Mommy Tummy: How to Flatten Your Belly to Feel and Function Better
So you have had a baby and your tummy has not returned to the way it was before. In fact, you are now noticing a bulge in the middle of your belly that makes you look like you are still pregnant. What is going on?
There are a lot of changes that happen during pregnancy. Separation of the 6 pack abdominal muscles is one of these changes. This separation is called Diastasis Rectus Abdominis or Diastasis Recti (DRA).
During pregnancy, the baby grows and pushes the abdominal muscles apart. This is considered a normal part of pregnancy. In fact, nearly 100% of women have a DRA at 35 weeks of pregnancy.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
If you have one you are not abnormal or broken. You have just given birth to a tiny human and this has affected your body. If you are able to function normally and don’t notice any bulging in the middle of your belly, it is not a problem. In fact, it may improve on it’s own in the weeks following delivery.
Sometimes, however a DRA can lead to issues with posture, lifting, back pain, or just feeling weaker. Also, many women just don’t like the look of it.
There are things you can do to get your body back to performing the way you want it to. You can return to exercise, running, or just lifting the baby carrier without pain.
HOW DO YOU CHECK TO SEE IF YOU HAVE A DIASTASIS RECTI?
Lay on you back and put your palm on your belly at your navel with your fingers pointed toward your feet. Press gently down and to either side. Find the ridge of muscle to either side of the navel. If you have trouble finding this, lift your head and shoulders a little bit to make the bands of muscle easier to feel.
Now determine how many fingers you can get between the muscles. Normal is 2 finger widths or less, 3 or more fingers is abnormal.
Now observe your tummy while lifting your head and shoulders up slightly. If you see a bulge, this is also abnormal. You can also check for bulging in any position.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A DIASTASIS RECTI?
First, don’t panic. As mentioned before, DRA is common and happens to most pregnant women. It may go away in the first few weeks after delivery on it’s own.
If it does not, there are certain ways to work the core muscles, especially the deep core. The primary muscles you should train help support, tension, and girdle the abdominal area during all daily and exercise activities.
Unfortunately it can be hard to feel if these muscles are engaging properly. The difference between an exercise done correctly and one done incorrectly is subtle and does not show up well on an image or video. This is why it can be hard to learn what to do online instead of with in person physical therapy.
To engage your core, try breathing out and gently drawing your belly button in and back towards your spine. If you do this well, you will see your belly flatten. If you instead see your belly bulge, try again. Sometimes this is easiest in a sitting position, but you can try it laying on your back, side, or even on your hands and knees.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU GET BACK TO DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE
If you have trouble engaging your core to control your belly bulge, we can help you learn how to engage them properly so that you manage the pressure in you abdomen to make it flatter and function better.
Nothing makes us happier than to return people back to what they want to do, be that weight lifting, running, or just lifting your baby without issues.
Physical Therapy for pregnancy and postpartum issues? Yes! Some PT’s have extra training to work with pregnant and postpartum women.
At Clemens Physical Therapy, we specialize in helping women with pregnancy and pelvic floor issues. I am Board Certified in Women’s Health and teach this topic to PT students. We would love to help you learn how to heal and become the strong momma you were meant to be.
Call to schedule: 304-842-6008