We were so fortunate at MothertoMother Midwifery this weekend to welcome Dr. Stephanie Libs to our Fourth Trimester Talk in the Garden. Dr Libs is a chiropractor and owns her practice, Cafe of Life in San Diego. She has a daughter and is expecting a second baby. So she has personal and professional experience of the subject she shared with us: Healing the diastasis after having a baby.
I learned so much from Dr Libs. She is knowledgable, energetic and personable in her presentation. I’m eager to pass on to my own clients all the tips Dr. Libs shared with us.
“Diastasis is when the linea alba (midline) separates from the rectus abdominis. During the second and third trimester the linea alba starts to thin due to babys growth. The linea alba is made of connective tissue which has little blood supply, and makes it difficult to heal”, according to Dr Libs.
To feel your own diastasis, use your fingertips when you are lying down and your head lifted to feel the separation of the muscles. It seemed like everyone in our group of mothers had a diastasis at least three finger tips wide.
Diastasis doesn’t just cause tummy bulging but actual back pain and even urinary incontinence. It’s challenging to accept these changes in the body after having a baby. It can even lead to some depression. Women don’t realize they don’t have to accept these changes though.
A lot of women continue their entire lives with a gaping diastasis after childbirth and consider it to be normal. But it’s not normal and there are some very simple things to do to heal the diastasis. We discussed within our group that most care providers do not give instructions how to heal the diastasis after having a baby. It’s unfortunate these instructions aren’t common knowledge because they can make a big difference for a woman’s comfort and her self-esteem.
How to heal the diastasis after childbirth
It’s possible to have a strong core after childbirth. Those abdominal muscles can be knit back together to close the diastasis. Here are a few highlights from Dr. Libs presentation.
Did you know bone broth and wheat germ oil are excellent for healing the connective tissue of the diastasis? Yes, it’s true. I will add here that organic gelatin powder is an easy and affordable alternative to bone broth.
“Crunches” and traditional abdominal work outs are the worst for healing the diastasis. I guess those “Abs of Steel” videos 30 years ago were counterproductive! You can check for yourself if your work out is working against you. Feel the diastasis when you’re working out and check if it’s more pronounced. It should be getting smaller and closing together. By the way it’s possible to place tapes on your diastasis to better support it’s closure. Dr Libs can help you with this.
The best exercises for healing the diastasis are done with the umbilicus drawn in and the abdomen engaged as if bracing for a strike. With this posture, mindfully sit down and stand up. This should be your first abdominal exercise after having a baby. Dr Libs says mindful baby wearing with the core engaged is another of the first postpartum work outs. Don’t forget to breathe!
Never hoist yourself to sit up. This makes the diastasis worse! Always roll to the side and then sit up when trying to heal the diastasis. Twisting and leaning down are also a big culprit. Avoid twisting when you reach down to pick up your child.
There are several progressive exercises to do to heal the diastasis. They all involve lifting one leg at a time, never two. One is to lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Draw in your umbilicus and engage your abs. Now lift one bent leg at a time to a perpendicular position and then slowly lower. This exercise is one of the first to do to heal and to close the diastasis. There are several more as you continue your progress toward your mother strong core. I recommend looking at youtube for demonstrations.
Most importantly, instead of thinking about trying to get your former body back, think about going forward, toward a stronger, wiser, mother body. Work out wise and strong like a mother!