What I am about share with you is based a lot on my own personal experience, along with my expertise as a personal trainer, some research via the web as well as interviews with other experts. That being said, if you have any questions for which I may not be able to answer, know that I will direct you to the best sources I personally know to be available. It has been rather frustrating and a back and forth situation for me since after the birth of my son in 2008. Through my experience and expertise I hope to successfully help you attain those flat abs after your baby.
When you think about it, in the most simplest of terms, it takes 9 months to grow our precious baby (or babies if you are mother of multiples) so automatically, as frustrating as it may be, we need to plan on giving ourselves that amount of time to regain our bikini ready flat abs. There is the stretching of the abdomen, the addition of fat to nourish our little beans, hormonal changes and imbalances that affect how our bodies will react and the timing that changes will occur (such as the shrinking of uterus revealing a flatter stomach), there’s also a change in fluids throughout our body and oh, so much more.
Let’s go back to the stretching of the abdomen because flat abs after your baby has a lot to do with what has happened to the abdominal wall itself and this is what many women, myself once included, fail to realize or even know this condition exists.
Raise your hand if you have heard of diastasis recti.
Ok, so maybe I won’t see you raise your hand, but thinking to yourself without anyone around you can be totally honest, right? Ladies, I have been a personal trainer, certified through the American Council on Exercise since 1998 and I had never heard of it until a year after my second childbirth. Granted, after my first child, I was able to get back to my personal normalcy within a rather short period of time but this baby was barely 6 pounds. After my son, it was definitely much more challenging. Let me rephrase this: it STILL is a challenge. It is something I literally work on every day.
What is diastasis and what does it look like?
- Separation of the rectus abdominus muscle; your “six pack”, from breastbone to pubic bone; the connective tissue between those two parts actually stretches and weakens, causing a gap
- You will know you have this condition if upon rising from lying on your back you see a cone or dome-like shape in your belly region. A friend and colleague of mine calls it a loaf of bread. Yup! That was me!
How is it caused?
- Continuous pressure on the abdominal wall, which results in thinner and more weakened connective tissue. –Makes sense right?
How is the severity determined, or measured?
- Check out this video for a great, vocal explanation.
What other conditions could be you experience due to diastasis recti?
- extended, or bloated appearance of the belly
- gastro-intestinal problems (think bloating as mentioned above)
- back pain
- umbilical hernia (this is what I have due to diastasis)
- poor posture
- pregnant women risk having a c-section because with weakened connective tissue there is a risk of a weakened uterus, weak pelvic floor
Here’s another frustrating part of this condition: leakage. Yup, you heard right! A post I wrote a while back proves that I am new to this too. I have been suffering from this for too long ladies and if you are, then please read on. Your rectus abdominis is what separates. This then causes the many other parts of the full abdominal wall to weaken and cause further issues. One such part of your abdominal wall is the transverse abdominis and this core muscle is attached to your pelvic floor. When our pelvic floor weakens, our bladder is affected. Yes, those little tinkles that occur when you cough or sneeze could very well be due to a weakened pelvic floor (remember I am not a doctor so I am not at liberty to say that is the sole reason you suffer from this condition). Myself on the other hand, I have already self diagnosed with a weakened pelvic floor related to diastasis recti as evidenced by leaking small amounts of urine when coughing or sneezing. (Sorry, that’s my technical nutritional diagnosis verbiage coming out). It flipping stinks!
Is surgery for me?
Honestly, I feel that you truly need to consult with a reputable, physician who has experience with this condition. In addition, I would also get more than one physician’s opinion as well as the opinion from a certified specialist in diastasis recti. Talk to all of them about any symptoms or pain you are feeling while resting as well as when active, such as with exercise and quite possible during intercourse. I have been told by a physician that I do have a hernia. I also know I do because of the way my belly button sticks out and oftentimes it is tender to the touch. This can be frustrating for me because my sweet little boy loves to hug mommy and I have to remind to be gentle. Wendy Powell, the creator of Mutu System (seen in above video) states that a hernia is a hole in (that) area, and exercise will not fix it per se, but it will improve the strength in the area and help to reverse the “pressure.” This is why I have not only opted to avoid surgery at this time, I have also become a student of her program. At 3 weeks in, I can definitely say there is a big difference, but more on that later.
What can you do to “fix it?”
Well, this is not as easy of an answer as I once thought it was, but to begin, here are some beginning points to consider from Wendy, the creator or the Mutu System:
- address your posture and body alignment
- learn to stop “sucking it in”
- learn to find and engage the transverse abdominals
- learn functional training so as to add other types of fitness moves into your routine without reopening the rectus abdominus again
There truly is so much more to discuss on this topic, but even I am still learning. Stick with the tips above, watch the video I posted along with the other videos in the series. I can definitely see the difference in my abs, hernia as well as accidental leakage after addressing those issues.