An Uncomplicated Life Blog: My Experience With Diastasis Recti

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Experience With Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti is the separation of the ab muscles, and is very common in pregnancy - especially twins! Here's my experience with it and what I did about it


I've popped out four kids in four and a half years. My first two children are 19 months apart, then two and a half years later, I had twins. Somehow, I managed to keep my abs together all the way until I had the twins. While I was insanely blessed to make it to 37 weeks with them, my body didn't escape unscathed! I developed some pretty severe diastasis recti. This post is all about what the condition is, what the effects are, and what I did to treat it: my experience with diastasis recti.

One week after delivering twins

First, what is it exactly? WebMD breaks down the actual name to tell us that diastasis means "separation" and recti refers to the ab muscle called rectus abdominis. In a normal human, these muscles are connected and engaged. They're used to not only support the core or trunk of human weight, but also to keep the organs held in place in the body. Pregnancy causes extreme stretching of these muscles; so much so that in some cases, they separate completely, which is diastasis recti. This leaves only a thin band of connective tissue to hold organs in place, and the stomach muscles "pooch" out, leaving the woman still looking pregnant even though she delivered her baby weeks, months or even years ago. Some complications of this include uterine leaking, constant lower back pain and constipation. In severe cases of diastasis recti, a hernia can form, which requires surgery to fix.

Checking for diastasis recti is really simple. While laying down, flex your ab muscles. If you can get more than one finger in between them, and your stomach "peaks" like a mountain top, odds are good you've got a case of diastasis recti. 

I didn't have a severe case, and thankfully, all my organs stayed in place. However, after I delivered the twins, I could fit a full fist in between my ab muscles! An. Entire. Fist. When I flexed my ab muscles, my tummy was transformed to an upside-down V shape - it literally looked like a mountain peak. Even months after delivery, when my postpartum belly had gone down, I looked several months pregnant. And by the end of the day, I looked many months pregnant!

Looks aside, I had constant lower back pain. In fact, that's still a lingering side effect (more on that in a minute). When your ab muscles aren't where they should be and therefore aren't doing the job they're intended to do, it really does a number on your back. I had scoliosis surgery right before my 13th birthday, and while all is well and I generally have no complications from it, the doctors over-harvested bone from my hip to graph it all together. Several times a year, that spot will ache terribly, which I was fine with because it was only a few times a year, and a couple doses of Advil would knock it out. Since having the twins and developing diastasis recti, I've noticed this ache in my low back/high hip occurring several times a MONTH, and Advil doesn't take care of it.

The day I delivered the twins - 15 minutes before we left for the hospital

The other non-cosmetic effect is... As one could guess, bladder control. I've been so so lucky and have had very few issues with this! But after the twins, the weirdest thing happened. I don't *actually* pee in my pants (thankyouJesus!) but I go from not remotely needing to pee, to needing to pee right now. Like the muscles are about thisclose to not being able to keep it in! I've woken up in the middle of the night like, holy heck, I need to pee this very minute! Then when I go, I wonder what the emergency was because it wasn't a ton of fluid. Turns out, it's my restraining muscles that need to be strengthened again, and my ab muscles that need to be put back in place to assist my pelvic floor in doing it's job more efficiently.

Oh babies. You sure do a number on us moms! Everyone, go hug your mother. She sacrificed so much for you!

So what does one do for diastasis recti? The funny thing is, you need to do the opposite of what you'd think. Which is to say, you need to NOT work your abs out! You've got to let them heal and rest from the pregnancy. Give them proper time to move back to where they should be and recover from the distress they were just in. By just giving my abs time to recover, they went back to a two to two and a half finger separation, down from the entire fist that could fit in there shortly after my twin birth. Work with your OBGYN to establish how long you need to rest, and be sure to get cleared for any activity before beginning a program.

One of the things I did while "resting" was tummy binding (as seen in the first photo). I'd recommend this for any mom after birth, because it offers back support at a time your tummy muscles are confused and stretched out! There isn't much science backing up if it helps your waist shrink or not, but that's neither here nor there for me. I found it felt great and was so supportive - the tummy binder literally did the job my ab muscles no longer had the strength or position to do for my body. I used this bamboo one, and highly recommend it because bamboo breathes better than synthetic binders. Order a size down for sure. You'll need help getting into it at first, but my tummy always shrunk so fast I'd have quickly outgrown the size the brand suggested I buy.

Taken the day before this post published - over 11 months postpartum from twins

After you've been cleared for exercise, stay away from ab-heavy workouts. I did a ton of yoga, but when the instructor would do specific ab work, I'd go into child's pose or do other stretches and wait for him/her to get back to the flow. It's best to start with a diastasis recti-specific program, which is going to lead you through breathing and postures first, then light exercises and then transition you back to regular workout-type exercises. Most diastasis recti specific programs are 12-15 weeks long and will leave you ready to do standard group fitness classes. Keep in mind, this is after you've healed for the traditional 6 weeks postpartum and any additional time your OBGYN asks to to heal, so all in, you're looking at a five to six month healing time! And that's on the low end.

Diastasis recti is a bummer, but it comes with the territory of being pregnant, especially if you're expecting multiples. It takes a good long while to heal. Even nearly a full year later, I can stick a finger or two in between my ab muscles, and my belly button hasn't entirely returned to it's former self. But my bladder control has gotten tons better, and my lower back pain is slowly improving. If you're suffering from diastasis recti, make sure to speak to your OBGYN and get a referral for a pelvic floor specialist as well as a workout recommendation so that you don't make it worse! It takes time and work, but my experience with diastasis recti shows you can overcome it!

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