Explaining the Post Pregnancy “Pooch”
By Rachel Algra, Polestar© Certified Pilates Instructor
A common question we hear from our new moms is, “Why can’t I get rid of my tummy pooch?” New moms are highly motivated to drop the baby weight after their bundle of joy arrives, but for some women, no amount of sit-ups will give them the results they want; that result being, a flat tummy of course! There is a simple explanation for the infamous “pooch,” but the road to fixing it may be longer than you expect.
The first and most important thing to know is that it is completely normal and healthy for a woman to have a slight tummy. It’s just the way we were made, so stop beating yourself up over it! A woman’s body stores extra fat so it can prepare to support life!
The tummy we’re addressing in this article is a very distinct “pooch” to the lower tummy after pregnancy. This “pooch” is a result of a condition called Diastasis Recti (D.R.) or abdominal separation. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles must separate so the belly can expand to allow for baby growth.
As seen in the picture below, the rectus abdominis separates, creating a right half and left half. Once the baby is born, the halves come back together and heal during the first 6-8 weeks. The “pooch” that won’t go away, is often the result of these halves not healing properly, leaving a separation that acts as a hernia when the muscle is contracted. The two sections contract (as in a crunch movement), but since they’re not healed, they bulge out and leave a hole in the center of the rectus abdominis muscle. Repetitive attempts at crunches and intense ab work will only aggravate this and prevent the muscle from healing.
So how do you fix this and get rid of the pooch? Pilates is a wonderful start! Focused work on the Transverse Abdominis muscle (TA), obliques, and pelvic floor are necessary for a successful recovery. These 3 areas work together to bring everything in and up! All of the Pilates classes at Firehaus Pilates focus on these areas, but we do additional, targeted training in our pregnancy Pilates classes.
Another great way to speed up the process is reminding these muscles to work throughout the day. Best home option, a belly band. This is an elastic band with a Velcro closure that you can wrap around your waist. This acts as your own TA and oblique muscles, holding the rectus abdominis together so it can begin healing. It also is a tactile (hands-on) cue for the muscles, gently reminding them to keep working. A less expensive option is a simple dish towel or bed sheet. Gently tie the sheet around your lower belly whenever you’re around the house. Not the best fashion statement, but the end result is worth it! This is not a problem that will go away over night, but being diligent about doing your Pilates exercises and giving the muscles support (i.e. Belly bands or a sheet) will give you the results you’ve been waiting for.
Think you have a Diastasis “pooch?” Contact one of Firehaus Pilates’ trained instructors today! Testing for a D.R. is quick and painless, and our trained staff is more than happy to assist you. Visit us on the web www.FirehausPilates.com or call us at 303-945-6951. Lose the “pooch” and get your abdominal muscles on the road to recovery! You can also learn more about prenatal and postnatal pilates on our website here.