I’m super excited to get my guest blogger series back to my blog! I think its a great way to spotlight other fit moms who have different interests and expertise with my audience and I look forward to sharing these incredible women with all of you.
Say hello to Natasha from Fit Mama Santa Barbara.
My name is Natasha and I am a licensed Occupational Therapist and Wellness Coach, and have been working with clients of all ages and fitness levels for the past ten years. I live with my wonderful husband and 4 month old baby in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. My background is in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation, and it has provided me with the most rewarding career I could imagine because I love helping others reach their health and fitness goals.
I have taken a special interest in women’s health and pregnancy and enjoy working with women both before and after childbirth to ensure they are exercising safety and effectively for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery! I offer personal and group training in the Santa Barbara area as well as online coaching to women all over the country. Find me on instagram (@fitmamasb), and be sure to follow my blog for new and exciting information packed posts about health, fitness, nutrition and life as a new mom!
Do you have a diastasis? I DO! Surprisingly, being in the medical field I had never heard of this before becoming pregnant. When I was about 20 weeks along I noticed this strange ‘ridge’ forming in the middle of my stomach every time I leaned backwards or got out of bed. Naturally, I freaked out. I did some research and this is what I learned.
“Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle. This muscle covers the front surface of the belly area… Pregnant women may develop the condition because of increased tension on the abdominal wall. The risk is higher if with multiple births or many pregnancies.”
“A diastasis recti looks like a ridge, which runs down the middle of the belly area. It stretches from the bottom of the breastbone to the belly button. It increases with muscle straining”
So what to do? First I realized that a lot of what I was doing was all wrong, and it had most likely made my condition worse. This is probably why I noticed it so early on in my pregnancy. Being a first time mom I wasn’t showing much at all in my first trimester and therefore decided it would be beneficial to continue an abdominal and core strengthening routine throughout the first trimester.
Well, this was a mistake. There are many exercises that are contraindicate for diastasis recti, including crunches, planks, V sits, several yoga poses (up-dog, cow and triangle poses) and pretty much all your standard ab exercises! Also, I realized that I had a very tight rectus abdominus, that was out of balance with the rest of my core muscles, putting extra strain and pressure on my linea alba (the connective tissue between the two sides of your abdominals), which in turn increased my risk of developing a diastasis.
I stopped doing ab exercise right away. Second thing I did was cry a little, haha kidding, but really I was pretty upset and feeling a little stupid. Lastly, I pulled out my old therapy books and looked up what I could do to be proactive about healing this diastasis both before and after this baby was born.
During pregnancy there are a few things you can do in order to prevent this from getting worse. It is important to be aware of how you are moving and how much strain you are putting on your abdominal muscles.
For example, the way I would normally get out of bed (simply by sitting up) puts an excessive amount of force on my abs and literally tears them further apart every single time. By using a log rolling technique, where you lie on your side and use your arms and the help of gravity to get up helps to decrease this strain and tension. Also, being aware to engage your transverse abdominus (TA) when doing any lifting or bending also helps protect your abs and distributes the force evenly across your entire core.
What is your TA? It is the muscle that acts like a corset, supporting your torso and core muscles from the front around to the back. When I was in my last trimester I focused on strengthening my TA and pelvic floor muscles not only to prevent further diastasis but also to aid with labor and delivery.
How can you prevent disastis recti?
Well the short answer is, you can’t really prevent it. Now I can’t find much research on this but I would think that having tight abdominals, having a large baby, gaining a lot of weight, and how you are carrying your baby (to the front or side, etc) would all attribute to how likely you are to develop it.
BUT… even if you have a diastasis, you can still prevent it from getting worse. There are many things you can do to prevent your abs from continuing to separate. First off get some proper support, I recently discovered the ‘Belly Sports Bra’ from Bao Bei Maternity. You can buy one here.
Something else I would like to share with you on this topic is the power of Kinesiotaping. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a fairly new concept that uses fabric elastic tape applied to the skin in order to aid with recovery and the healing process. A more in depth explanation can be found here.
After reviewing various coursewares and educating myself on the application and proper use of Kinesiotape I discovered that this could also be used during and after pregnancy! So here I go, trying anything I can to be proactive about healing my diastasis.
This is me in the picture below, I think I’m around 31 or 32 weeks here, and I had been applying the tape for approximately a month leaving it on for 3 days, then taking it off for one, then back on for 3, etc. By placing the tape in this formation using proper technique, it essentially ‘reminds’ my muscles that they are meant to be together and not pull apart, encouraging proper alignment and decreasing tension on the linea alba.
Yes, I look silly, but it’s a small price to pay for something that really works. When I take off the tape I usually check the status of my diastasis, and after using the tape for 2 months it has not gotten any worse! This is shocking to me considered how much larger my stomach has gotten, and I also have not had any pain associated with it. I also feel it serves as a proprioceptive reminder to keep my core in proper alignment and reminds me to engage my other muscles during activities to protect this fragile connective tissue.
What makes the biggest difference is monitoring and modifying your EVERYDAY activities. Even if you don’t workout you can still be making this worse just going through your normal routine!
Check out my video on neutral spine. By engaging your TA muscles in a neutral spine position while doing all your daily activities, yes this includes cooking and getting dressed, you will help protect that abdomen and keep those muscles together where they should be!
Find a therapist near you to help with this if you are having trouble. If you learn how to activate the right muscles while you are still pregnant it not only helps with labor but also will put you in a great position for recovery afterwards!
I hope you learned something from this article! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about my own personal experience so far.
In fitness and good health,
Are you suffering from diastasis recti or have a friend or family member who is? Make sure you comment with your questions or share this post with them! Happy Friday