It’s amazing just how much your tummy stretches during pregnancy. It takes 9 months to grow a lovely big tummy and that tummy is not going to look the same as it did before you had your baby straight away (if ever!). I used to be very proud of my nice, toned tummy. Three babies later, it’s not quite as washboard looking as it was in my mid 20’s. I wish I had known which were the safest and most effective exercises to help strengthen and tone my abdominals.
During some pregnancies, your abdominal muscles may split completely causing diastasis recti.
The textbook definition of diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation) is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined at the linea alba at the body midline. It is essentially a cosmetic condition, with no associated morbidity or mortality. Diastasis means ‘separation of normally joined parts’ and ‘Recti’ means ‘straight muscles’.
So, what’s the worse that can happen if the long muscles in your tummy don’t knit back together again after you’ve had a baby? Weak abdominal muscles can lead to back pain. In severe cases, with no muscle coverage, it will be possible to view your internal organs moving and there will be a lot of loose skin. However, in most cases, the gap will close up within a few months of delivery.
Here is a great video which explains how to self diagnose diastasis recti.
How to Fix Diastasis Recti
Most importantly , do not attempt any sit ups or tummy crunches, or any other tummy exercises where you’re lying on your back. These will do more damage than good as they are exercising the muscles which will widen the gap between your abdominal recti.
Here are some exercises to try.
Leaning on your knees and elbows, lock your hands together. Straighten your legs and raise your body so that you’re supported by the balls of your feet, with feet hip-distance apart. Face the floor, being careful not to arch your back or stick your bottom in the air. Hold this position for as long as you can, perhaps starting with 10 seconds, extending the time gradually as your strength increases.
2. Seated Tupler Technique: If you are holding your baby properly, you can do this one while breastfeeding. Remember, pillow(s) under baby, bring him/her up to you, rather than bringing your breast down to them– no bending. You need to be sitting for this exercise. Cross-legged with your back against a wall, or in a chair where your thighs and bottom are completely supported. The seat should be firm but comfortable. Sit with your bottom touching the back of the chair.
There are two parts to the Tupler Technique: Elevators, and Contractions. If you are breastfeeding, you can switch exercises halfway through when you switch breasts.
Part One: Elevators: sit as described above. Place your hands on your tummy, one above the belly button, one below. Take a belly breath and expand tummy to floor one. (Floor 1 is all the way out, floor 5 feels like your tummy is touching your spine, floor six you try to push your tummy outside your back.. Then bring your bellybutton back toward your spine– floor 5. Imagine your ribs coming together. Hold for 30 counts but count outloud so you know you’re still breathing. Then pull your tummy back even further to 6 for a little squeeze, and count as you do 5 of these squeezes, and release. Do a full, deep belly breath. Do ten sets of these every day.
Part Two: Contractions: sit as above. Place hands in the same position, above and below bellybutton. This is so you can feel that both top and bottom are moving backward.
Place a finger on your pubic bone. Trace a line very slowly up to your belly button. As your finger moves, tighten the muscles where your finger tip touches the skin.
Good luck and if you have any concerns, visit your GP.
Reference: Tupler Technique