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Sunday, 05 January 2014 22:50

How to Heal Your Your Mummy Tummy

Binding, Nutrition, Exercise & Posture

Are you getting conflicting information about the best way to fix your stomach muscle separation after the birth of your baby?

It's important to get the healing process started as soon as possible in order for you to not only get back in shape, but also to prevent back and hip pain during your recovery. It is not unusual to get different opinions from friends and family but also medical professionals.  

So let's have a closer look at the 4 main options that are often offered to women and see what really works. I will discuss the pros and cons of each one.

Binding

An old and ancient tradition of wrapping the stomach muscles to increase recovery and healing postpartum. There are now specific binders available which are more comfortable for women to wear and there are some that are suitable post a C-section.

Do they Work?

Using a belt/binder or wrap will work initially as it can help to bring the abdominal muscles together. It will also help support your torso during the first 7-10 days post birth. Following surgery it will reduce pain and help a women move around much easier.

How Long Should you wear it for?

Women will benefit from a type of binding post birth but you only really need to bind if your Diastasis is wider than 3-4 cm or you have had a C-section. I strongly advise wearing a binder asap post a C-section to aid recovery.

You should wear the belt for no more than 3-4 weeks reducing the amount of hours you wear it for each day over this time period.

Pros:

The belts can feel awesome on as they offer support and most are now comfortable. Healing is improved and there is reduced pain following a C-section. Other benefits include assisting with shrinking the uterus, supporting internal organs the lower back and hip muscles, reducing diastasis.

Cons:

Over wearing a binder can significantly reduce the the strength of already weakened abdominal muscles. Women learn to rely on the belt for support instead of contracting their own muscle belt.

Nutrition

How can good nutrition help heal a diastasis?

Poor nutrition along with excess weight gained during pregnancy will decrease how well the nervous system can connect with weak muscles in order to regain muscle strength.

An increase in abdominal bloating caused by either a food intolerance or excess weight will also prevent adequate contracting of the muscles. Diet definitely needs to be addressed in order to heal your stomach muscles.

Does it work?

80% of how we look is related to the food we eat. So the food you have eaten during your pregnancy and what you are eating now will definitely affect your results.

If you know you are still 10kg over your pre pregnancy weight then some of that extra pregnancy weight is going to be sitting on your stomach. So its not rocket science that you are still going to have a mummy tummy if you are 10 kg overweight.

Good nutrition also helps to promote cellular and muscle tissue repair, helping to heal a diastasis.

Pros:

Good nutrition postpartum will help return your body back to its pre pregnancy weight, will reduce excess weight and abdominal bloating speeding up the recovery of your separated stomach muscles. 

Cons:

Need to be prepared and find time to make and eat it! 

Exercise

Exercise post birth is essential for you to regain the strength and stability of your 'core'. If you can't contract weak core muscles then you are putting stress on the spine and hip joints which can lead to all manner of pain and discomfort.  39 weeks of being stretched as baby grows has serious side effects. Diastasis recti is one consequence of the stretching and must be healed properly if you are to regain your pre baby shape and core strength.

Does it Work?

Yes with specific postnatal exercises women can completely close a diastasis and regain core strength.

Pros:

Correct rehabilitation exercises done soon after giving birth will help heal your diastasis, promote better posture, improve pelvic floor muscle strength and general well being.

Cons:

Finding the time and also remembering how to do the exercises may prove challenging. The wrong exercises like crunches and frontal planks will prevent and cause further separation.

Posture

Poor posture pre and post pregnancy will increase diastasis and prevent it from healing. If you go about your daily activities constantly sticking your abdominals out, the muscles are not going to knit back together.

Any benefits of your exercise program will be undone if you are not thinking about your posture.

Does it work?

Yes, thinking about your posture during the day will help heal your diastasis but this alone will not heal a diastasis.

Pros

Improves recovery if following an exercise program and can reduce pain.

Cons

Holding good posture alone will not fix a diastasis

What You Need to Do to Heal Your Mummy Tummy

They all work together in helping you heal your separated abdominal muscles. You won't see the results by just doing one.

  • Binding certainly doesn’t work without contracting weak core muscles and activating your own natural muscle belt.

  • Good posture can’t work by itself unless the muscles are strong enough to offer support to help correct alignment.

  • The best nutrition won’t help strengthen weak core muscles.

  • Exercise can be undone without thinking about correct posture.

  • Doing a combination of the above will ensure that you heal your diastasis recti. Depending on the size and depth of your separation will effect how quickly it heals.

Give yourself time to recover as it may take anywhere from 6 weeks to 9 months to completely heal. I would suggest you follow a specific postnatal exercise program to ensure you are doing safe exercise which will promote recovery and healing. Have a look at the 12 week postnatal exercise and wellness program Birth2FitMum on my website.

Further reading: How Binding Helps Post A C-Section

Published in Mom's Recovery
Monday, 18 November 2013 09:20

Running After Pregnancy: Is It Too Soon?

This is a frequent conversation with my pre and postnatal gals.

Question: When can I start running again?

Answer: Probably (read: definitely) not after your 6-week check-up when your doctor "clears" you for all exercise.

(Side note, but docs, can you please use different wording with your postnatal clients when it comes to this? Running is not the same as core activation, breathing, resistance training, etc.)

Postnatal ladies, I need you to be patient with this one, because it will significantly impact your recovery in the short term and health in the long-term. Postnatal exercise is fantastic and I encourage it as soon as you're ready and feeling up for movement. Working on abdominal and pelvic floor activation exercises, retraining your breathing patterns, doing exercises such as squats, lunges, hip thrusts, pulling, and scapular slides are all amazing. They will be extremely helpful in your healing and fat loss journey, if that is a goal of yours.

Photo #1- Andrea prenatal band squats

(Working core control through band resisted squats, to increase activation of glutes)

However, running, and any high impact exercise for that matter, is a completely different story. What your body has undergone during pregnancy, labor and delivery is no joke. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably continue to keep saying it :)). If you think that running is going to be your best bet for getting back to your "pre-pregnancy" weight, or into your jeans, or even get your abs back, it's just simply not going to be. There are much more effective and safe ways for you to do this, I promise you that. Read this post for your best bets if any of the above is what you're striving for.

I understand that you may love to run and I fully support you in getting back to it. But please, keep reading to find out why I need you to wait at least 3 MONTHS to pound the pavement. To be crystal clear, this is with 3 months/12 weeks of structured postnatal specific resistance training (core retraining, glute/back strengthening, breathing exercises), not just 3 months from delivery day.

1). You are mega sleep deprived. You likely do not have the ability to focus on a million things at once right now, which is what running will take when you're getting back into it. Abs bracing, pelvic floor engaged, glutes firing, diaphragmatic breathing, etc. through hundreds and thousands of steps? Sounds exhausting just thinking about it and I got a full 8 hours last night ;)

2). Your new body is unstable right now.  Not just because of the changes to muscular strength, but also because the hormone relaxin is at an all time high for first few months postpartum. This is the hormone that made it possible for your body to be able to carry a baby and birth it. It makes your soft tissues (for example, ligaments) more lax and therefore, you are far more susceptible to injury. Especially injury to hips, pubic symphysis, low back, and knees.

3). It is essential to retrain your core and floor. Your core muscles are not ready to support your body through repetitive pounding food strikes. It is a recipe for disaster. Your posture is likely not optimally aligned, especially if you are spending long days breastfeeding and carrying your baby. You probably have some degree of diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and your spine is not well supported. Your pelvic floor might not be functioning at 100% and you could be experiencing incontinence symptoms. You will exacerbate these issues with running.

Photo #3- Andrea prenatal dead bugs

(Training the abdominals through dead bugs exercises can be a great place to start)

4). Uterine and bladder prolapse are real things to be aware of. I recommend all my ladies go see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to put both our minds at ease. If you are experiencing ANY issues with urinary and/or stress incontinence, see a PFP so they can give you treatment and exercises to help rehab you. If you're having incontinence with sneezing or laughing, or if you are running wearing a pad because you're leaking, just back up and keep training the basics of core/floor healing.

5). Acknowledge you are in recovery mode and start slow. To get back out there, start building up your mileage slowly. Maybe you start your runs with 1 minute + 1 minute walking, and add 30 seconds to a minute on your run time weekly if it feels good. You will need to keep up your strength training routine as your get into a regular schedule of running. Do not let this fall off.

Good luck, ladies!

JMG

Published in Mom's Recovery

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