Pregnancy causes a cascade of physical and emotional changes that are largely out of a person’s control. It’s empowering to discover that some of these changes can be prevented during one of the happiest moments of someone’s life.
Two post-pregnancy effects that can wane a women’s physical well-being that no one talks about and that can be avoided. How to prevent (1) pelvic floor dysfunction and (2) diastasis recti from occurring prenatally and how to resolve its occurrence postnatally in a safe and effective way?
What is Diastasis Recti?
The rectus abdominis is composed of two superficial abdominal muscles held together by a vertical connective tissue which helps give the appearance of a six pack. Excessive abdominal weight gain can cause a lot of pressure against this muscle.
If the deep core muscles aren’t strong enough then the rectus abdominis cannot sustain the tension and will weaken. This weakening effect causes the two muscles to separate from each other and to create an outward protruding pouch when forcing the abdomen in a crunching motion. The outward protrusion is the abdominal contents pushing against the connective tissue connecting the two abdominal walls together due to internal abdominal pressure buildup.
This affects two thirds of pregnant women in some form or another and is most common in women over 35 years old, women giving birth to larger babies and petite women especially as the pregnancy progresses. Diastasis recti can also occur in males who gained a lot of abdominal weight suddenly.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction or Prolapse
The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles that extend from the front, the pubic bone, to the end of the sitting bone. They form the shape of a hammock and their function is to provide a floor structure so that the internal organs don’t spill out downward.
When these muscles weaken, they can cause incontinence when you cough, sneeze or whenever you exert yourself through certain movements especially during exercise. If the pelvic floor is extremely week it may lead to prolapse where the internal organs such as the uterus, bladder and/or bowel drop down into the vagina instead of staying where they should be.
There are four stage of prolapse severity, one is the mildest and four is the most extreme. During pregnancy, the vertical downward pressure from carrying the weight of the baby can weaken and stretch the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to these situations.
Prevention Through Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness
Pre and postnatal fitness can prevent these common pregnancy symptoms from happening.
Therapeutic deep core strengthening prenatal exercise can prevent a diastasis recti or pelvic floor dysfunction from occurring as the pregnancy progresses. The best time to start them is during the second trimester when a woman feels physically well enough to exercise.
If they weren’t done during pregnancy and there is a diastasis recti postnatally, they can and should be done once your doctor has cleared you for exercising. The sooner these exercises are done after a baby is born the sooner an abdominal separation can be closed and the higher the success rate for it to close completely.
The deep core muscles aren’t easy to connect to and people trying to do these exercises on their own without professional guidance frequently end up only working out superficial muscles which doesn’t address the issue. The best way to be sure you are doing them properly is with the guidance of a professional trainer.
It is important to understand that stomach crunches and other forms of higher intensity core strengthening exercises should be avoided because they can cause a diastasis rectus during pregnancy or worsen an existing diastasis rectus.
Prenatal pelvic floor strengthening exercises combined with deep core breathing techniques can prevent the onset of pelvic floor weakening. Hypoppressive breathing techniques can eventually help resolve pelvic floor dysfunction and reverse the severity of a prolapse from a grade four to a grade one until it is resolved completely.
FitCore offers prenatal and postnatal fitness training in the greater Montreal area. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re pregnant or have given birth.