Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Journey with Diastasis Recti

Introduction: After spending a lot of time thoughtfully typing out this post, I peeked back at an older post, only to find that I'd already written almost the exact same description, ha ha! In lieu of deleting most of the following story, I think I'll leave it as is. I want this particular experience to have its own tribute. So there you have it. Sorry to my more observant readers for the repetition! ;)

Post-partum Bellies

I was "all baby" when I was pregnant. And I figured it would just melt right off. Well, I think it would have if it weren't for a problem which I hadn't foreseen.

It can be hard to gain explicit information on the post-partum body. To be fair, there is so much variation that it's difficult to pin down a common path of healing. However, there are plenty of conditions that are more common than we're led to think. And why are we not told, or at least checked for them? We need more information than to look for a fever, excessive bleeding, or to just "give it time."

The thing is, that "common" isn't the same thing as "normal." What about looking for remedies, rather than just accepting certain aches and pains as your fate? It seems that a lot of post-partum issues are presented as inevitable or just common battle wounds that go with the territory; "accept your new body and move on." I am thankful that I live in an age where I can ask questions and get information on the Internet without needing to be embarrassed.


Diagnosis

Several months after David was born, I started Googling things like "baby bump not pregnant" and "stomach sticks out post-partum." Of course a lot of the initial results talked about "Mommy Tummy," and having a "pooch" that you try to eliminate by doing intensive workouts and LOTS of crunches. In other words, Welcome to the Club.

Not that I was eager to take up fitness in the first place, but even with the added incentive of wanting to look my best, something just told me my body was broken. And when that's the case, you don't want to work it harder. I didn't want to abuse my poor body until I knew what was going on.

At the moment, it's hard to find those original search results thanks to Royal Baby publicity. ;) But I eventually found a condition that perfectly matched what was going on: a separation of the abdominal muscles, as opposed to just extra flab. It's called diastasis recti.

I did go to a doctor to have this diagnosis confirmed. Guess how the doctor did it? She had me lie on my back and lift my head up a little. BINGO! Funny alien ridge in tummy.

That was 13 months post-partum.


Prognosis

"It will never close without an operation." Sounds harsh, right? But if we back up a few months, I'd had plenty of time to investigate on my own while I was waiting for my appointment. In fact, what the doctor said may as well have been scripted-I'd heard that medical professionals will mostly recommend the surgery and nothing else.

In her assessment, there was nothing that could be done. The flipside to that is the intense ab workouts you see advertised, guaranteeing a flat stomach. I really wasn't into that, and once I'd read up on diastasis recti, I realized that those could make the problem worse.

But I wanted to get better, and I was encouraged when I stumbled upon a handful of resources that offered healing via gentle exercise, as well as testimonials of women who had seen improvement even YEARS after having babies.

Fit2B Studios is where I first ran across the idea of "tummy-safe" exercises. You pay a membership fee to access the workouts, but there is lots of information on there too. I'm able to memorize the basics of the workouts, to use throughout the day whenever I get a chance. And even when I don't necessarily use the videos a lot, I don't regret supporting this cause.

Other than specific exercise routines, I found a community of other diastasis recti sufferers, both on Fit2B and on other women's blogs. It's one of those things where the problem is common enough that a LOT of people have it (though may not know it), but not common enough that your closest friends and family would be aware. This has happened to me with a lot of women's issues, actually. What's a bicornuate uterus? What's an umbilical cord cyst? What's granulation tissue? What is diastasis recti? Again, I'm thankful to be able to check this out in a larger community via the Internet.

After my official diagnosis, I also paid a visit to a physical therapist. I told her that I was concerned with closing my diastasis and working on my core strength. She did an assessment and confirmed that my hips are really weak (chronic). While she didn't talk much about my abdomen, she did make sure that any of the moves she showed me were "tummy-safe." In fact, she was impressed with how I had already learned how to safely get up from a lying-down position. That's thanks to the diastasis recti material I'd read online. So she didn't solve my problem, but she helped me work on other underlying issues, and hopefully that will contribute to a healthier me (if I can remember to do the exercises!).

So, my treatment plan went/is going like this:

-Internet research
-Diagnosis by a medical professional
-Support from an online community
-Assessment by a physical therapist
-Exercises appropriate for the situation

And of course, those of my real-life friends and family who know about this have offered prayers and supported me in looking for help.

This post is getting too long, but I just wanted to say that I've become interested in raising awareness of diastasis recti. So if you are anyone you know seems to be suffering from this condition, I'd be happy to recommend some resources. :) And of course I'm interested in any ideas you'd have to share, as well!

4 comments:

  1. Wow! You put all of that so well! I'm really impressed at every aspect of this - your persistence, the way you trusted your intuition, the way you had some reservations about the medical advice and sharing it all!

    Actually, I stumbled somehow on a Princess Kate story wondering why SHE still had "baby bump" this late in the day - so maybe you've diagnosed her, too!

    And, then there is Anastasia, who left the hospital in her regular jeans, and looked like maybe she'd had a big meal. I would have guessed that rail-slim women would a) have a difficult time in childbirth and b) would look saggy and baggy afterwards. She proved me wrong on both counts.

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  2. I'm pretty confused about what is normal these days. I think I was told to expect to look about 5 months pregnant when I left the hospital. Depending on how you carried the baby, fitting into your pants might not be a problem. I think I could fit into skinny jeans about 2 months later, despite the stomach protrusion.

    I have the kind of metabolism where I would have lost the weight very quickly, and did for the most part, which makes the diastasis all the more awkward for my slim frame. There is no saggy and baggy, just a round tummy.

    Also, there is breastfeeding weight.

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  3. Thanks for your comment on my blog! I'm always glad to read stories of women in the same boat as me. I think it's so frustrating that medical doctors seem to all default to "surgery." It's not out of the question, but it's a pretty big jump! Have you had much success with Fit2B? I've enjoyed doing their workouts this past week, but wonder if I'm going to need the more intensive (and costly) Tummy Team program to see results. Either way, best of luck!

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  4. Yes, I HAVE had progress with Fit2B, though not well-documented because I try not to obsess about the inches too much. I feel like I'm plateauing, though. I want to try something more intensive, maybe Tummy Team, but not for a few months yet.

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