Friday, September 7, 2012

Dealing with Diastasis

I didn't know if I would post about this issue or not, but I think I would have liked to know more about this before it happened. Not that there would have been anything to do to prevent it, but more to have a peace of mind. So, here goes - hopefully someone else can benefit from it too.

At my 2 week check up, there was so much going on in my life that I didn't really worry about the "diastasis recti" diagnosis given to me by my midwife/OB. I was so frazzled with the breastfeeding challenge I was having (maybe I'll post about that too) that I just pocketed the diastasis info in the back of my brain and moved on. At the 6 week checkup, I was cleared for exercise, but only gentle exercises like yoga and maybe a bit of pilates. Once again, I didn't think much about the diastasis.

What is diastasis? Well, 98% of women have it after pregnancy, and most of them don't even know they have it. There are moderate/mild forms and severe forms of diastasis. Its caused by the separation of the outermost abdominal muscles during pregnancy - this happens because your uterus is expanding all over the place! Unfortunately, as your uterus shrinks after pregnancy, your surrounding abdominal muscles are stretched and remain slack. A lot of complications can arise from not addressing your diastasis (especially if its severe), such as back pain and trouble with subsequent pregnancies. 

How can you tell if you have diastasis? Well, the best way is to have your physician tell you, when they do your postpartum checkup. Or, you can lie on your back and place your hands on your belly (3" above and below your bellybutton), and press your fingers down as you lift your head slowly into the gully between the midline of your body. You can have anything from a 2 finger to a 10 finger separation.

Back to me. Since I was relatively skinny when I got pregnant and in great shape, I wasn't too worried about losing the baby weight. I gained exactly what I was supposed to according to my physician, and I exercised as best I could during my pregnancy. (I don't know who can exercise until week 22 because I was sooooo sick! haha) I went swimming, did Zumba, walked all day at work, and did Wii fit until I couldn't bend over anymore! I was pretty healthy before and felt really positive about having the baby. My labor was fantastic, yet my pregnancy was really difficult. It wasn't one of those "Ooooo I love being pregnant" pregnancies. Pinched nerves (the sciatic was the easiest one to deal with - piece of cake compared to the rest) and such had me in physical therapy and that helped me to be even more motivated to continue to exercise during pregnancy. 

Imagine my surprise now that I'm 2 months out of delivery and I still haven't lost all of the weight! Didn't all those fools tell me, "Oh, within 2 weeks, you'll be back to your pre-pregnancy jeans, etc." Well, yes I recognize that I was skinny before, but what is this pooch still doing on me now? 

-Enter diastasis-

Diastasis causes you to still look pregnant, even though you're not. I am not talking about just leftover baby weight - I have this funny depression in my stomach when I lay flat on my back - and when I stand up, this tiny belly pops out, and its not embarrassing - its depressing. Its not that I'm dying to be a size 1 again or wear cute tops that aren't ponchos; its about wanting to not look 3 months pregnant anymore - and I don't think that's too vain to post about :]

Everyone will now say/comment - well, it took 9 months to make the baby, and it can take 9 months to get the weight off! Now, I would like to loose a few more pounds, no doubt. However, diastasis doesn't go away with breastfeeding, it gets worse when you do crunches, sit-ups, planks, and the downward dog. You can even have diastasis if you've never had a baby - and anyone can make it worse by doing incorrect exercises. 

-Enter panic here-

So, I've purchased a book called "Lose Your Mummy Tummy." Its better known as the Tupler Technique, and you can start these exercises during the first 2 postpartum weeks - or anytime after that. You can start it even if its been years since you've had a child or been diagnosed. My mom didn't know anything about diastasis until she visited a physical therapist about a heel problem! I have to order a splint to wear around my waist (it helps to pull your abs together, since they've spread during pregnancy) before I can do too many of the exercises, or you can use a stretchy scarf or sheet.
From everything I've read, if you stay committed to the recommended exercises, you can see results quickly - even sooner then the documented 6 weeks. The Tupler technique is great even for those who have had C-sections and multiples - and there are sections to address each type of pregnancy/delivery technique in the book. I like that she's an R.N., and not just some celebrity trainer. 

I wish I would have ordered the DVD that came with the book (I didn't even know there was one available until I purchased the book and started reading it). The exercises are really well explained and illustrated in the text, but most of us are visual learners these days, thanks to our overexposure to media :)

I know this may sound informative and light, yet I've really struggled with this. I've tried cutting out dairy and exercising all the time and let me tell you - none of the things I've tried have worked well. Instead, I found myself despondent - will I ever look attractive again? I didn't even want Tyler to see me without a tank top on, for fear that he would be as disgusted by the "mummy tummy" as I was. Postpartum life isn't the easiest, and while I haven't had intense depression, its easy to get down on yourself when you aren't getting lots of sleep, etc. (You can experience this without kids, so this isn't just a pity party for me being a postpartum mom.) 

How about getting dressed? Not a chance in Hades. No matter what you wear, nothing can disguise the pooch sticking out - even spanks. Let me tell you. They just smash your insides and you feel crappy the whole time you're wearing them. So, whine whine whine, cry cry cry. Yep. Its been challenging to say the least. So, there goes the feeling attractive part of life. And when I'm feeling down, I just think of this ecard, and it makes me laugh:

Ultimately, I have a healthy body that needs specialized exercise, I have a healthy baby (well, as soon as he gets over this cold haha), and a healthy marriage. The best thing I can say about my problems at the moment is that I'm trying to have a healthy outlook about it. I am not beating myself up, etc. I have in the past, and it hasn't been productive. Its not the end of the world, and I need to stop worrying about what other people think - isn't this the hardest part about being a girl? I worry about those people who pretend to be concerned for you and end up talking about you behind your back - why give them more fuel for their fire? What about those girls who really did lose all their baby weight in 10 seconds after delivery? What's wrong with me? haha oh man, the list of tormenting questions goes on and on. And at some point, you just have to stop thinking about the "What Ifs." [That makes me think of the Shel Siverstein poem - he was my favorite growing up.] 

Its easy to think, "I just want to get back to being me" when in reality, this is me. And this is my journey. I will just have to see where I can take myself - I have to choose; I'm not going to let it take me anywhere I don't want to be. I'm going back to see my doctor next week, so we'll see what I'm cleared to do and how bad it all really is or isn't. 

And Labor Day shopping? A blessing from on-high. I'm so thankful that tunics are in this fall - and that I found 3 pairs of jeans that fit! Life is looking up.


Alan and Kiersten said...

oh my gosh this is so interesting! i have been dealing with the same issues...especially since having the 2nd one. i bought the book and now i need to get the waist trimmer. i did the self test...i'm pretty sure i have it pretty severe. ugg. thank you for posting this! keep us updated! for what it's worth i think you look AMAZING! love ya!

CarlieQ said...

Love you! Thank you for explaining more about this subject. I really didn't know. I'm sorry you are dealing with this right now. Keep us posted.

Shoe Mama said...

I have heard of this, and I know I have it, but I didn't think there was anything to really do about it except surgery one day when I'm done having kids. Thank you so much for posting about it, I now have a base to start from to fix the issue without going to extremes. Glad to see you and your family are doing well. Think of you often.