What is Postpartum Pilates?
Pilates is a great form of exercise that is focused on developing strong core muscles. The core muscles include the transverse abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques and rectus abdominis, in order from inner most to outermost. We can think of these 4 muscles as a corset around our abdomen. The diaphragm sits above and the pelvic floor muscles below creating a closed cylinder of muscles which can contract to increase pressure in the abdomen or relax to reduce it.
After the stresses placed on the body during pregnancy, where muscle have been stretched for a period of months, it can be difficult to activate these muscles and for them to function as they did pre-pregnancy. Pilates is therefore very well suited for women returning to exercise after pregnancy.
What is Diastasis Recti?
During pregnancy the abdominal muscles stretch as the baby grows. A diastasis occurs when the muscles and connective tissues are stretched beyond their capacity and separate where they meet along our mid line, the linea alba, and this is called a diastasis recti (DA). You can feel the linea alba on yourself by contracting your stomach, like if you are doing a sit up, and feeling above your belly button. If you can feel a separation, where you can place two or more fingers in, then you are classified as having a diastasis recti.
How can I improve my diastasis recti?
You can improve the appearance of the separation and improve the function of the muscle by doing specific exercises that target these core muscles. Having an assessment and following the guidance of a specialist physiotherapist will ensure you have the most appropriate programme to follow.
What should I avoid if I have diastasis recti?
To keep things simple, avoid any strenuous activities that make your tummy visibly bulge out. This is a good indication that you abdominals have not been able to function appropriately to control the movement. You must only do exercises throughout which you can control your abdominals.
Things to avoid include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Staining on the toilet
- Abdominal exercises such as sit ups
- Holding a baby on one hip
- Sitting up and twisting to get out of bed
You will get stronger with a progressive programme of exercises and you will return to the functional capacity of being able to do all these things without thinking about how your body is controlling it.
Can I prevent diastasis recti from developing?
It isn’t possible to completely preventing diastasis recti from developing. You are more at risk of developing diastasis recti if you are overweight or gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy, if you have twins or triplets and if you have poor muscle conditioning going into the pregnancy. Therefore, to reduce your risk it is key to:
- Ensure you go into pregnancy fit and at a healthy weight, and maintain this during your pregnancy.
- Don’t work your abdominals too much. The best forms of exercise during pregnancy are full body work outs that do not overly focus on your abdominals. If you abdominal muscles become too strong they can become less flexible resulting in a higher risk of developing a split.
At Flawless Physio we are experience in pre and post-natal pregnancy Pilates.