Should you be worried about a “mommy tummy”?
I’m concerned about mine! I have never, ever been one to worry too much about my appearance. Sure, in middle and high school I had some normal anxiety over how I looked. But it really wasn’t too important to me. I figured that I was an average enough pretty. I thought that makeup was a hassle, so I never wore any. I dressed in what felt comfortable to me. You’d never catch me in a pair of heels!
I’ve carried that with me through my pregnancy and parenting years – not worrying too much. So why am I worried now? The biggest reason is pain. I had a lot of pain throughout my entire hip/pelvis area during pregnancy. I also started feeling pain around my belly button as soon as I gave birth to Honor. It was extremely tender and still is. My midwife’s apprentice checked on it and could feel a good-sized separation between my abdominal muscles. I knew care providers call this a diastasis because I’d read a book discussing it. But the intense pain made me much more interested than I had been before.
The abdominal muscles, what are commonly called the “six-pack,” are many crossing bands of muscles, but the primary muscles we see are two sets running vertically up the belly. A band of connective tissue joins these two sets of muscles.
Many, many things put stress on that band of tissue – obesity, sit-ups, doing “jackknife” movements (like sit-ups and the Pilates 100) and… you guessed it… pregnancy! The tissue weakens, the muscles weaken, and eventually the tissue stretches and the muscles separate from each other. We call this diastasis recti – and it causes that “mama belly” bulge. It’s also responsible for the bulge many people have once they lose a lot of weight – the belly fat is gone, but they still have a protruding belly. (and YES, this happens to guys, too)
You measure a diastasis in finger-widths, and from what I can tell mine is around 4 fingers wide at my belly button, and around 3 fingers wide both above and below my belly button. That’s pretty big! When I hold up four fingers I feel almost queasy thinking my muscles spread that far apart!
Thankfully, I know that I can close this up. That’s a good thing because A. I would like to not have such a flabby “mama belly” and B. well… I hope we’ll have another baby at some point and I think that healing this will help me not experience so much pain during pregnancy!
Not to mention I’m still feeling a lot of pain – and I would like that to go away. It’s no fun to live life in pain.
I feel like this is something that a lot of women aren’t aware of. But it’s something we can totally do something about, or even help prevent if we understand something. So I want to share. Like I’ve said before in my newsletter, I like to think that what I go through helps others – even the tough stuff.
I receive a small referral commission for much of what I recommend on Natural Birth and Baby Care, but this is a little different. I really want to get my body back to where I feel good and where I’m not in pain. And I really want to share with you. I’m going to recommend some resources that I’m using – I don’t make a commission. I just want to share this journey with you (and it helps me to stay accountable to someone, too) So on to my plans.
So these pictures are me yesterday – sorry for the poor quality, I took them with the front camera on my phone! Galen thought it was good fun 😉 The marks on my belly are from the splint, which I’d just taken off.
But as you can see, I have some work to do on my belly. Some of that is probably just still-stretched skin. But it’s mostly weakened/separated tummy muscles and some “baby fat” from pregnancy (I gained a lot with Honor) combined. I won’t worry too much about the baby fat yet – I know nursing will help that. But I ‘m really hoping to strengthen the tummy muscles up so it’s not all falling out, so to speak!
I’m using a program developed by Julie Tupler to close my diastasis. She pioneered the “Tupler Technique” which research trials prove very effective (even for large diastasis cases!) I’m going through Julie’s program exactly as she recommends, including splinting my belly pretty much 24/7.
I officially started yesterday, and my belly is feeling it today! Everything is fairly “simple” to do – in fact I can do the Tupler exercises while nursing Honor if I need to. But there are a lot of repetitions and my weak old muscles are feeling it!
The splinting is also a bit… unpleasant. It’s not like a corset – meant to hold your tummy in so you look “attractive.” It’s meant to actually hold the muscles in place – where they would be if there was no diastasis. This is pretty uncomfortable for somebody who hasn’t had her (or his) muscles in place in a while. It makes some people feel nauseated, though thankfully that has not been the case for me. It IS pretty uncomfy though. You wear the splint until the diastasis is close.
The program is 18 weeks long. Once you hit week 18 you repeat that week’s routine until you close the diastasis. Some women can close it sooner and some take a longer time. I’m not sure how long it will take me, but I’m hopeful that I can close it before Honor’s first birthday 🙂
I’ll write more about the routines and share pictures of the splint, etc. in another post – this one is getting long 🙂
For now, you can check out the program that I’m doing here: The Lose Your Mummy Tummy Program