Mummy Tummy is a term commonly used to describe a condition of post-natal individuals, medically referred to as diastasis recti. You can identify it as soft, loose tissue with a separation of two fingers or more, positioned midline around or below the belly button. It’s a thinning/stretching of the linea fascia (connective tissue) due to the amount of stress and pressure placed upon the abdominals during pregnancy and birth.
Diastasis is primarily caused when incorrect pressure occurs at the core. The core is formed of the diaphragm, abdominals and pelvic floor, including back muscular structures. Diastasis can occur when the pressure in our abdominal canister is not well controlled, resulting in pressure expanding out through the midline of your abdominals. Ultimately, you’re left with a thinning or separation of the linea alba.
The important question is ‘How Do We Fix Diastasis Recti?’. Simply, we prescribe exercise to help heal the fascia, improve function of the abdominal receptors and promote muscle fibre recruitment. Here is how to get started with some top tips:
Focus on diaphragmatic breathing
• Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported.
• Place both your hands on the side of your rib cage.
• Inhale – breathe in slowly through your nose allowing your diaphragm and rib cage to expand (ideally 360°) into your hands.
• Contract your stomach muscles so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale. Engage your pelvic floor during the exhale. To do so, think about water rising up your legs and trying to lift your body up from the water, glutes must stay relaxed.
Core pressure is the amount of intra-abdominal pressure required to support your spine. Over- bracing of the abdominal muscles or tightly squeezing your belly button inwards are two common behaviours, creating too much pressure within the abdomen. A quick tip, these contractions of the abdominals will shut off your abdominal cannister and prevent healing or efficient engagement of muscles.
Too little pressure may result in back aches, due to lack of support within your abdominals, while too much pressure risks suffering from pelvic floor prolapse or hernia, caused by downward pressure placed onto your abdomen into your pelvic floor region.
Improve your body’s overall strength
Once establishing your foundation of diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic core control, it’s strongly recommended you focus upon strengthening your posterior chain (back, glutes & hamstrings), alongside abdominals. After pregnancy it is common for the body to become lengthened and laxed due to the additional weight of supporting a baby in conjunction with higher amounts of hormone relaxin being released. Therefore, strengthening and stabilizing those muscles will help to improve control and aim to reduce aches or pains you may be experiencing.
Focus on finding an optimal posture position to help with healing
During pregnancy the body will adjust its posture to accommodate the growth of the baby. Initially, the abdominals will lengthen and the diaphragm gets pulled down. This affects breathing capacity, causing shallow breathing due to lack to expansion of abdominals as the baby increases in size.
To improve posture, begin to stack your ribs over your pelvis, thinking about lengthening from the top of your head to your pubic bone (creating a tall posture) and relax your shoulders down. Avoid drawing your belly button or squeezing your glutes to hold you in position. Once muscles are better connected, they will become more efficient at recruiting muscle fibres.
Working to correct your ‘mummy tummy’ will lead to life after childbirth being more active, leave you feeling stronger, having improved posture and fewer aches and pains as the years pass.
If you have any questions regarding your post-natal physical health, please enquire to see our pre- and post-natal rehabilitator specialist for a free 30-minute consultation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01732 451979 to book.
Jason Crow is the Managing Director and founder of the Better Body Group. He has been involved in the health and fitness industry for more than 25 years and has over 20,000 hours of experience as a personal trainer on both sides of the Atlantic. To find out more about the Better Body Group please visit www.betterbodygroup.co.uk.