I remember looking down at the alien-like bulge that emerged from my belly and thinking it looked strange. “What was that?!?” I did another crunch and it popped up again. I was on week eight of my 12-week exercise program and yet my stomach continued to feel soft and squishy. I had worked hard 6 days a week with a combination of strength training and walking and was struggling to see the results in my stomach - the one part of my body I so desperately desired to get back to its pre-pregnancy state. I figured my hard work would pay off eventually as long as I continued to faithfully exercise, however this cone-like bulge was different. Suddenly, I remembered something I had learned briefly in physical therapy school, Diastasis Recti. The doctors I had trusted with my care had failed to check me for a diastasis, and me focused on my baby and learning how to survive with a newborn never bothered to check either. I laid back down and with my fingers over my naval, slowly lifted my head off the ground. One-two-three fingers sunk down between the two edges of my abdominals. My mind began racing, “why had I not bothered to check for DR?”
I hear it all the time from mothers. My doctor never checked me for diastasis let alone ask about my pelvic floor health. The common theme from my patients is they get asked a very general question, "how are you feeling?" or "Are you experiencing any problems?" as if women should automatically know what problems the doctor could possibly be asking about. I remember after my first I was itching to get back to exercising but unfortunately was not told how to even ease back into working out.
Here are some items to look out for when returning to exercise (or even good topics to discuss with your OBGYN at any follow up appointments:
1. Pelvic pain
2. Pubic bone pain - if you had SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) during pregnancy you can still have it postpartum.
3. Feeling pressure or heaviness in the vagina
4. Urinary incontinence
5. Fecal incontinence
6. Bulging or coning of the abdomen (noticeable when doing any lifting, planks or crunch like exercises)
7. Scar and/or abdominal pain post cesarean
If you experience any of the above symptoms, STOP exercising and seek out a women's health physical therapist. You won't just get the help to treat your symptoms, but will be get valuable information on how to transition into an exercise program or how to modify exercises until your body is stronger.
I didn’t go back to complete my workout program and focused on closing the gap in my core muscles. It was a completely different pace and way of thinking but within a few weeks I began to notice the gap closing, my waist getting smaller, and the mommy pooch I was fighting against finally start to shrink.