diastasis recti

Born Again Mama Bodies

4556551742_4e30fb0355_z Hi all! Lately I've had a bundle of diastasis recti questions coming my way from new and veteran mama friends, and also from mama FFF readers. Many of those conversations have ended with this statement, "Well if you don't recommend splinting what do you recommend?" Which would lead into a conversation about alignment and breath, and well, a whole lot of other stuff. It's kind of a long conversation, so I was hoping to find someone whose postpartum conversation was right on the money. As the fates would have it, this coincided with discovering Wendy Powell and her Mutu System, and she was gracious enough to donate a guest post to the blog here. So here is what you've been craving straight from the expert's mouth! Thanks for all your great questions and keep them coming. You all know who you are- and this post is dedicated to you!

Enter Wendy: 

Many mums have had a light-bulb moment when they realize that postpartum recovery hasn’t got an awful lot to do with the race to fit into skinny jeans. It has a lot more to do with being whole again:

  • Walking without pain
  • Exercising without leaking
  • Lifting your child without hurting
  • Being able to keep your innards IN

MuTu System programs have been created to offer a body and mind re-boot. I’ve learned that this is desperately needed, from my own personal and professional experience, and from conversations with hundreds of mums.

What Matters to Mums?

That light-bulb moment I mentioned? It usually hits us around about the time we put our back out lifting our child, or we wet ourselves a bit when we sneeze, or we try to do abdominal crunches and notice our tummy doming (yes, that’ll be your vital organs poking through your weak abdominal wall).

Our bodies tell us in no uncertain terms that our jellified tummy is the least of our worries. Right about then, we stop Googling ‘baby bulge diets’ and start searching for ‘how to fix a pelvic floor’.

And that’s a really good change in priorities!

InfographicV4Back to Basics

So how can we get our body back to its best, inside and out?

On the surface, there are two problems to overcome: pelvic floor weakness and diastasis recti (abdominal separation).

Linked to this unstable core, mums may be suffering from back pain or pelvic floor dysfunction (which could mean urine leakage, faecal incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse and hernia). And they may be stuck with ‘mummy tummy’, unable to firm up and strengthen their mid-section.

While initially caused by making room for and supporting a growing baby in the uterus, these issues are exacerbated after childbirth by excessive intra-abdominal pressure. The healing process can’t start until the pressure lowers in the abdominal cavity – and to do that, we need to check our alignment.

Misalignment is a brick wall in the face of post-natal wellness – it’s what prevents intra-abdominal pressure from returning to normal after giving birth.

If your body was not aligned properly before having babies, it sure as hell isn’t afterwards. Any glitches in our alignment and musculature that have crept up on us over the years are aggravated by that monumentally physically demanding process.

To reduce pressure, many of us need to start from square one: learning how to walk and breathe right. That is the first step to full post-partum recovery.

New Foundations

Breathing right, standing right, walking right, learning how to connect our minds to the muscles of our core and pelvic floor, so that we use them with every move we make: none of this can be skipped.

Focused core exercises have their place – and intensive workouts too when your body is ready – but it’s the day to day stuff that is crucial.

Alignment, breathing, moving a lot and in the right way: That’s your pelvic floor pension plan right there.

Getting Bodies to ‘Just Do It’

There is a lot of gadgetry in this industry – pelvic floor toning devices and belly binding splints remain popular ‘solutions’ to diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.

I’m not here to pour water on other techniques, I can only tell you what I believe – which is that bodies are capable of being strong, mobile and fit for life. They can do it on their own, with a little bit of commitment on our part.

The mental connection is important. Lots of mums understandably ‘switch off’ from ‘down below’ after giving birth: It doesn’t feel right and (if they dare to look) it sure as hell doesn’t look right. It’s a lost cause.

The brain needs to talk to the muscles to activate them. It needs to open up the dialogue again. Simply sucking in your stomach, or using a splint, is not the same as activating your core. It does nothing to strengthen or tighten the muscles to help them work properly on their own.

In fact, sucking in, or binding, displaces mass upwards and downwards like a tube of toothpaste squeezed in the middle, placing more pressure on the diaphragm and pelvic floor – doing the opposite of what we want to achieve.

Fighting Fit

Weirdly, having babies is a chance to get fully fit: our post-natal‘ re-boot’ is often the thing that helps us re-focus our energies on wellness. Not just looking good, but feeling energetic and having a body that works.

So many mums tell me that their post-natal fight back was the start of a better lifestyle for them. They come to know and love and respect their bodies in a way they never did before. The skinny jeans are just a bonus.


About the Author

Wendy_Avatar_Sep13-02Mom of 2 Wendy Powell is founder of the internationally recognized and sought after MuTu® System program. She has over 12 years experience, proven record and study in the pre and postpartum fitness industry.

MuTu System includes online coaching, DVD’s, online support and community, fully endorsed by Specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapists and Industry Experts worldwide. It is fresh, personal, progressive and motivational, and it gives Moms the answers, guidance and support they need to restore body confidence inside and out. Wendy has an established international social media following and industry reputation.

MuTu System covers fitness, fat loss, nutrition, hormone balancing and motivational strategies for busy Mums.

Wendy’s specialist area of expertise is pelvic and abdominal reconnection and restoration after childbirth: functional core strength, diastasis recti, pelvic floor and related alignment issues.

Wendy writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared in numerous magazine features, including Red magazine, Health and Fitness and Zest. Health and Fitness magazine UK also commissioned Wendy to write their Get Your Body Back book, published September 2013.

mom and baby photo by Adam DeClercq

DIY Friday: Diastasis Recti

diyfriday (2)

*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

Warning: This DIY Friday catches me mid-epiphany, so I'm not trying to play the expert here, I'm fully the student with you guys and am sorting some stuff out, but thought sorting it out in public would be helpful to many who are wondering about Diastasis Recti.

First, "Diasta-wuh-wuh?" Is probably what you're asking if you're a dude or a woman who's never had a baby. Though both men and women who haven't been pregnant do get this condition, it's rare, while in those of us who have been pregnant it is becoming alarmingly common.

DRBut wait, I didn't answer your question. Diastasis Recti is when your abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominus (the six pack muscle), splits lengthwise along the linea alba. Leaving you with a poochy belly and the look of someone is is now forever a little bit pregnant. I myself have a DR from my little bundle of joy, who is (gasp!) now 6 years old. In 6 years I've gotten the gap down from 3 fingers wide, to one finger wide just at my belly button. Good times.

**Note: Dudes, please stick around as the information I point to actually has a huge impact on preventing hiatal hernias, umbilical hernias, and inguinal hernias, many of which I see a lot in the athletic community. Also give this to your lady if there's a chance a bun will be or is in that oven.**

Since I've (mostly) rehabbed my DR a friend of mine recently asked what information she should give to a yoga student who is trying to close hers, and I handily sent her to The Tupler Technique, which is more or less what I have used. But, me being me, that got me thinking. Why do we all get DR's these days after having babies? I mean, it can't be normal to have your rectus abdominus split just from carrying one measly baby, right? In a day and age when women typically had far more children it just wouldn't have made sense. I can't see the evolutionary advantage, so it must be something wacky we're doing with our bodies in contemporary culture that's causing all of this.

And that question led me where these kinds of questions typically lead me, which is to Katy Bowman, Biomechanist Extraordinaire. Turns out she has some pretty mind blowing information on DR which has totally changed my point of view. I'll leave it to her in these posts since she says it far better than I can, but the short summary is that we're all blowing open our rectus abdominus in pregnancy because we're dealing with an abdomen under pressure which is a result of poor alignment and wacky breathing. Just what the poor alignment is (spoiler: stop thrusting your ribs forward, but there's plenty more), and just what that means about how you breathe is all in these posts. This information is really key to dealing with many of our modern issues (low back pain, high blood pressure, So. Much. More.), so give it a read.

Katy Bowman's Under Pressure Part 1

Katy Bowman's Under Pressure Part 2

So where does that leave me in my DR-having, Tupler Technique referring ways? And what about those of us who already have a DR? Well I think it's more complex than a "5 Quick Tips" type summary, as I think we need to address our alignment and breathing issues as Bowman illustrates in her posts, at the same time that we draw that musculature back together. Which means we're dealing with some high level tinkering that keeps us from using the standard, "pull it all in, pack it all in." mentality about our abdominals. While we work for integrity in abdominal musculature (i.e. actively engage those muscles to pull them back together) we need to also be really mindful to keeping things supple and mobile, rather than living in an imaginary corset. But I for one am up for the challenge. You?

P.S. Last week's post on DIY Psoas Love handily will address some of this stuff (tacked down breathing muscles, short and tight psoai, etc.)

P.P.S This post from Tom Myers may also prove illuminating.

Illustration from Healthy Moms Sheila S. Watkins