Abdominal Separation or Diastasis Recti as it’s commonly called is currently one of the most predominant side effects of pregnancy. Millions of pregnant women are often told to expect to bare 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.
I recently read a quote that read “ALL women in their third trimesters would experience separation and over HALF would experience incontinence.” After finding this quite shocking and completely untrue, I decided it was 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, mama’s who don’t come to us until post pregnancy, almost always have at least one of these typical pregnancy issues and feel completely disconnected to their cores. Why is this the trend with the thousands of women I work with? Why is mainstream culture convincing women that abdominal separation is to be expected if you choose to bare children?
Pregnancy does not give you abdominal separation. This core dysfunction is ultimately caused by the lack of correct core awareness & activation, in exercise, daily movement, even breathing. While pregnant, the odds of separation occurring are simply increased due to the growth of the belly, but this is not a result of carrying a child. 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 journey into motherhood can be much easier than one might lead you to think. I’m not going to offer you a quick fix like many post baby programs out there, what I am going to show you, is how re-wiring the connection to your core in standard daily activities will decrease your chance of experiencing separation during & post pregnancy.
It’s essential to life as well as to a functionally, strong core. I often find myself telling our clients that the way they breath is the most important step in strengthening or healing their core bodies. Place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly, BREATHE. Which hand moved the most? Ultimately, we want the hand on the belly to rise and fall while the hand on the chest barely moves at all. Most people I encounter are predominantly chest breathers which means they are not only living in a more constant state of “fight or flight” but are sending mixed signals to their inner core unit [the unit of muscles responsible for regulating intra-abdominal pressure]. One of the first things I teach to expecting and postpartum women is how to breathe diaphragmatically. When we can shift our breathing to being predominantly in our diaphragm [belly expands on the inhale and falls on the exhale, pelvic floor follows suit], we watch things shift before our eyes. Diaphragmatic breathing turns on the parasympathetic nervous system and sends de-stressing signals to every cell in the body. Breathing this way also allows your Diaphragm, the muscles of the pelvic floor, transverse abdominis [your corset muscle], and your multifidus [ the TA’s assistant in spine stabilization] to regulate intra-abomdinal pressure [ one of the biggest culprits in frequent “pregnancy side-effects”]. In other words, simply breathing diaphragmatically can help prevent what a lot of pregnant women are fearful off 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.
If we became more cognizant of the way we moved, ensuring that our daily movements caused us to focus more on form and the correct firing of muscles, how would that affect the results you seek? If we want effective results, we need to allow our daily movements to mimic what our bodies do in the gym. For example, if we are only telling our inner 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 lie? Creating solid neuromuscular connections to our TA, diaphragm, PF, and multifidus is crucial in preventing or healing these post baby issues. The more we replicate the correct signals to the core muscles, especially the TA and the PF, the more we strengthen our core on the deep level needed. Firing the TA 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’s push outward vs. wrapping the torso and lifting up. Picking up babies, toddlers and heavy objects are other movements that recruit the core. Re-training your TA and PF 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 we create re-patterning within the firing of our core muscles, the more functional our 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. I hear it all the time “keep your core tight and pulled into your spine” – this cue doesn’t help strengthen your core. In fact, it causes much more harm than good.
Did you know that when you only tighten your core, pulling belly to spine, that you shut off the diaphragm and create a downward pressure on the pelvic floor muscles? How is that helping your core integrity? It’s not, in fact, this simple cue causes more damage to both the Linea Alba [the connective tissue that connects the rectus abdominis] and the pelvic floor muscles. Whatever the TA does, the pelvic floor should follow suit. When you activate your core, the PF should lead this 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 TBM teaches women how to implement diaphragmatic breath and deep core engagement with every exercise and daily movement that recruits the core unit. Yes, I said 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 breath work. 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 applying 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 concerning your body, the way it feels and the way it heals. I recommend finding a pre & postnatal specialist in your area, one that offers innovative techniques, thinks outside the box and can indeed add value to the way you move for life, beginning with your pregnancy. Be willing to embrace modifications and gain new tools that will guide you through your motherhood journey in a smart & efficient manner. Pregnancy doesn’t have to contain the “side effects” that are so openly talked about; there is always the ability of prevention if you choose that route.
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to fully prevent common pregnancy issues or recover effectively from birth? We’ve got your back and your core for that matter – Schedule a 90 min foundations session with me