Diastasis Recti: The Mummy Tummy and How to Flatten it With Exercise

Updated on August 25, 2017
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What is Diastasis Recti?

If you have recently had a baby and are wondering how to get rid of that baby weight, you are in the right place. Before you go about your weight loss journey, you must figure out if you have Diastasis Recti, and if you do, which exercises to do and which to avoid.

Diastasis Recti is the separation of the abdominal muscles and commonly occurs during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. It is caused by increased stress and tension on the abdominal muscles.

The condition can result in lower back pain and inability to do some day to day activities. This is because separated muscles are weak and cannot function properly to protect the back and internal organs.

So, how often does this occur? Nearly one in three, or 30% of all pregnancies result in Diastasis Recti. It is more likely to occur in women with multiple pregnancies and women who birthed heavier babies. Sometimes the abdominal muscles spontaneously close, but this is not the case for all women.

Mummy Tummy
Mummy Tummy | Source

The Diastasis Recti "Pooch"

Don't let that postpartum pooch discourage you. It may be more scientific than just some extra weight, and it is not impossible to fix.

So what does it look like? Well, everyone's bodies are different. But typically the stomach will have a protrusion of sorts, depending on the severity. This occurs because the abdominal muscles are separated and internal organs are pressing against a thin layer of connective tissue between the abdominals.

After doing the home test, how big was the gap between your abdominals?

See results

Testing for Diastasis Recti

Many doctors and practitioners do not test for Diastasis Recti at the postpartum appointment. Lucky for you, there is a way to do it at home in just a few easy steps.

  1. Lie flat on your back on a hard surface, preferably the floor
  2. Bend legs and press feet firmly into the floor
  3. Put one hand behind your head and one hand on your stomach, lightly pressing two fingertips into stomach just below your bellybutton.
  4. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor, in a crunch like position, contracting your abs.
  5. Move your fingertips back and forth over your midline. Feel for the gap between the left and right abdominals. You can also test above the bellybutton.

*If you can place more than 2 fingers in the gap between the left and right abdominal muscles, it is a sign of Diastasis Recti.

Crunches are a NO NO
Crunches are a NO NO

Exercises to Avoid

Everybody's first thought is to do numerous crunches until that obnoxious bump flattens. But, this is not the case. In fact any move that causes the abdominal wall to bulge outward is not a good option. Some of the most common exercises to avoid are:

  • Sit-ups and crunches
  • Yoga poses such as "up dog" and "cow pose"
  • The majority of pilates moves requiring you to hold your head and shoulders off the mat
  • Laying backwards over and exercise ball
  • Oblique curls
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Front loaded planks

It is important to understand that these exercises can cause further injury and that no matter how many crunches you attempt, if you have Diastasis Recit, you will not get that flat tummy. With all the unacceptable abdominal exercises, you may be wondering what is left? The answer is transverse abdominal exercises.

Disclosure

I am not a doctor, fitness trainer, or expert. You should not enter any fitness program, diet, or exercise program without contacting your practitioner first. I am not liable for any injuries as a result of the information on this page.

Transverse Abdominal Exercises

In order to get those abdominal muscles to close up, you have got to work those deep abdominal muscles that you don't notice. They are very important. Because all of the abdominal muscles are connected, when you work one region, it works the others indirectly as well, pulling your muscles back together slowly.

You may look at these and think they are too easy, but trust me, they are crucial to a flat belly.

Standing Push Up- Stand arms length away from a wall and press palms into wall. Contact your stomach muscles and do a push up against the wall, keeping elbows tight to the body. Try to keep your abs contracted, pulling them back to towards your spine. Repeat this move 20 times.

Head Lift- Lie flat on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor also. Pull your abs in towards your spine and lift your head off the ground. Hold for two seconds before releasing. Repeat this move 10 times.

Ab Contraction- Sit on a chair and place your hands over your stomach. Inhale while pressing your stomach inwards, toward the center of your spine. Hold the contraction for 30 seconds (be sure to breathe). Repeat this 5 times.

These exercises can be done daily, but it is not necessary. Try to this set at least 3-4 times a week. You will notice the exercises getting easier over time because you are strengthening your transverse abdominal muscles, but keep going. I do not recommend attempting any other abdominal training until you have consulted with a doctor.


Eat Right, Work the Transverse Abs, and Be Patient

We all know that our bodies don't go back to pre-baby right away. It takes time and it's a sacrifice we are happy to make. But, even those who are patient want to see results. Repeat the transverse abdominal exercises regularly, eat whole, clean foods, and you will begin to see results.

If at any time the exercises become painful or you have difficulty doing everyday activities, discontinue the exercise and consult with your doctor.

If you have any questions, need a little advice or motivation, or just want to talk to another mommy struggling with weight loss and the mommy belly, feel free to leave a comment and I will happily get back to you.

© 2014 Erin Nichols

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    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Sounds good! I would be happy to help in any way I can

    • profile image

      Soarnegl 

      4 years ago

      Thank you, so too. I started the week walking again. I will let you know my progress as I work.

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Try the above exercises. Only do them as long as you feel comfortable and are not experiencing unusual pain. You should feel your abs contract and expand, but if it is painful to the point that you can't bear it, then rest for a while.

      Make sure to eat enough lean protein, including protein shakes, chicken, turkey, part skim cheeses and Greek yogurt. Protein helps your muscles grown and heal, and therefore will help strengthen your transverse abdominals.

      Lastly, you can try adding some light cardio into your routine. Walking is a great source of cardiovascular exercise that is considered safe and effective. Also, walking can help stabilize your core.

      I hope some of these tips helped. Do some online searches for transverse abdominal exercises to keep it fresh and keep your routine interesting. You have to be patient. Your body is an amazing machine and can do just about anything if you feed it properly and take care of yourself.

    • profile image

      Soarnegl 

      4 years ago

      I know that my abdomen muscles or weak. I'very had hernia repair surgery 6 times. I refuse to have a 2nd surgery, so I have been searching for exercise to strength the muscles of my abdomen walls. I do believe I have diastasis recti and the a hernia. What are some other do's and do not's to help me.

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Yea, Im not sure how long it has been a "thing" and been studied, but it is useful, sometimes unpleasant information. It's not what I wanted postpartum but it was very helpful to know so that I didn't make it worse and could work on getting my muscles back to being strong and supportive.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      4 years ago from Sydney

      I'm amazed how many women don't even know this exists.

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Thank you for reading! Your transverse abdominals are on the front and side and they are underneath your side obliques! You make a great point of adding an illustration! I will note that and when I get back to my computer I will try to pull up an understandable and well put together illustration!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando FI Chor 

      4 years ago from Andalusia

      Every pregnant woman should be made aware of the possibility of ending up with Diastasis Recti. I was lucky as my doctor did mention it - he even let me feel the gap between my stomach muscles with my own hands and I was able to close it very quickly. This hub is a must read for those affected with the condition.

      Question: Where are the transverse abdominal muscles? Can they be identified on your first photo on the outside? Or could you add an illustration?

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Thank you for the support!!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Great hub and I have now shared it on my Facebook because I know at least one other person who will be interested.

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Thank you so much! That is awesome to hear coming from an expert in the field!

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 

      4 years ago from Texas

      This is a very well written and informative article lilmissmontana. Love the disclosure. I am an expert/health care professional/trainer & this was pretty dam good. Thumbs up on your Diastasis Recti hub.

    • lilmissmontana profile imageAUTHOR

      Erin Nichols 

      4 years ago from Montana

      Thank you! I hope it helps! If you need any pointers or even motivation, let mw know! Have a great weekend!

    • profile image

      dreamermeg 

      4 years ago

      Not logged in on my tablet but will share this useful info on my facebook, as well as trying it out myself, later, once back on computer.

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