POST-BABY BODY: Without a celebrity mum’s army of nannies, nutritionists and personal trainers, most mums find it tough to get their bodies back after baby (whether you are a new mum or mum of 3 with toddlers or teenagers.)
I want to let you in on a little secret and perhaps it’s a hard pill to swallow.
Your body will never be the same.
Now, that’s not to say you won’t get a flat tummy again or your body back to the way you want it. In fact, a lot of mummies find they get a better than pre-baby body with our programmes.
You just have to understand that your body will be different than how it was before and that is OK.
Now, getting your body back into shape and losing that mummy tummy is possible. There is hope, do not fear.
However, this can be hampered by a few things, some of which are beyond your control.
- Your Body Shape
- Your Exercise/Activity
- Your Diet
(for more on these three, read this article here)
And, there is one postnatal physical condition which can affect the look, feel and function of your belly.
Known as diastasis retis in medical terms, sometimes the abdominal muscles in your belly just don’t come back together correctly after having a child. This may not only make getting a firm belly impossible, but also, in more serious cases, increase the possibility of a herniation (where internal structures push though the stomach muscles).
Whilst your baby (or babies) grew inside you, the muscles at the front of your belly were pushed out and pulled apart. About three months after the birth of the baby, the muscles should have returned back together.
This is not a new phenomenon. One study shows 39 percent of women’s abdomens will typically not recover fully, with other studies indicating up to 85 percent of women will suffer from diastasis after giving birth.
What happens if my muscles don’t return to normal?
If you find that your muscles aren’t returning to normal, it can lead to some of the following issues:
‘Mummy tummy’: the appearance of a belt of soft, wobbly flesh around your midriff. Not dangerous but can make you feel self-conscious.
Lower back pain: As the muscles of your abdomen have weakened, they are unable to support your back effectively. Often this results in persistent and worsening lower back pain.
Herniation: The most serious condition is when the gap is quite wide, and the digestive tract starts to push through, creating a hernia.
How can I check my muscles?
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Put one finger over your belly button and press lightly down
Do a sit up movement and feel the sides of your rectus muscle on either side of your finger.
If you don’t feel it, put two fingers in one to the left and one to the right across ways.
If you need more fingers, use them.
After six weeks you should only be able to fit in one finger. Anything more and your muscles may not be coming back together.
What increases the risk of diastasis?
Certain conditions predispose women to having a separation. These include: multiple births, untoned abdominal muscles, large babies, being overweight and having more than one child.
How can I get my muscles back together?
Firstly, you must stop making them worse. The action of doing a sit up, known as supine flexion, must be avoided as this can tighten the muscles and cause them to separate even further. So contrary to your beliefs, no more stomach crunches.
Instead you will need to start focusing on drawing the muscles together and back on your out breath, whilst engaging your pelvic floor at the same time. Also doing some basic Pilates moves where your head remains on the floor may help.
Undoubtedly, the best advice is to speak to a therapist who specializes in abdominal separation, such as a physiotherapist or qualified practitioner who specialises in women’s health such as our expert in our classroom Julie Tupler author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy and creator of the Tupler Technique.
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