Separation of the abdominal muscles is a common condition after pregnancy. It’s a natural part of pregnancy to allow for your growing uterus and baby. But in 2 out of 3 women, that lower belly pouch can be hard to shift.
Physiotherapy and nutrition have been proven to help mummies tighten their tummies. And great news, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you’ve had your baby. Here are 3 great tips to help you lose that Mummy-Tummy (or your diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA), or diastasis recti).
3 great tips to help you lose that Mummy-Tummy
Get your core on
Separation of your abdominal muscles or DRA leads to a weakness in the core muscles, specifically in your transversus abdominis, or TA muscle.
Your TA is your deepest of the 4 abdominal muscles, and it works to provide stability and support for your spine as well as your internal organs.
Re-training your TA muscle will help you tighten your tummy, because the TA muscle essentially acts like a corset around your abdomen. Science shows that the “gap” between the muscles is not the problem, but rather that there isn’t enough tension and so the belly pouches. So even if you have a wide gap but your TA is strong enough to create tension, then your belly will flatten.
To engage your TA muscle, imagine a line going from your belly-button to your pubic bone.
Gently draw in your abdominal muscles towards your spine at the level of this imaginary line. Try to keep the muscles above your belly-button relaxed. You should feel a tightening sensation – these are your TA muscles.
Now try to activate the TA during the full breath out and relax it as you breathe in, and repeat 5 times. For optimal TA strengthening, you must be able to engage the core with all your movements, especially lifting and carrying, and with exercise.
Fix your posture
It’s hard to think about alignment when you’ve got little ones that you need to pick up or chase after.
Unfortunately, due to long hours of feeding and carrying, mothers can neglect their postural muscles. Standing, sitting and moving with good alignment encourages your core stability muscles to switch on, and as we mentioned earlier, the core is important for tightening your tummy.
Think about how much your belly hangs if you sit slumped over. This causes your breathing muscle, the diaphragm, to get squashed down and your organs to push out against your abdomen. If you sit up with your ribs stacked over your pelvis, there’s more core engagement, and the muscles can support and tighten around your organs.
Sit with your weight back and heavy on your sit bones, roll your pelvis so that your front hip bones are pointing directly forwards, and lengthen your ribs away from your hips.
You should immediately feel some deep muscles switching on.
You will get tired being in this position, but practice every day, spending 30 seconds more each day, and eventually you’ll be able to sit with good alignment and your belly drawn in for 20-30 minutes.
Eat more collagen foods
Don’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition.
The abdominal muscles are connected in the middle by connective tissue called the linea alba. It is the linea alba that stretches during pregnancy, so creating tension here will help you flatten your tummy.
Connective tissue is made up of a protein called collagen. Your digestive system is also made up of collagen. So it’s really important to eat foods rich in collagen and gelatin to support the linea alba.
You can find collagen in bone broth, and slow cooked casseroles
Vitamin C is also important in promoting collagen production and can be found in fruits and vegetables like kiwifruit, oranges, capsicum and broccoli.
For more information on how to flatten your baby belly and heal your DRA, you can sign up to my Mother Nurture 12-week postpartum recovery program. This online physiotherapy program can be taken from the comfort of your own home with expert guidance and support. The program contains videos and handouts on perfecting your posture, engaging all four core muscles, and progressing your core into functional exercise, as well as healthy recipes to support your DRA, and expert women’s health physiotherapy education. Learn more at thepelvicexpert.com.
And for more information on women’s physical health, both pre and post-partum, check out our Pregnancy health and wellbeing section.