Postpartum Belly? Pilates to the Rescue

Anyone who’s been though a pregnancy knows the toll it can take on your body. The belly stretches to accommodate the growing baby. After childbirth, the abdominal wall will sometimes stay stretched and does not connect back together, leaving the abdominal muscles very weak.

This condition, known as diastasis recti, is experienced by a whopping 60 percent of women.

What is diastasis recti?

The left and right sides of the abdominal wall are connected by a thick connective tissue called the linea alba. You might recognize it as the center line that connects the six-pack muscles at the most superficial layer, the internal and external obliques, and the transversus abdominus at the thinnest, deepest layer. Diastasis recti occurs when the belly expands, creating a separation between the muscles on the right and left side of the abdomen. 

Typically, a diastasis can lessen during the first 6-8 weeks after giving birth. However, it’s important to have it checked prior to returning to exercise. Many women may recognize the symptoms as a remaining “pooch.”

Diastasis can persist years after pregnancy and can be a contributing factor to continued low back pain, hip instability, incontinence, and postural deviations.

How to determine if you have a diastasis recti

It’s easy to perform a self-examination that can be done at home. Simply, lay flat on your back with your knees bent. Slightly lift your head and chest off the floor to perform a gentle crunch, just enough to feel an abdominal contraction. Use your first two fingers to palpate above and below your naval and measure the distance between the right and left side of the abdominal wall. Measurement is determined by the number of fingertips that fit in the gap. Anything greater than two fingertips is considered a determining factor in diagnosing a diastasis recti.

How to correct your diastasis recti

Pilates is a highly supportive form of exercise that has been found to be beneficial in treating this separation as it teaches you to “corset the midsection.”

Pilates works on restoring the core from the deepest layers, including the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor. The exercises offer low-impact, deep-core, and focused movements to help correct posture and realign the body.

Most women are not aware of their diastasis until someone tells them. Seek a professionally trained PRO Pilates Instructor or PRO Physical Therapist to help you determine if you have diastasis recti and how you can regain your abdomen.

By Leaza Armstrong, Pilates Instructor at PRO Club

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