimated average break-down of your pregnancy weight at the end of your term.
– your baby will weight about 7 1/2 pounds, full-term
– placenta weighs approximately 1 1/2 pounds
– extra fluid weighs approximately 4 pounds
– uterus weighs approximately 2 pounds
– breast tissue weighs approximately 2 pounds
– extra blood weighs approximately 4 pounds
– extra nutrient (fats, proteins, and other nutrients) storage weighs approximately 7 pounds
– amniotic fluid weighs approximately 2 pounds
Total amounts to approximately 30 pounds, full term (actual values varies, check with your provider for more accurate information)
Additionally, it is expected that a pregnant woman gain approximately:
– 1 to 4 1/2 pounds in the first trimester
– 1 to 2 pounds a week in the second trimester
– 1 to 2 pounds a week in the third trimester
Again, these are just averages, your doctor will provide you with more accurate recommendations more specific to you.
Now weight gain can have other negative implications on your postpartum belly than just excess stubborn fat.
Obesity or being overweight is one of the main risk factors of diastasis recti (which results in that unwanted tummy pooch).
The reason for this is all that over-hanging visceral fat.
Belly Weight and Diastasis Recti
The fat found around your waistline is called visceral fat because it covers all of your visceral organs, like your stomach and intestines, before it starts to overhang (18).
Not only is this excess fat highly toxic to your health and well-being (it increases your likelihood of diabetes, cardiac dysfunctions, and cancer) and your pregnancy and your baby (being overweight increases your likelihood of complications and your baby’s likelihood of obesity), but it also increases your likelihood of diastasis recti (18).
Visceral fat increases the pressure against your abdominal muscles and leads to the stretching and sometimes even tearing of the connective tissue (the linea alba) that connect your abs (rectus muscles).
The Healthy Weight You Should Aim For
The healthy range you want to aim for is a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
You can check your BMI here.
The recommended weight gain during pregnancy according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) is 28-40 pounds for women who are underweight (or BMI less than 18.5), 25-35 pounds for women who are of normal weight (or BMI between 18.5 and 24.9), 15-25 pounds for women who are overweight (or BMI between 25 and 29.9), and 11-20 pounds for women who are obese (or BMI greater than 30) (19).
Before getting pregnant it is recommended that you first try get into that healthy range and lose that baby weight (if this wouldn’t be your first pregnancy).
If you weren’t able to lose the weight before getting pregnant then try to stick with these weight gain recommendations and maybe even work to lose the excess weight while you’re pregnant.
9. Eat Healthy Foods that Limit Unnecessary Weight Gain and Also Help Heal Your Diastasis
I know that this might be redundant considering that watching your weight has a lot to do with exercising and eating right, but it is important to watch your weight gain if you want to have a belly only pregnancy.
Recommended Calorie Intake (17)
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a pregnant woman or ‘normal weight’ (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9), who gets less than 30 minutes of weekly exercise should limit her calorie intake to:
– 1,800 calories during the first trimester
– 2,200 calories during the second trimester
– 2,400 calories during the third trimester
Usually, though, most sources average it out to about an extra 300 calories a day (20).
However, if you are looking to have a belly only pregnancy, exercise will have to be a part of your weekly program, so your calorie intake will be more (check with a nutritionist for a better approximation).
Healthy Food for Healthy Weight Gain (and Postpartum Weight Loss
In order to have a belly only pregnancy, you must know how to gain weight properly.
And remember, having a healthy baby is the priority!
Pregnant women need 70 mg of Vitamin C, 0.4 mg of Folic Acid, 27 mg of proteins (which contain iron and Vitamin B), and 1000 mg of Calcium (20).
Here are the nutritional requirements you should try to adhere to (20):
– at least 2-4 servings* of fruit
– 4+ servings of vegetables (dark leafy greens are good sources of folic acid!)
– 6-11 servings of breads/grains (good sources of fiber!)
– 3 servings of protein
– 4 servings of dairy products
*1 serving is approximately 1 oz
You should try to avoid consuming empty calories (foods that are processed and high in sugar and fats with minimal nutritional value) as much as possible.
I have written a post ‘How to Eat to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding Without Losing Your Milk Supply‘ detailing the healthy weight to lose weight.
This post has a lot of very useful information regarding healthy eating (like pregnancy, the average recommended extra calories for breastfeeding is 300, so the post is really relevant in that case) and it also includes some great eating tips to help you limit unnecessary weight gain.
Now, I really wanted to emphasize eating the right things not just because it could help you keep that waist slimmer and you and your baby healthier (as I mentioned, you could find more on eating right to keep that waist down here; pregnancy requires only about 300 extra calories in the second and third trimesters so this post contains a lot of useful information about that), but also because there are certain foods that could help you start healing that diastasis recti while you’re pregnant!
Food to Eat to Promote Diastasis Recti Healing (21)
Diastasis recti occurs because the linea alba, the connective tissue that keeps your abdominal muscles together, stretches and loses its elasticity and causes the destabilization of your abdominal muscle wall (21).
– Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Zinc help regenerate and strengthen the fibers of the linea alba helping you narrow the gap and firm up your abs.
Vitamin C is found in many fresh fruits and vegetables these included red peppers, oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit.
Vitamin A is found in carrots, cantaloupe, apricots, kale, and sweet potatoes.
Zinc is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.
– Protein helps with muscle tissue repair to help fix the damage caused to the rectus and traverse abdominal muscles.
Great sources of protein include organic meats, fish, beans, nuts, and eggs.
– Iron helps with oxygenation and keeping your cells fueled so that they can work to heal at their most optimal levels.
Iron can be found in spinach, broccoli, red meat, and quinoa.
– Alpha-linolenic acid helps boost your immune system and overall energy while aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
This essential fatty acid can be found in foods like nuts, avocados, fatty fish, eggs, and some cooking oils (olive oil, coconut oil, rapeseed oil, and hemp oil).
– Water isn’t a food but it is extremely important in the healing and repair of your connective tissue.
Try to drink about 8 cups of water (this also includes teas) a day.
You can get water from other sources like water-rich fruits and vegetables like lettuce, watermelon, strawberries, and cucumbers.
Foods to Avoid (21)
There are also foods out there that could hinder the healing of your diastasis recti by draining your body of energy and causing it stress.
These include foods that are processed or contain lots of sugars and trans fats.
You should also steer clear of caffeinated foods and drinks and anything that contains alcohol as much as you can as these can add stress to your body and they’re not too good for your baby either.
10. Start Treatment Early!
You should start prepping for your post-partum diastasis recti treatment BEFORE you deliver as the earlier you start to work to heal your body, the less likely are you to be stuck with the difficult to lose mommy pooch!
Some women are able to heal their diastasis recti by 8 weeks post-partum but you have to tackle it immediately!
What Can You Do to Prepare for Diastasis Recti Treatment While Pregnant?
There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for your post-partum diastasis recti healing.
1. Buy your materials now!
You can actually even start using the postpartum pillow while you’re pregnant to help with your posture while you sit!
2. Freezer prep healthy foods.
Take this advice from a momma that wishes she took this more seriously.
Unless you will have someone cooking for you during that first month post-partum, you might be stuck snacking for nutrition (nothing bad about snacking if you eat the rights foods) or worse, eating a whole lot of processed fast-foods!
The latter will wreak havoc on your post-partum body and make diastasis recti recovery nearly impossible.
Freezer prep meals that will promote your bodies healing potential now so that it is one less thing you have to worry about later (trust me the last thing you will want to worry about post-partum is cooking).
3. Read up in advance!
Knowledge is essential to your diastasis recti recovery.
The more you know about how to make recovery more effective, the less time it will take to heal it up!
Look into things you can do to heal and treat your post-partum diastasis recti and prepare yourself now.
I will be creating a follow-up post on ‘The Real Ways to Get Rid of Your Mommy Pooch‘ if, like me, you didn’t focus on prevention during your pregnancy, so stay tuned!
What You Need to Know About Diastasis Recti… And Why It’s More Than Just a Cosmetic Issue!
Diastasis Recti refers to the separation and stretching of the rectus abdominal muscles, and it is a pretty common condition for post-partum moms (1).
The combination of your growing baby with the pregnancy hormone relaxin (it softens your body’s connective tissue to accommodate the growth and birth of your baby) can cause the linea alba, the tissue separating your abs, to stretch and sometimes even tear (2).
A study reported that 1/3 of moms have this separation a year after they have given birth!
This gap naturally opens up during pregnancy in order to accommodate your growing baby, and for some women, it closes up on its own soon after delivery.
For others, though, the gap remains, and that means that there is little connective tissue holding everything in your abdominal area together.
Gravity kicks in and your organs and overlying tissue seep through the gap and bulge out, creating the pooch (1)!
A weakened core can also mean lower back problems post-partum (1)!
The worst case scenario is if the tissue tears causing a hernia (1).
The mommy pooch is definitely more than just a cosmetic issue!
How Does Diastasis Affect Your Pregnancy?
I had no idea that diastasis recti had negative implications even before I delivered my baby.
Had I known, I would’ve protected myself against it more!
What Diastasis Recti Looks like (and Feels Like) During Pregnancy
Having significant diastasis recti develop during pregnancy can cause difficulties not only after delivery but while you are still pregnant.
If your abdominal wall is not as stable or connected, then as your baby grows your uterus can actually start to drop, giving the appearance of a ‘torpedo belly’ (3).
I had a very pointed belly which I didn’t realize was a warning sign for diastasis recti.
Here is a picture that does a great job of illustrating how the looks.
The Implications of Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy
This ‘torpedo’ positioning is responsible for lower back pain, as your back is forced to compensate for the more forward center of mass, and for your diastasis recti worsening throughout the course of pregnancy, your growing baby is practically laying on your weakened core (3).
Additionally, you can end up having more difficulties with delivering your baby (like a failure with labor progression or extensive labor lasting several days) since this shift could cause the head of your baby to not properly align with your cervix (3).
A weak core could also affect the pushing stage of your labor as you don’t have as much energy and ability to effectively push out your baby (3).
This increases your risk on tearing since you aren’t able to use the correct muscles in time with contractions and most likely are holding your breath and bearing down for long stretches in an effort to manually progress your labor (both of those do terrible damage to your core as well!) (3).
The GOOD NEWS is that diastasis recti can be treated and potentially even prevented during your pregnancy, but you need to address it immediately to get the best results!
In order to address it, you need to know how to check for it first.
How to Check for Diastasis Recti During Your Pregnancy?
You can check for the condition at home, no equipment necessary, during your pregnancy (4):
1. Is your belly button an inny or an outy?
If you had an inny before pregnancy and now it is an outy, you could have diastasis recti!
An outy usually means that you have diastasis recti, but there are cases where you could still have diastasis recti with an inny pregnancy.
2. Do you see a slight indentation when you look at your belly button?
Try to look at your bare bump through the mirror under good lighting.
If you see a slight gap slightly over and/or under your belly button, this could be a sign of diastasis recti.
3. Can you feel a gap around your belly button?
Feel the area around your belly button while standing or lying down (make sure to watch the video for instructions on how to do this properly).
Gently apply slight pressure to check for any gaps in your traverse abdominal muscles.
If you feel a gap wider than an inch (or about the width of two fingers) either above or below your belly button, then you have Diastasis Recti.
I find that videos are much more helpful in illustrating how this is properly done, so here is one that is pretty straightforward but there are many others out there.
This video is overall pretty informative on how you could find out if you have diastasis recti during your pregnancy, however, the actual test starts around the 3-minute 45-second mark.
The most important point that I hope this post drove across is that you can actually do something about that pooch while you’re still pregnant!
You don’t necessarily have to “give up” your body when you have a baby.
Sure your body will undergo beautiful changes, some of which might not be reversible, but you can minimize the extent of those changes by changing a few things and doing a few others during your pregnancy.
Remember, the mommy pooch isn’t just a cosmetic issue, it’s an overall health issue.
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Until next time mommas!