When I had my babies, I was told by my Midwives that I had to do my Kegels. Yeah, yeah I’ll do ’em! I did do them, a couple of times per day for a few weeks at most…and then I forgot. Well, over time my innie belly button turned into an outie. Oops! Did someone say weak pelvic floor?
Okay, NOW you have my attention. I also still had a 3-finger width divide between my abdominal muscles. I could push my fingers all the way to my organs. Too much? Sorry, I’m a nurse and it’s my job to do a TMI. I know I need some work and I want my abs back. I also want my belly button to go back into hiding. Let’s start with why this happened…
First, lets get the medical terminology out of the way. I have what you would call a Diastasis Recti.
Diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation) is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined at the linea alba at the body midline. It is essentially a cosmetic condition, with no associated morbidity or mortality. (source)
The good news? I am not going to die from this! The bad news? I’ve got some serious work to do.
How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti? Well, you can do a test:
- Lie on your back with both knees bent.
- Place the middle fingers of one hand over the belly button with fingers pointing down towards your toes.
- Lift your head forwards and feel the firm ridges of the rectus muscle either side of your fingers. As you feel the sides of the muscle coming together, note the number of fingers that fit into the gap.
- Wait 6 to 8 weeks after a caesarean before doing this test.
Okay, I have it, now what?
1) You can wear an abdominal splint (like this) to support your abdominal muscles. But, you can’t wear it all the time and think that it will do the work for you. You need to strengthen the core! Plus, if you develop a hernia as a result of weak core, and if the hernia is incarcerated or strangulated then the above garment will not be helpful. So exercise caution with this and speak to your general medical practitioner first.
2) Don’t do crunches. These will not help you, they will only exacerbate your problem. Think about it, when you crunch you are developing the muscles where they are (on the side) and not pulling them back together. You need to do pelvic floor work to get the job done. Also avoid sitting up from a supine position, instead roll onto your side to get up out of bed. Same issue as doing crunches.
3) What works: consistent strengthening of the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles initially, then later, in coordination with the trunk curling and rotating abdominal muscles ensures the best possible reduction of the gap. (yep, they told me so)
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor? I’m so glad you asked! Here is a very helpful video:
Now, here is why I call them my Zen Kegels. I am busy. Like, really busy, and my favorite thing in the world is multitasking. Every morning I get up at 4:30am to get stuff done before my kids wake up. This is MY TIME! This is when I do my Kegels. This is also when I try to practice meditation and breathing. Why not combine my meditation with my Kegels? This way they can both be done in less than 10 minutes. Brilliant!
When I went to IIN I learned a great breathing technique from Andrew Weil that brings you to a very Zen place. It’s my form of meditation. Here is how to do this, it’s called “The 4-7-8 Breath“
Now, here is how to correctly do a kegel:
This is how I do my routine:
- Find a comfortable place on the floor
- Sit cross legged
- As I breathe in (per Dr. Weil’s technique), I contract into a Kegel
- I hold it
- As I breathe out (per Dr. Weil’s technique), I relax my Kegel
- Always keeping my core engaged
- That’s it!
- I try to do it a few times per day (when I remember!)
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be taken as direct medical advice. This is simply an explanation of how and why I am working to rebuild my body after having children. Please consult with your general medical practitioner before trying any therapy at home. Also, if you are having abdominal pain there could be a more serious underlying condition. Always have abdominal pain appropriately evaluated. Thanks for reading and I hope you find this post helpful!
Do you do Kegels regularly? I would love to hear how you incorporate them into your daily life! Please tell me about it in the comments below.