How I healed an 8cm abdominal separation with safe postnatal exercises

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Learn from Jackie’s experience: abdominal separation isn’t forever

Learn from Jackie’s experience: abdominal separation isn’t forever

Hey girl, let’s make a promise. 

I promise to tell you *all* the details of my abdominal separation, and you promise to stick with me to the end and not freak out in the middle, ok?

Deal. 

When I had twins, my abs basically blew up. No, that’s not how it happened. Let’s go back. 

My first pregnancy was pretty standard. I had the usual weight gain, a relatively smooth delivery, and general postpartum weakness that needed repairing. 

One of the ways I started healing my body was through Pilates, which was both fun and effective. It was in that Pilates class when I first heard the term “diastasis recti”, or abdominal separation. 

And it sounded terrifying. I pictured being stuck with a loose, jelly belly that had basically thrown the towel in. Forever. 

I was checked for a separation, and breathed a relieved sigh: I was in the clear. I went on gratefully with my life, because I couldn’t imagine ever healing from something like that. 

My journey to the dreaded “abdominal separation

Then I found out I was carrying twins. Big ones. 

Halfway through, it really began to click for me that carrying twins is NOT. THE. SAME. as carrying a singleton. *Insert chorus of exasperated mums of multiples saying, “Girl, we tried to tell you”.*

My belly stretched further out in front of me than I could have ever imagined. It was like I was a mama duck with my ducklings walking in a line in front of me. So much of my body was just … forward

Around 30 weeks, I started to feel a strange, uncomfortable pain down the middle of my belly. It got worse when I had to use my abs, like when getting out of bed or the car. Eventually, the pain never went away. It wasn’t debilitating, so I wasn’t too worried, but it was uncomfortable and concerning all the same. 

Let’s be honest: I knew what this was. I was certain I had an abdominal separation. But, like I said, it really didn’t sideline me too much. And I was so happy to be having twins that it honestly didn’t take up much of my brain space (not that I had much left anyway!). 

After I had my twins (who were 3kg each, honey), I felt entirely different from after I had my first baby. My abs were just … gone. You know how when your arm falls deeply asleep, and you stare at it and your brain says, “Move, little arm!” but nothing happens? That was what my abs were like *all the time*. Asleep. Clocked out. 

I remembered that my OB had told me they had to stretch an entire metre to accommodate my little babes. A metre! Imagine how long that is. That’s like half the length of a bed! It’s a doorway!

And believe me, a doorway had definitely opened up in my abdomen. The question was how wide?

Deep breath… “my abdominal separation is how big?”

Normally, to measure an abdominal separation, you lie on your back and lift your head off the ground to help your abs work a bit. Then your physio tries to place a fingertip between the two columns of your abs. The more fingertips she can fit between them, the more centimetres you have in your separation. 

Well, get ready for the scary part (you promised to be brave!): Becky couldn’t measure my separation with just one hand. My separation was eight centimetres wide. That’s two fists

Ok, ok, since I was so shocked myself, I give you permission to faint. But then you’ve gotta wake up and stick around for the ending, because I promise it gets better.

My first thought was that I’d need surgery. How could I ever heal this kind of a separation without it, especially given that so many of my movements were restricted so that I wouldn’t injure myself further?

Luckily, I had a badass fairy unicorn on my team: Becky.

Becky knew exactly what to do. First, she told me everything to stop doing. Next, she told me what exercises could help me heal. 

So, I needed to stop doing things that would make my belly “dome” in the middle. This meant no more sitting up straight out of bed, no crunches, planks, or sit-ups, and I needed to use better posture while breastfeeding. 

The main thing was that I needed to learn how to activate my core. That can be a confusingly vague term, but what it really refers to is stabilizing your midsection and preparing it for doing work. It’s like tightening your imaginary corset: drawing in your lower tummy, keeping your low back steady, etc. 

 

The right exercises can make a BIG difference

Once I learned that, everything got easier. I began doing a series of Pilates-based movements that Becky prescribed for me. And things really began to get better. 

Now, let’s just take a pause and be real. Did I do an intense series of exercises for 20+ minutes every day of my life? Girl. LOL. No. I had three young children, and two were infants! But I did make a commitment to do five minutes of something every day. Sometimes I got longer sessions in, sometimes I didn’t. 

But that’s the miracle about all this: even with just a little work in the right way, I still made consistent progress. 

I was able to move around more easily, feeling like myself again. I could lift things with much less straining, like the day I realized I could lift the stroller in and out of my car with little trouble. You don’t realize how much you depend on a strong core until everyday tasks like that one become nearly impossible. 

I was really getting my life back. 

And after a few months of consistent work, Becky measured me again. 

You ready for the news?

My separation was almost completely gone

G-O-N-E!

I couldn’t believe that I had healed such a large separation with exercise alone. But I had done it, and I’m here to tell you that diastasis recti does not have to last forever. This isn’t about how your tummy looks–although healing a separation does make your abdomen look more trim–it’s about being able to function as a full participant in your own life. 

 

What to do if you’re worried about having an abdominal separation

Find an expert, get your separation assessed, and get guidance on safe exercises. Diastasis recti occurs in two thirds of all pregnancies, so if you’ve been beating yourself up about not “bouncing back” (what are we supposed to be, tennis balls?), know that you are not alone. 

And with a little support, you can wake up your abs, heal your separation, and get on with your beautiful life. 

Does my story hit home? Leave a comment and share your experience with diastasis recti–the good, the bad, and the cringe. Trust me, I get you.

If you have an abdominal separation, know that we understand. Join us at BBB where one of our programs can help you on your road to recovery and help you heal your abdominal separation.