“Deep Abdominal Muscles”
” Diastasis Recti”
“Pelvic Floor Engagement”
All of these can fall under –
“Shit Jenna says in class but I have no idea what she means”
And that is ok.
I didn’t know much about it either. But it is super important and particularly important for for Mum’s.
**Great, more information for Mum’s**
But stick with me here, I think that perhaps there might be a gem or two that can help you along the road of postpartum recovery!
Let’s go back to the start!
So baby is here.
This tiny little bundle, officially lives in your actual house. These times are tricky. You will talk about poo and sleep more than you ever thought humanly possible. You will learn about let downs, bottle temps, nipples, dummy’s, sensory toys, car seats, strollers, milestones, leaps, spew, poo and did I mention sleep?
Yes, much learning to be done.
And to top it off, your body has changed in ways that you can see and ways that you can’t.
And to be honest, learning about that, is right down the very bottom of that long list of things.
Something that you will hear getting dropped around on the frequent is “abdominal separation” or
(Tick, those words are on the list!)
So what even is stomach separation?
“Diastasis Recti is the unnatural distance of the right and / or left halves of the rectus abdominus from the midline. It is estimated that between 66% to 100% of women in the third trimester of their pregnancy will experience some degree of stomach separation. ” Katy Bowman“
Separation can be regarded as mostly cosmetic. And, yes, it can be. However, there can be functional complications that come along with separation (which we will touch on in a moment).
It is important to remember, that your muscles aren’t actually “separated” or “torn” (for majority or women any ways). The upper layer of your abdominal muscles, the “Rectus Abdominis” Aka, your 6 pack, have always beet separated slightly. In actual fact, what has happened is the connective tissue (the Linea Alba”) that holds your abs together has actually become stretched, a little damaged and weakened.
So, rather than thinking or bringing your abs back together as such, what the research is telling us to do, is strengthen and build up some tension in that connective tissue. So then, we have a functional “core” to support our bodies.
“Although reduction in separation may appear to be an obvious rehabilitation objective, the alternative view is that Linea Alba tension…. is necessary to support the abdominal contents and to transfer force between opposite sides of the abdominal wall” Dianne Lee, Paul Hodges
BIG THING to note – because your linea alba is connective tissue, we don’t actually “train” it as such, but we strengthen what is behind it, to build up that tension and ultimately give your truck the support it needs to be super efficient and functional.
Ahhhh, so what is behind it and how do we build strength?
So glad you asked!
Our TA (Transverse Abdominis) is behind it!
DING DING DING! Yes, that muscle I chat about a lot. That is back there.
Soooooo important to begin to engage your TA and build strength in your deep abdominals.
Ok, Ok, so I now know where it is, and what it is… Why is it important to work on this?
Well, Diane Lee (super guru on this stuff…) says….
“Women with stomach separation may also experience lower back pain, pelvic girdle pain, pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence. Sixty-six percent of women with stomach separation (DRA) have at least one support related pelvic floor dysfunction such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse or feral incontinence.” Dianne Lee, Paul Hodges
And lets be honest, how has time for that?
Now, this is why I loooooooooovvee to bang on about breathing!
Stay with me here,
This is where it gets good and us Mum’s get to reap the massive benefits of breathing and in turn start to get our strength back.
So, when we breath in our diaphragm (a large dome shaped muscle that you will find at the base of the ribs) contracts and when exhale it relaxes and allows the air to exit.
This exhale, can be made quicker by engaging the TA. Think of when you cough…. Quick exit of air right?! That is an example of how the diaphragm and the TA work together.
**BOMBSHELL** 🤯 you’ve been using your TA with out even knowing!
That contraction, the working together of the TA and the diaphragm can help us rebuild our core strength and the TENSION that I mentioned before in the Linea Alba, reduce Diastasis Recti and help improve our strength and function of our pelvic floor.
Last little part of of the puzzle….
Think back to that cough I mentioned earlier…
After having a baby, that cough or that sneeze can feel as though it is fraught with danger, “the-little-bit-of-wee-might-come-out” kind of danger.
You may have joined the dots here… Your TA is also connected to your pelvic floor!
That’s right, we can start to work on your pelvic floor via your TA.
(I plan to dive a little deeper on this one next week!)
How do we begin to activate our TA? Through our breathing!
So we have kind of come full circle here. And this is where I will stop for today.
But the short story here is, we want to build the endurance of our TA, to take it further than just bracing on the occasion cough, to bracing us day to day.
This is why, in our classes, I will talk so much about breathing and breath and deep abdominal muscles!
So, a couple of exercises you can practice at home….
- Diaphragmatic Breathing – as demonstrated by our lovely friend below here
- And some super specific TA activation exercises as demonstrated by our friend in this link here.
Dianne Lee & Paul Hodges; Behavior of the Linea Alba During a Curl-up Task in Diastasis Rectus Abdominis: An Observational Study; Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2016 Volume:46 Issue:7 Pages:580–589 DOI:10.2519/jospt.2016.653 https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2016.6536
Katy Bowmen; Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation, 2016.