Diastasis Recti and What You Need to Know

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Diastasis Recti and What You Need to Know

[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]

Hey Tranquility Tribe!  As always, thanks for joining us for the Tranquility Tribe podcast!  In this episode, Hehe talks to Lisa Marie Ryan, who opens up about her struggle with a postpartum difficulty that affects the majority of pregnant women.

Lisa is the mother of two boys, ages four years and seventeen months.  Before her first pregnancy, she was also an avid CrossFit competitor who trained for two to three hours a day, six days a week.  When Lisa got pregnant with her first son, she decreased her training to an hour a day, five days a week. At first she welcomed this more relaxed training schedule, which gave her the ability to take a break from her busy life.  However, she noticed that she started to feel winded much more quickly during her workouts, and by around 35 weeks it got to the point where she had to stop exercising altogether.
After giving birth to her first son through a non-emergency c-section, Lisa was advised to wait eight full weeks before doing any physical activity besides walking.  Lisa patiently made it through the eight weeks and then slowly began to return to her CrossFit training. However, as she rebuilt her strength, she noticed that her stomach muscles were fatiguing more rapidly than they used to and that they felt unusually hard and were all the way on the side of her body.
Concerned and curious to figure out what was going on, Lisa did some research and found that her symptoms matched with a condition called Diastasis Recti (DR).  This condition, which is fairly common among postpartum women, occurs when the muscles in the abdomen separate during pregnancy. While each individual experiences DR differently, it can have major impacts on countless aspects of postpartum life, from regaining confidence in your body to returning to athletic activities to even just carrying out your daily routine.
Shortly after, Lisa decided to see a pelvic floor physical therapist and was officially diagnosed with Diastasis Recti.  Lisa’s condition was worsened by the fact that the postpartum CrossFit exercises that she had been doing were actually detrimental to her recovery, because nobody had told her to be aware of the possibility of DR.  In addition, Lisa had scar tissue from her c-section that was causing damage, which she had not been warned about after her birth.
With the help of her physical therapist, Lisa was able to modify her weight room routine and get her rectus muscles to move back together a little.  However, she and her physical therapist had been focusing solely on the gap between her rectus muscles, rather than the muscle quality itself, so by the time Lisa decided to stop going to pt she still did not fully understand what was going on and she thought that she was in better shape than she really was.  She began to pick up her CrossFit training, but something still didn’t feel right.

After searching online and trying multiple programs and products that just weren’t providing the information and results that Lisa was looking for, she discovered Brianna Battles.  Both athletes, Lisa and Brianna connected over their mutual desire to raise awareness and learn more about DR. Brianna recommended that Lisa see another pelvic floor physical therapist so that she could get proper treatment rather than sifting through the fear-mongering and false information online.  After having a bad experience with her second pelvic floor physical therapist, who didn’t take the time to listen to her or even examine her stomach, she finally found a physical therapist who was supportive of her goals and able to provide her with proper treatment.

Brianna also introduced Lisa to the work of Julie Wiebe, a DR expert who provides specific techniques for understanding and treating Diastasis Recti.  By Lisa’s second pregnancy, she was more aware of the effects of DR on her body and was able to apply new strategies such as practicing intentional breathing and managing the pressure she put on her abs.  Most importantly, she began to focus on the fascia surrounding her muscles rather than just the gap separating them. Now, after consulting her physical therapist and receiving a second opinion from Julie, Lisa is preparing to have surgery to help bring her rectus muscles back together.

Does this story sound familiar?

So many changes happen to your body during and after pregnancy that it can be hard to figure out what’s normal and what’s not.  As Lisa points out, some people who develop DR don’t see any aesthetic changes, but can still experience issues with abdominal strength that can impact everyday routines.  That’s why it is especially important to spread awareness about DR and other issues that can arise during pregnancy. Don’t suffer in silence - chances are you’re not the only one!  Postpartum conditions like DR are fairly common, but they are not normal and do not need to be “sucked up” and ignored.

One tip that Lisa has for those dealing with DR is to take baby steps throughout your recovery.  Even with the best sources of information and support, DR can be extremely overwhelming and difficult to deal with.  But with the right treatment, you can get better - start small by choosing one aspect to work on, such as breathing, posture, or using your muscles correctly every time you pick up the carseat, and continue to work on those habits every day!

How can you tell when something isn’t right?

The line between normal and abnormal can get blurred during pregnancy.  However, you know your body best. The only person who can truly tell you if something is going wrong is...YOU!  Listen to your body before, during, and after pregnancy; this will help you determine what is normal for you and when you should start to look for help.  Trust your body, advocate for yourself when something feels off, and lean on your tribe to advocate for you as well. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help!  More likely than not, there are many other women who are going through the same experiences as you are, and raising awareness about potential issues by speaking out is essential to helping other mothers find the help they deserve.  And regardless of how your pregnancy is going, both Hehe and Lisa point out that seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, even before you’ve had your baby, is incredibly important!

When looking for help, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Is your provider willing to work with you on your goals? Do you feel comfortable talking to them?  Are they able to explain what is going on in a way that you can understand? Finding a provider that you can trust and feel supported by can take some time, but it is a very important step in allowing yourself to get the help you need.  And if you aren’t happy with your provider, you need to switch! Don’t settle for one provider because you feel bad or embarrassed about finding someone new. The best way to figure out works best for you is to expose yourself to as many options as possible, especially reputable classes and programs in your area, so that you are as informed as possible when making your decision.  
If you are interested in connecting with Lisa, learning more about her story, and keeping up with her updates, you can find her on Instagram at @lisa.marie.ryan and on Facebook at Lisa Marie Ryan.  You can also check out her blog at lisaryan22.blogspot.com!

Don’t forget to join our private Facebook, The Tranquility Tribe Podcast, and follow us on Instagram at @tranquilitybyhehe!

"Welcome to the Tranquility Tribe"

Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University. 

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