Why Your Mom Pooch Won’t Get Better by Doing Crunches (Spoiler: Because You Might Have Diastasis Recti)

I’ve always been tiny (ask anyone) and getting my abs back after pregnancy was never an issue.

Until it was.

After my fourth child was born, I noticed I still looked pregnant many, many months after delivery – which was NOT normal for me.

Scratch that. I didn’t really notice anything until my mom said something about it when the baby was about six months old.

Thanks, mom!

I guess I was too distracted (er, sleep-deprived) and hadn’t really paid attention to how much time had gone by.

Anyway, I know you don’t want to hear this about me, but without much effort, I usually just slimmed right back down after my deliveries. Which was basically the point my mom was trying to make when she brought it up – why aren’t you back to normal yet?

She didn’t say those words exactly, but after hearing her comments about still having a mom pooch, I remained calm freaked out when I discovered that I had a condition called diastasis recti.

At first, it sounded scary that my abs didn’t naturally come back together after delivery. I mean, it always closed up before.

But after some research, I learned that this happens frequently to women (and some men) who have a weak core. And it’s more common for women who’ve had multiple pregnancies.

And many woman don’t even realize they’ve fallen victim to it.

Well, damn.

Between babies three and four, I didn’t do much ab work because of neck and shoulder pain. Anytime I would do a crunch, my neck would hurt for days (or weeks).

So, because of the pain, I stopped trying to tone my core post-baby three. I didn’t think it was a big deal since, well, I wasn’t really rocking a mom pooch and my pre-pregnancy clothes fit fine.

Feeling like I looked good enough, I left it at that.

And then I got pregnant with number four.

Weak core + pregnancy = recipe for diastasis recti

The good news: diastasis recti is repairable, but not by doing traditional ab workouts.

It’s been a year since I discovered mine and I’m still working on closing the gap (I’m guilty of being human, meaning being inconsistent with my exercises).

But the gap is less than it was.

And that brings me to the point of bringing this up to you now: ’tis the season for getting fit and back in shape.

I don’t want to see any of my mama’s getting hurt.

First, find out if you have it, too. To learn how to perform a self-check to see if you have diastasis recti, watch the video in this blog post from Pronatal Fitness. (I’m not in any way affiliated with nor have I been compensated for recommending Pronatal Fitness. I just found this particular video to be helpful because if you don’t perform the check correctly, you might get inaccurate results.)

If you do have a gap, don’t freak out.

What can you do about it?

One of the first things I wondered when I realized I had diastasis recti was if there were any exercises that were safe for me to do.

Between all the resources I’ve turned to for help, I know this much: there are a lot of exercises that aren’t safe for you to do with diastasis recti.

  • Don’t do crunches.
  • Or sit-ups.
  • Or planks.
  • No bicycles (laying down).
  • No leg raises.

Instead, you’ll need to do exercises that work on strengthening your transverse abdominis.

And you can still do some yoga! Sara Beth Yoga has a short yoga video with safe poses for diastasis recti. (Again, not being compensated nor affiliated with Sara. Just sharing.)

You can also search YouTube for plenty of other yoga videos created for mama’s with diastasis recti.

What helped me understand the condition the most was reading Katy Bowman’s book Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation. (This link IS my affiliate link with Amazon and I will be compensated if you purchase the book via my link here. I bought the ebook first and then bought the paperback because of all the exercises in the book that I wanted to follow. I highly recommend the paperback for the same reason.)

Her book gives a thorough explanation of diastasis recti and how you can repair it by making simple changes to your posture and how you move. I highly, highly recommend it.

Thanks to Katy’s book, I’ve learned that our bodies are a whole unit and simple things like adjusting your standing posture through proper foot placement will help you on your way towards healing your core.

Stretching your fascia, as Katy’s book also explains, will help restore your core (and your other muscles) to their proper positions so that you can properly tone those deep core muscles and close that gap.

There is a proper way to get down onto your back so that you aren’t putting pressure on your split abs, making it worse.

And there is a proper way for you to bend down to pick up your baby and a way for you to get in and out of bed.

These are difficult positions to describe how to do in a blog post, but if you get Katy’s book or sign up for a program like Every Mother (I learned a lot from the 3-months that I was in that program and, again, not an affiliate with them.), you’ll be well on your way to learning what you need to change in the way you move so that you don’t make your diastasis recti worse and can properly heal.

And whatever you do, I don’t want you to feel like you’ll never get in shape if you find out that you have this condition.

Yes, you will be limited in what you can do until you fully strengthen your deep core muscles and bring that gap together.

I’m right there with you, mama, feeling the frustration alongside you.

But I refuse to beat myself up about the state of my body.

My abs might be ripped, but I’m not broken.

I will heal. I will get through this. And one day, I will be able to do whatever exercise I want.

You. Will. Too.

Do you have any questions?

I purposely didn’t go into much detail about diastasis recti here because I’m not a health care professional and cannot diagnose anyone with this condition. If you feel you might have a gap in your abs, it’s best to have a doctor examine you to make sure it isn’t something that might need surgery to correct (I’ve heard that’s very rare).

But I didn’t want to NOT talk about it because I know that it’s something that many mama’s are dealing with and probably aren’t aware of and I wanted to share my experience and the resources I’ve used to learn more about it to help me heal from it.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I might not know the answer, but I might be able to point you in the right direction. Post a comment here for shoot me a DM on Insta.

Oh, and if you found this blog post to be helpful, please consider sharing it with someone you know who might find it helpful, too.

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