Or as I like to call it, “Mummy Tummy.” Listen up moms for a little science about why you may be having trouble flattening your mummy tummy. You may be asking yourself, why do moms need a special program? Because your abdominal and pelvic muscles have undergone specific physiological changes, likely still unaddressed even if it is months or years since you last gave birth. These muscles need to be restored and targeted with expertise and understanding, not bootcamp style ab workouts. As a matter of fact many of the traditional core and abdominal exercises are not going to help you. In fact they may make your problem worse. You may not even know what your core is or how to engage it properly. Let me first explain what your core consists of.
Your core muscles are the group of deep muscles that support your stomach, pelvic floor and lower back, and they stabilize your entire spine. The Transverse Abdominis is the deepest, innermost layer of all your abdominal muscles. It stretches around your mid-section like a corset. When engaged correctly, the transverse abdominis muscle acts like a girdle around your waist to stabilize your spine and pelvis. These muscles are important and so is the way pressure is exerted within your entire abdominal and pelvic cavity. If your core muscles do not activate properly, and if the pressure behind those muscles is high, then your spine, pelvis and joints are placed under stress. Let's talk about what can happen to your abdominal area as a result of to much pressure and a weak core with a baby growing inside.

Let's talk about Diastasis Recti or Rectus Distention, as I know this is a condition many women are concerned about or confused about. Diastasis Recti is what happens when the rectus abdominis (your six pack muscle) which is made up of two parts, joined in the middle by a collagen strip, becomes separated from its connective midline.
The Linea Alba: This midline connective tissue, runs from the bottom of your breastbone to the front of your pubis. It is this connective midline tissue (not the muscle itself) which is damaged, over lengthened, stretched or even torn away from the abdominal muscles to which it is supposed to be attached. The two parts of muscle move farther apart as the connection between them stretches and weakens, as a result of increased pressure, combined with your growing baby. The rectus muscle is your most superficial muscle, or outermost abdominal muscle. It sits outside the tranverse abdominis and outside the oblique muscle of your waist. The function of the outermost muscle is supposed to be to support your back and your organs. So when the muscle separates, this support system is weakened, causing low back pain and a pronounced tummy.

Would you know it if you had it? Here is what to look for. Your organs protrude through the gap, as only this thin layer of connective tissue supports them. This often appears as a cone shape (when lying on your back) or as a protruding, pregnant looking belly. Your bellybutton may come out instead of in. Your stomach may bulge more when your digestive system is full. A severe diastasis may reveal a pulsing while your digestive system is working. It can cause back pain, especially when lifting, as your spine is bearing all of the weight of your body. It may feel tender to the touch and it will be pronounced when you attempt a crunch type exercise or get up from a lying position on your back.

How to test yourself for Diastasis Recti. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can rest your head on a pillow. Relax your head and shoulders and place 2 or 3 fingers just higher than your bellybutton. Gently but firmly press down with your fingertips and then lift your shoulder blades slightly off the floor. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head and neck. Don't lift your shoulders up too high and don't hold this position for more than a second or two. You may want to try a few times so you can feel how the muscles work. If you don't feel the two ridges of muscle with 2 fingers try 3. A diastasis gap is measured in finger widths. Remember you are also testing for the condition of the connective tissue (the Linea Alba). The further your fingers go into your belly, the weaker the connective tissue. There is also a leg lift test. Lie flat on the floor with your legs flat out on the floor, lift 1 leg off the floor about 2 inches. Any gap or bulging, particularly if there is little resistance to pressure into the gap, is a diastasis or distention and will result in instability and weakness.

OK ladies, I know this is all a lot to take in and sounds really weird and scary, but guess what? It is fixable! It starts with your posture and the way you hold yourself. You must learn how to use your rectus abdominis to decrease pressure and bring the rectus together, thereby closing the gap. Before you do hundreds of repitions of any abdominal exercises or Pilates or any ab isolating exercises that may be missing the point, find a training expert in your area who specializes in pre/post natal fitness and that has worked with other moms on their Diastasis Recti. How long it will take depends on the depth and width of the diastasis as well as your commitment to doing the exercises necessary. It may take 6 weeks to show marked improvement. So be patient with yourself because the end result will be so worth it and you will learn to love your body again! Good luck moms!

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