I like to think of myself as a fitness junkie. Growing up I played sports outside with the boys. I was on competitive travel softball teams from the time I was eight years old. I received scholarship offers. I was considered one of the skinny girls, but I had legitimate muscle that my husband is still impressed with when he looks at pictures.
When I met my husband he was a professional athlete. I started eating like him (not easy), working out like him (good idea/bad idea), paying attention to health publications and reading more books on the subject than I probably should have. I got my yoga teaching certification, ran a half marathon, too many other races to count, lifted six days per week, practiced yoga three to five times per week, and ran five days per week. I was in the best shape of my life.
Then, I got pregnant. My doctor gave me the okay to continue working out the way I was. So I did. Until it got too much and I slowed down. I had a baby, got pregnant again about four months later, miscarried, then got pregnant about three weeks later. I was okayed to work out during each pregnancy, six and then four weeks after the births. So I did. I don’t regret it, not one moment. But I’ve been told it may have contributed.
I don’t remember exactly when I noticed it, but there was something very different about the way my body was adapting to postpartum exercise. I could attribute it to putting my body through a war zone multiple times in a very small amount of time, but it was different than that. I just knew something wasn’t right.
I had a constant baby belly. I looked like I did around 18 weeks with my first and 13 weeks with my second. I wasn’t pregnant again. This was soft skin, excess fat, no definition, a complete lack of core strength and recognition, and there was something else, almost scary. When I pushed on my belly to try feeling my core muscles there was a space there. A wide space. One that I could push my fingers down into and oddly feel like I was about to touch my insides. I did some research. It wasn’t easy but I eventually stumbled upon something that fit the bill to my minimally trained eye. One that was later confirmed by my doctor…a full year after the birth of my second baby.
It’s called diastasis recti and it’s very common. It occurs during about 30 percent of pregnancies, infants can have it and it’s also something seen in adults with excessive abdominal visceral fat. One of the easiest ways to identify that their might be a problem is to see whether you have a space of 2-2.5 finger widths or 2 cm between your abdominal muscles when contracted. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have it. It’s just the first step. A true diastasis recti also means that the connective tissue softens, decreasing the integrity and functional strength of the abdominal wall. Too medical?
Here are some other wonderful things about diastasis recti:
- Women expecting multiples are at higher risk, as well as those with a separation in previous pregnancies, petite women, poor abdominal strength pre pregnancy, or those whose bodies just respond to pregnancy this way.
- It can cause pelvic instability. There’s another reason we might be peeing our pants more often.
- Poor core strength can aggravate or cause lower back pain. Ouch.
- Oh yeah, and the best one – If it’s bad enough, a hernia could protrude through it. That’s right.
So, maybe there is something else going on with your post baby body. It’s worth a look. Let me tell you something else really cool about diastasis recti. While it’s difficult to do, a long process, tedious and takes a lot of intelligent movement, your core can get better. Just talk to your doctor and look for fitness professionals who know how to handle this. Not all of them have a clue what you’re talking about and can exacerbate the problem. Know your body and be kind to it.