1. Build core strength pre/post-partum.
Stretching of the body during pregnancy is a normal process which readies the body for the growing baby inside, therefore some level of separation is likely to occur in most women. However, building stronger abdominal muscles prior to the pregnancy can help to reduce the amount they will stretch. After having the baby, a new mother will need to rebuild strength in her pelvic floor, lower back, and abdominal muscles. When exercising before, during, and after pregnancy, professional input is important to develop a safe and effective exercise programme which targets the correct muscles without causing diastasis recti. An exercise physiologist is specially trained in all things exercise and pregnancy and will create a unique programme fit for a new or expectant mother to build and maintain core strength and minimise and correct diastasis recti.
2. See a soft tissue occupational therapist.
A soft tissue occupational therapist (OT) is musculoskeletal therapist who specialises in the treatment of soft tissue conditions and injuries involving muscles, ligaments, and tendons. If muscles of the back or other muscles surrounding the abs are shortened, they can place the abdominal muscles on stretch which increases the risk of diastasis recti. A soft tissue OT will use myofascial release techniques to release tension from the muscles in areas that are tight and provide stretches for these areas. They also have an important role in treating postural problems which result from pregnancy such as changes to the shoulders, lower back, and hips, which all affect how a woman holds her body and in turn any pain that she may experience.
3. Avoid heavy lifting during pregnancy.
Heavy lifting exercises place a high level of pressure on the abdominal muscles. During pregnancy, the hormone ‘relaxin’ softens the body’s internal structures to allow the body to stretch to make room for the growing baby. If too much pressure is placed in this area it will stretch the underlying connective tissue holding the abs together, called the lineus alba. This causes the abdominal muscles to separate and leave a gap. Stretching is normal during pregnancy but when it becomes diastasis recti, the new mother will have decreased core strength, poor posture, and lower back pain. By adding heavy weights into the mix, the lineus alba is strained more causing increased stretching. If everyday activities require the expectant mother to lift heavy items, a supportive belt can be worn to help reduce the risk of stretch.
4. Change the way you get up out of bed.
Getting out of bed is something that is done every day without much thought, but the positioning and technique used can influence diastasis recti for better or worse. The technique of sitting straight up from laying down places a large amount of pressure on the abdominal muscles, the ideal technique to use when getting up in this way, is using the lower abs and pelvic floor muscles to assist in getting up. This may be difficult for some to achieve, in which case they should roll on to their side and use their upper body to assist in lifting their body in to a seated position. Using this technique will help relieve some pressure on the abdominal muscles.
At Urban Health HQ our highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapists and Exercise Physiologists will use a variety of approaches to help treat your injuries, conditions or any concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today by calling 0411 563 391.