After giving birth, most mothers are eager to get their bodies back in shape. This desire has left many women frustrated because of the weakness of their core muscles.
What usually happens during pregnancy
A lot happens in the body during pregnancy, especially around the belly area. It is common for some postpartum mothers to notice a soft section around their belly button. Still, it usually starts during pregnancy as the belly expands to accommodate the growing baby. This connective tissue joins the two sides of the rectus abdominus muscle thins and stretches, forming a more prominent and softer gap.
The post-partum healing process
Generally, these muscles take months before they heal, although the separation of these muscles differs from mother to mother. While the separation is minor in some mothers, it can be significant in others, giving rise to a ‘diastasis recti’ or divarication situation. This condition often leads to a poorly shaped postpartum belly and pains in the back, depending on the extent of separation.
How to check for diastasis recti
You can check for diastasis recti via this simple technique:
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down at your tummy.
- Use the tips of your fingers to feel between the edges of the muscles on, above, and below the belly button. See how many fingers can fit into the gap between the muscles. It shouldn’t be more than two fingers at the belly button and one finger above and below.
What to do if you have diastasis recti
Typically, the gap should get smaller with time and shouldn’t be too evident after eight weeks of baby delivery. If not, contact a physical therapist to check the extent of muscular weakness and recommend suitable exercises for you.
How to strengthen your core muscles
Here three exercises that help you get back in shape and strengthen your core gently.
Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Inhale, engage your pelvic floor, and lift your hips. Hold for up to 10 seconds — keep breathing!. Lower your hips back down and release your pelvic floor. Do 10 repetitions.
Dead Bug Crunch: Lie on your back. Raise your arms, pointing toward the ceiling. Inhale, engage your pelvic floor, extend your right arm beyond your head, and pull your right leg forward. Release pelvic floor and draw arm and leg back to starting position. Repeat with left arm and leg. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
Simple breathing exercise: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet resting on the floor, and knees bent. In this position, inhale and exhale several times. Allow the natural curve in your spine to remain. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Then breathe out while tightening your belly muscles and pulling your navel towards your spine (without flattening or changing the position of your lower back); hold the contraction for five seconds. Keep doing this exercise in a repetition of tens several times during the day until you feel you have a good grasp on the moves.
Exercises to avoid
Some traditional abdominal exercises exert too much stress on a postpartum belly and are not recommended for new moms since they can even worsen diastasis recti. Avoid doing any of the following: