I feel like I’ve been in “recovery” from my first pregnancy for three years. Pregnancy can definitely take a toll on a woman’s body. I knew it would be important to take it easy after delivering my sweeet baby boy, but I also wanted to show I could “bounce back” and get back into shape during maternity leave. It wasn’t until Little Man was five months old that I discovered I had a big problem: Diastasis Recti. And “bouncing back” went out the window long ago.
It was a Thursday night and I’d been out for a walk on the Katy Trail with a friend who had delivered three weeks after me. She was back to her regular workouts at her gym. I was struggling to stay upright long enough to wash the dishes. Halfway through our short walk, I had to stop and rest. My entire core (glutes, pelvis, abdominals) was in pain. I couldn’t keep up with her. When I was still in pain on Sunday, I knew I had a problem.
Luckily, I already had an appointment at my OB scheduled for that week. The midwife in my Doc’s practice examined me and told me the news. Diastasis Recti. I had kind of seen something about it on Pinterest, exercises to complete to reduce the problem. In my naiveté, I asked her, “Can I just go for walks and do kegels to fix it?” Uh, no. She told me I’d need to see a physical therapist who specialized in women’s pelvic floor issues. There is such a thing?? Yes there is my friends, and they are some of the greatest people out there for post-partum recovery.
You can learn more about diastasis recti here if you think you might have the condition.
Seeing a physical therapist for diastasis recti was one of the greatest things I have done for myself, but it came with crazy-hard work and emotional stress I wasn’t quite prepared for. Here are the three things I had to re-learn after the diagnosis:
- How to Relax: Deep breaths, a hot bath, and a glass of wine wasn’t going to do the trick for this. My physical therapist took me through deep stretching exercises that helped relax the muscles that had been in spasm for years. Yes…years. This wasn’t only brought on from pushing for two hours in delivery. One thing you quickly learn is that it’s all connected: the pelvic floor, pelvis, hips, core, abdominals, and if one of them is stressed, they’re likely all stressed.
- How to Workout: Some of the first instructions from my physical therapist were to “stop working out”. I was doing it wrong and those muscles needed to heal before I went back to regular workouts (see above). When I was ready to do a little more, I saw a different physical therapist who took me through basic moves and showed me how to engage the right muscles. This allowed me to properly engage my core and not cause my body more stress.
- How to Really Take Care of Myself: I only have this one body, and I must take good care of it if I want it to work a long time! I learned along the way that if I’m straining or feeling pain, I need to stop. I shouldn’t try to continue if I can’t do it. If I’ve done the dishes and my core feels strained from the tiny bend over the sink, it’s time to take a break. If while teaching a class and standing at the front of the room I feel any pelvic pain, it’s time to sit on a stool. If I feel any pain ever…it’s time to take a break.
Signs of progress
I can honestly say that I am stronger than I was 4 years ago, and I owe so much of it to physical therapy. I had never been a runner. Now I can throw on my shoes and go for a run. I see progress week after week practicing yoga. I can tell when my pelvic floor needs relaxing and I’m able to take a few minutes to stretch it out.
I got to share a bit with CBS 11 recently, and I was reminded of just how far I’ve come, but also how emotional physical therapy can be. Physical therapy can be so much work, and it’s hard not to think that you’re the only one dealing with diastasis recti! But take that first step and talk to your doctor about seeing a physical therapist who specializes in women’s pelvic floor issues–it’s one conversation you’ll be glad you had!