When I was about six months pregnant with my second child, my midwife came to our house and did all the usual stuff, finishing with a fundal measurement. As I got up from the sofa when she had finished, she noticed that my abdomen went into a cone shape and told me that I probably had a diastasis recti and I would need to get proper treatment for it after the birth of my baby if I wanted it to heal. I had never heard of it before but I told her that I had noticed the cone shape when I was pregnant the first time. She seemed surprised that it had gone undiagnosed with my first pregnancy.
So what exactly is a diastasis recti? It's when the muscles in the abdomen part to allow the baby inside your womb to grow: it happens in all pregnancies but usually goes back to normal when your body is getting back to its pre-pregnancy state. In some cases though, such as mine, those muscles don't go back to where they should be after your baby is born and you need to do special exercises to train them back together. Having a bad diastasis recti can mean that even if you lose all your pregnancy weight, you still have an odd looking pouch. That pouch is where there is no muscular abdominal wall to hold your organs in place; only a thin layer of connective tissue, therefore your organs protrude through giving you a paunchy looking mummy tummy.
I wanted to write this post because from what I can gather, there seems to very little information about this given to pregnant women. My diastasis recti occurred in my first pregnancy and after I gave birth to my son, I did all sorts of tummy exercises (like crunches and plank) that not only don't heal a diastasis recti but actually make it much worse. I now have a two finger separation that I am struggling to narrow no matter how hard I try. My back aches after a day of lifting and carrying two miniature humans and I long to wear something a little more clingy than my usual wardrobe of baggy jumpers and empire line tops. I have had physiotherapy and worked diligently on my exercises to try and affect a difference but nothing has helped. In desperation to avoid a future full of back ache, I actually went to my doctor who has referred me to a surgeon for a consultation. I'm keen to avoid surgery though, especially after I found out you're not allowed to lift anything for three months. Three months!! I've got two very small children so I'm not sure how that would work.....
I looked everywhere online for a specialist DVD with exercises for my diastasis recti but it's really slim pickings out there and what there is, is very expensive. I did eventually invest in a DVD called the Tupler technique which a friend recommended and says gave her proper results. It's an 18 week course and I barely have time in the day to pee alone, let alone commit to these exercises, but I'm going to give it my best shot and I'll let you know how I get on.
I'm interested to know whether many of you HuffPost mums have had any experience of a diastasis recti: did your midwives tell you about it? Did you have it diagnosed? And if so, did you get the correct treatment for it?
I feel as though there is no awareness around it at all in this country and I just wonder how many women are desperately trying to sort out their tummies with no success because they have an undiagnosed diastasis recti that they are possibly only making worse with the wrong exercises.