As a certified personal trainer specialising in women’s health and fitness, I am continually frustrated by the lack of education given to women after childbirth, often resulting in more serious issues that could so easily have been avoided.
Diastasis Recti is the term given to the separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. This is completely normal. However, not everyone’s core returns correctly, leaving the fascia between the two sides of the rectus abdominis loose. This results in what has been known as the “mummy tummy”. It can untimely lead to far more serious issues such as severe back pain, extreme pelvic floor weakness and even a Hernia. In some cases, surgery is needed to bring the muscles back together. But this can all be avoided with knowledge.
I am so concerned by the amount of clients I see who have struggled for years to get rid of their “muffin top”, never knowing why it was so difficult! Most women have never heard of this condition, let alone know that it is easy to fix. They have gone on to do sit-ups, crunches and planks, hoping that will help, but in fact they are the very worst exercises to do as it simply increases the separation and makes the whole situation worse! The negative impact this can have on your body is massive. But it can also affect you mentally, causing anxiety, and low self-esteem and a time when you may already be at risk of post-natal depression.
It's also scary how many women are unsure of how to correctly exercise the pelvic floor. After all, it's not really something we are ever taught, and yet it is so fundamental to our bodies functioning correctly. When we leave hospital, we are supplied with a very basic pamphlet, but it really isn't enough, and it certainly does not explain the genuine importance of pelvic floor exercises. So if you are one of the millions of women who laugh off not doing them, or simply take it for granted that you'll leak a little after having a baby, please, please stop.
If you have any questions on this topic, please do get in touch. I'm often asked "when is it safe to start exercising after having a baby". Its a tough question to answer without seeing a client in person, however, as a general rule I would say NOTHING except pelvic floor exercisers for the first 6 weeks, regardless of the type of delivery you had. After that, it is usually safe to begin gentle exercise, however, it's well worth checking first with a health care professional to make sure that you do not have a Diastasis Recti.