Strengthening your tummy post pregnancy

Abdominal separation affects about one third of pregnant women so it’s really common but most people have never even heard of it.

This insightful blog by one mum offers some great guidance...
I have carried two 10lbs plus babies in my belly so the muscles in my tummy have been stretched to the limits! During my first pregnancy I noticed that when I would tighten my bump that it formed a dome/cone shape and here in lies my first introduction to diastasis recti (pronounced die-uh-STAY-siss REK-tie).
Technically diastasis recti means abdominal separation – various sources online suggest that it affects about one third of pregnant women so it’s really common but most people have never even heard of it. For most women the muscles re-engage themselves naturally but for many women there is a little bit of work involved in getting them back together.
First things first, how do you know if you even have it?
Lie down on the floor and bend your knees keeping your feet on the ground. Raise your head a couple of inches off the ground tensing your ab muscles. Put your fingers into your belly button (with your nails facing your toes) and you may be able to feel a ridge either side of your fingers. The key then is to see how many fingers you can fit in between that ridge, anything more than two and a half and you have work to do!.
The good thing is that it can be fixed, and relatively easily for most people.
However, if you can fit several fingers in the ridge then I would advise visiting a physio.The primary concern with diastasis recti is that it can result in lower back problems due to your core muscles not being as strong as they should be. Common fitness activities like ab crunches, sit ups, press ups and the plank can actually aggravate this problem.
So how do I fix I hear you say!?
To the forefront of research on this topic is Julie Tupler, a New York based Registered Nurse and Personal Trainer, who has developed the Tupler Technique. This is captured and explained in her book 'Loose your Mummy Tummy' and here are two of the techniques I (try and remember to) do daily: Elevators and Contractions. She describes the degree to which you tighten your tummy muscles as ‘floors’ – the first floor meaning that your stomach muscles are completely relaxed when you’re inhaling and the sixth floor meaning that your stomach muscles are pulled in as tight as you can contract them, back towards your spine. The exercises also work your pelvic floor muscles so double the benefit. The exercises can be easily slotted into your daily routine - do them at your desk, in front of the tv or before bed.
Elevators
Sit cross-legged with your back against a support, shoulders in line with your hips, and both hands on your tummy. Inhale, relaxing and expanding your belly out to the ‘first floor’, then exhale as you bring your transverse back to the fifth floor. Hold and count out loud to 30. Do 5 small squeezes toward the sixth floor (as far toward the back of your spine as possible), then end with 1 full breath. Repeat 10 times.
 
Contractions
Sit cross-legged with your back against a support, place one hand under your ribs and one below your belly button. Inhale, expanding your belly out to the first floor, then exhale to bring the transverse to the third floor, keeping your shoulders still; this is the starting position. Count out loud as you bring the stomach muscles back to the fifth floor. Squeeze and hold there. (This is 1 repetition.) Bring the transverse back to the third floor and repeat. Work up to 100 reps 3–5 times per day.
 
After a couple of weeks you should start to notice a difference. Continue to be mindful of it and always remember to mind your back too!
Written by Eimear Hutchinson. Eimear is a mum of two small ladies and wife to the one man. She blogs from Cork about DIY, style, beauty, travel and life with small girls. Find her at www.thetwodarlings.com
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