I treat a lot of women with diastasis recti (DRA) one of the most common questions I get asked is: I want to have another baby is it worth all this effort if it’s just going to separate again? Well, the simple answer is YES!!!
All the work you do now to close the separation, prior to getting pregnant will pay off now, during the pregnancy, during the delivery and after when you need strength to look after your new bundle of joy, and want your tummy flat again.
DRA is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle. It happens during pregnancy or repetitive strain on the abs (like doing crunches). DRA causes muscle weakness and imbalance throughout the core. A weakened core puts you at risk for injuries to your back, neck and pelvic floor (incontinence, and prolapse among others). Doing appropriate DRA exercises will help restore the proper neuromuscular patterning of the core. When your muscles work properly, everything falls into place (including that flat tummy)
Yes, with every pregnancy you increase your risk of developing a DRA. However, doing appropriate exercises during your pregnancy will help keep you strong, especially if you have a toddler or two at home to keep up with. It will also help decrease the severity of the separation. Strong muscles will also help maintain your posture as the baby grows. Proper posture is critical for preventing injuries to your back and neck. It will also encourage proper patterning of your pelvic floor helping to avoid incontinence. There is also strong evidence that appropriate exercises during pregnancy has health benefits for your baby.
Having control of your pelvic floor muscles (PFM) and your transversis abdominis will be beneficial during the pushing stage, easing delivery and recovery and decreasing complications. Learning how to contract and more importantly relax the pelvic floor muscles is critical. If you are able to relax the PFM the baby can descend more easily through the birthing canal.
Muscles have memory. The more frequently an exercise was done before, the easier it is to pattern after. It’s like riding a bike. An exercised muscle also has more blood flow to it so it repairs faster (think elite athlete vs couch potato). It’s much easier to start an exercise you’ve done before than to learn one on little sleep. The core breath can be done immediately after delivery and used as a foundation for the rest of the core program. Basically, learning the exercises prior to delivery will increase their efficacy after delivery.
Now if you didn’t start before, don’t worry, it’s never too late. I have had women in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and yes even in their sixties feel better and close their separation. Stay tuned for a later blog post that will talk about the proper exercises we should all be doing!
So, are you convinced? Is it worth it?