Postpartum entails a multitude of things for every mom. We often hear concerns about postpartum fitness, so today we decided to ask our good friend and personal trainer Renea Perez for some advice on all things Diastasis Recti!
Most moms have probably heard the saying “mom jeans”, “mummy tummy,” and “mom pooch.” As owner and prenatal trainer at Bod Squad Training, an all-women’s personal training studio, I hear these terms ALL of the time. Women typically express concerns over their waist and thighs, but the desire to have a flatter stomach tops them all. You can imagine this is amplified during pregnancy, as most women fear that their bodies will not bounce back postpartum. For some women, it can become an obsession and take away some of the joy of carrying their baby.
A common condition that can cause this ‘pooch’ postpartum is Recti Diastasis. During pregnancy, a woman’s abdominal muscles can separate due to increased pressure from their baby. This can create a protruding midsection that most moms want to get rid of. From the outside looking in, this can deeply affect a woman’s self-esteem, especially after countless crunches and eating healthy.
I believe that it can be prevented if you continue to engage your core muscles during pregnancy. A lot of women stop working out or totally stay away from working their core because they believe that the only way to work the core during pregnancy is by doing crunches. This is not the case! You can safely work your core during pregnancy with the help of a professional or you can find several prenatal exercise programs online. If you have diastasis, you are often told that solely working the core and diet will help it go away. In reality, if the exercises are done incorrectly it can make things even worse. So be careful when people or products promise that it can be fixed simply with exercise.
On the flip side, some women opt for surgery, but this can be painful and doesn’t always turn out the way you envision it. Skin removal is a thing too, but correcting diastasis is a whole different ballgame all together. There are also plenty of products on the market that promise to shrink the belly (such as fat burning pills.) I do not make those promises. Whether my clients have experienced diastasis or are currently going through it, I lead my training honestly.
I trained a beautiful new mom with diastasis to compete in a fitness competition postpartum. She gave herself the goal of stepping on stage in the best shape of her life and to help show other moms that it’s possible. During her training she was disappointed that her midsection wasn’t as flat as she felt it should be. I had to remind her to take a step back and look at everything her body has been capable of. Growing a baby, training like an athlete and giving her body nutrition it deserved. I hated to see all of her hard work overlooked simply because she had a vision of what abs ‘should’ look like. After training her core correctly, she stepped on stage with her abdominals looking tight. Most importantly she came away with a new perspective that it was more so about being healthy and giving her body time to heal than having the perfect abs.
I was so proud of her journey. In regard to my suggestions for exercise, traditional ab workouts to get a six-pack are not going to give you the benefit you are looking for. Sometimes training other parts of your body can improve your inner “corset” (transverse abdominals for instance.) Leg raises while standing and pulling in your belly button can be amazing. Side planks and upper body work can also help. Every time you lift a weight you should pull in the belly (we do this without even thinking sometimes.) Funny enough, it can be more effective than crunches, too. Continue to explore special training to help correct the abdominal separation.
My final suggestion is to sit with yourself and stop obsessing over a flat stomach and start saying,” I am willing to work at it. I will be patient.” Expecting perfection places an immense burden on a lot of moms. Do not let it rob you of your fitness accomplishments or define your beauty. Work on it, be patient and most of all make sure you seek the right training. From one mom to another, I promise that it will get better!