What You Need to Know About Diastasis Recti and Pregnancy

Pregnancy Doesn’t Have to Leave You with a Dysfunctional Core

Abdominal Separation, or Diastasis Recti as it’s commonly called, is currently one of the most predominant side effects of pregnancy, with some studies estimating that at least 60% of women have DR six weeks after birth. Millions of pregnant women are often told to expect a “mummy tummy” after having children and most of them ARE suffering from Diastasis Recti, pelvic floor incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or other post-pregnancy dysfunctions.

It’s time to address this hot topic and help re-wire the expectations of women’s post-baby bodies. After all, Bloom Method clients who implement our techniques during pregnancy rarely have Diastasis Recti (less than 15%) or pelvic floor issues (less than 5%). On the flip side, mothers who don’t start with Studio Bloom until post-pregnancy almost always have at least one of these typical pregnancy issues and feel completely disconnected from their cores.

What’s behind this trend? Why is mainstream culture convincing women that Diastasis Recti is to be expected if they choose to have children?

First, it’s important to know that you have always had some level of separation between your 6-pack muscles. While pregnant, the natural separation between your abs increases to make room for your baby as it grows. This is normal, healthy, and expected, and not every natural separation of the recti muscles that happens during pregnancy leads to an injury. This is why we distinguish between diastasis recti and injury-based diastasis recti at The Bloom Method.

Injury-based Diastasis Recti is ultimately caused by the lack of correct core awareness and activation during exercise, daily movement, and even breathing. If expecting moms could re-wire simple things throughout their days, challenging issues like Diastasis Recti could be prevented. Smart, simple, and easy to implement — it’s what The Bloom Method is all about. Pregnancy doesn’t have to end with the looming cloud of abdominal separation, incontinence, or other pregnancy-induced issues. Your healing journey after childbirth will take time, but with the right tools, it can be easier than you might think.

By re-wiring the connection to your core in standard daily activities, you can drastically decrease your chance of experiencing injury-based Diastasis Recti during and post-pregnancy.

It’s Time to Pay Attention to the Way You Breathe

Breath is essential to life as well as to a functional, strong core. It may be hard to believe, but the way you breathe is the most important step in strengthening or healing your core.

To test your default patterns of breath, place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly. Now breathe. Which hand moved the most?

Ideally, the hand on the belly rises and falls while the hand on the chest barely moves at all. However, most people are predominantly chest breathers, which means they are likely feeling more anxiety while living in a constant state of “fight or flight.” Chest breathing also sends mixed signals to your inner core unit, the muscles responsible for regulating intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). Not being able to properly control your IAP is one of the biggest culprits of many “pregnancy side-effects.”

For this reason, one of the first things we teach expecting and postpartum women inside Studio Bloom is how to breathe diaphragmatically.

Shift your breathing to predominantly come from the diaphragm and watch things change before your eyes.

Tap into a deeper, more transformative type of breathing by utilizing your entire abdomen, side body, and back body. When you diaphragmatically breathe, you’re even taking your pelvic floor along for the ride. Diaphragmatic breathing also turns on the parasympathetic nervous system and sends de-stressing signals to every cell in the body. Breathing this way allows your entire inner core - your diaphragm, the muscles of the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis (aka your corset muscle), and your multifidus (the TA’s assistant in spine stabilization) - to collaborate in order to regulate intra-abdominal pressure.

In other words, simply breathing diaphragmatically can help prevent what many pregnant women are fearful of post-birth. Bring more awareness to your breathing and not only decrease your chances of DR, incontinence, and prolapse but also prepare to experience a deeper connection to your core unit for life.

Practice Mindfulness in Daily Movement

At the most basic level, it’s critical to become more cognizant of the way you move in everyday life. By focusing on form and the correct firing of the muscles when you do things like get out of bed in the morning, pick up your toddler, or even grab something off a shelf, you reduce your chance of injury. Your daily movements should mimic what you ask your body to do at the gym.

For example, if you’re only telling the inner core unit to fire during a 1-hour workout or a 20-minute postpartum core routine, how do we expect the muscles to remember how we want them to perform when hauling in a heavy load of groceries? Creating solid neuromuscular connections to your TA, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and multifidus is crucial in preventing or healing these post-baby issues.

The more you replicate the correct signals to the core muscles, especially the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor, the more you strengthen your entire core unit. Firing your deep core the same way both in exercise and daily movements is a huge piece of the puzzle.

Laughing and sneezing, for example, are two actions where the majority of people’s corset muscle and pelvic floor push outward instead of wrapping the torso and lifting up. Picking up babies, toddlers, and heavy objects are other movements that should recruit the core. Re-training your TA and pelvic floor to fire in these instances, the same way you would in a core-specific exercise, will help strengthen the neuromuscular connection, providing more efficient results in both prevention and healing.

The inner core unit assists in the stabilization of the spine so as we move throughout the day; those same muscles should guide our movements in the way they were designed to do. The more you consciously activate and engage the inner core during exercise AND during life, the more functional your strength will be.

Correct Core Engagement During Exercise

Maybe when we stop being told to “pull our belly buttons to spine” we’ll begin to see the core results we work so hard for. The way you connect to your core during ALL exercises is a crucial component to both preventing and healing core dysfunction. Often, women are taught to keep their abs tight throughout a workout. In truth, doing so can cause more harm than good.

When you only tighten your core, pulling belly to spine, you actually shut off the diaphragm and create downward pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Instead of helping build your core integrity, this causes damage to the Linea Alba - the connective tissue of the rectus abdominis - and to the pelvic floor muscles.

When you activate your core, the pelvic floor should lead the activation, creating a co-contraction of the two muscles. It’s crucial that both pregnant and postpartum women learn how to engage and soften the inner core unit correctly.

That’s why The Bloom Method teaches women how to implement diaphragmatic breath and deep core engagement with every exercise and daily movement that recruits the core unit. Yes, every exercise. Squats, lunges, bicep curls, tricep extensions, deadlifts, etc. They all have the ability to create co-contractions with the primary muscle and the core if you simply include the right engagement and breathwork.

We also teach a technique that we call the Active Core Breath which helps deepen the connection to the core & pelvic floor muscles while in ANY spinal loading or core-specific exercise. This breath offers the ability to maintain the connection to the core unit in the most practical way while making the exercise more efficient than ever.

Learning how to breathe correctly, activate your core, and apply both to daily movements - your workout of choice and even your birth experience - will help immensely in the prevention of Diastasis Recti and other pregnancy “side-effects.” Educating yourself and having the willingness to embrace new ways of movement during pregnancy can make or break your postpartum experience.

Be willing to embrace modifications and gain new tools that will guide you through your motherhood journey in a smart and efficient manner. Pregnancy doesn’t have to contain the “side effects” that have come to be so commonplace. You will have a much easier road to recovery when you routinely engage your inner core to manage your intra-abdominal pressure. It’s why the foundation of The Bloom Method is all about how to properly engage your core and pelvic floor, lift and wrap with every exhale, and move with intention.

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