15 Feb 5 Top Tips for Tummy Gap (Diastasis Recti)
Diastasis Recti, more commonly known as the ‘mummy tummy’, is that dreaded pouch that we just can’t seem to shift despite having lost all our baby weight. We tend to blame all that cake or having not returned to that particular exercise class.
As women we tend to either accept our new tummy shape… “we’ve had a baby after all and this is what happens” and “women are never the same again”, or we feel uncomfortable and lack the confidence of our former self. We hide under those baggy tops and comfy maternity jeans, despite desperately and unsuccessfully trying every exercise out there to strengthen our ‘core’ and regain some resemblance of our pre-baby tummy.
It is believed that all women will have a diastasis during pregnancy, and it is important to note that it is not considered to be abnormal. It is a normal occurrence which allows for our abdomen to expand to accommodate our growing baby.
So, what should we do: accept it? Hide it? Ignore it? Can it be any different, or is this it now and forever more? Well, there is some truth to the acceptance that we’ve had a baby and our body is unlikely to ever be the same again: once postpartum, always postpartum. Being postpartum is a wonderful thing, never to be underestimated. But, is it possible to improve our tummies and get some of that old confidence back, or should we just accept the new rounded belly shape?
There are multiple factors in answering these questions:
- our genetics is a huge indicator
- potentially the number of babies we’ve had
- the size of our adorable mini ones
The gap itself is not always the issue but more so the depth (how far our fingers sink into the gap), and
most importantly, our ability to create ‘tension’ within our midline. It is this tension and connection with our deep core muscles that will determine a) our abdominal strength and b) the look and shape of our tummy.
50% of women will still have a diastasis at 8 weeks postpartum and more than 40% will remain so at 6 months.
For these women, it is now known that there is a potential for them to be more at risk of developing lower back or pelvic pain, prolapse and even possible incontinence. Some types of exercise can potentially damage or maintain gaps further so the answer is YES having a diastasis and especially one that is soft and we can’t tense, does matter, it really matters!
I truly believe that lots can be done to avoid these risks, to make us feel happier about our tummies and to return them to their once loved and happy shapes. A safe return to sport, free from pain, incontinence and symptoms associated withpelvic organ prolapse has to be what we strive for. To achieve this, we need a structured exercise programme from the inside out.
Gemma Pilkington is a Women’s Health Specialist who owns her own UK physiotherapy practice, GP Physiotherapy. There, Gemma is continuously working toward her goal of “restoring health and happiness to women”.
Gemma suggests following the 5 simple tips below to get you started on the right track to recovering your ‘mummy tummy’….
- Diet and Nutrition – keep well hydrated and fill your diet with protein rich foods to encourage tissue recovery and healing. A balanced diet will also maintain healthy bowel function. Avoiding constipation and repeated ‘bloating’ often seen with food intolerances will help in reducing your diastasis.
- Posture – do not underestimate the importance of how you stand and sit. Correct that pregnancy ‘sway’ to give your abdominal muscles a chance of coming together. Poor postures can maintain or increase a diastasis further.
- Breathe, Breathe and Breathe – never hold your breath, or forcibly belly breathe. This may cause increased abdominal pressure and maintain diastasis. Diaphragmatic breathing (breathing in to your lower ribs) also helps to reduce stress which further helps to reduce a gap.
- Compression – clothing worn to encourage your abdominal muscles together provide additional support, and allow for normal breath and function with both day-to-day activity and returning to sport. Check out EVB Sport for a great range of support clothing.
- Connect – with your pelvic floor and deep core muscles to create tensioning of the fascia and abdominal muscles. You may need to find a local Women’s Health Physiotherapist who will perform a pelvic floor examination, they will help guide and teach you how to correctly contract and relax these muscles.
From here a structured ‘loading’ programme can promote healing and recovery within your tissues, and will allow not only a safe return to sport but also a tummy that you can be proud of.
My patients seen great results in combating their post natal diastasis, one said:
“ I wore the EVB’s all the time from dawn till dusk when at home, when out and about and when doing your exercises. I’ve seen a dramatic change in the size and shape of my tummy and would definitely recommend them to friends.”
You can visit Gemm’a website by clicking here.