What (Almost) No One Tells You About Your Post-Baby Body

I was so clueless when I had my first baby.  I didn't even know that a lot of babies don't sleep through the night for the first 1-2 years.  I thought that was like unicorn-rare.  

So when my we brought my first baby home after her birth, to say I felt confused and alone is an understatement. 

 Allyson at one-week old.

Allyson at one-week old.

I remember the first full-day home by ourselves.  Just me and her.  It was 3pm and I still hadn't figured out how to take a shower.  I felt like such a miserable failure.  

The next big surprise came when my daughter seem to decide that sleep was unnecessary at about 4 months old.  Sleep regression?!?  I'd never heard of such a thing.  They definitely didn't teach us about those in Pediatrics class in chiropractic school.  

Her night-time waking progressed to the point of waking about every 60-90 minutes.  The only tool I seemed to have to get her back to sleep was a boob (or two--but always one at a time). 

It was when my residents and interns created a Post-It Note system to assist my failing short-term memory that I knew I needed to buck up and ask my husband for help.  Our baby was 6 months old, and by my recollection I had gotten up with her every single time she woke.... every night... for 6 months.

 Perhaps 1 of 3 times the girls slept in her crib.

Perhaps 1 of 3 times the girls slept in her crib.

Yes, my husband had to get up early for work.  Yes, I had the boobs.  

And yes, my expectations of myself (and my baby, too) were a little bit crazy. 

Can you relate to any of this?!

(please tell me I'm not the only smart woman who had no idea that motherhood was going to actually change her life forever!)

Another thing about motherhood that chiropractic didn't teach me/us about was something I really, really think we SHOULD have learned about.  

With a master's degree in Sports and Rehabilitation, a two year residency in sports and rehab, personal training and corrective exercise certificates from NASM.... I still got to learn about this condition the hard way--by wondering what the heck was wrong with my body. 

It's a condition so common.  It effects more moms than we really know.  A lot of women know nothing or very little about it.  

Diastasis Recti Abdominis

(which we'll refer to as "Diastasis Recti" or simply "Diastasis" from here forward)

If you've ever been pregnant, there's a good chance you have this.  So read on.

Diastasis Recti is essentially a separation of the abdominal muscles at the midline of the body (think bottom of your chest bone to top of your pubic bone). 

Side note: I once checked another mama chiropractor for Diastasis after her second pregnancy during which she carried 6 pound twins in her 5 foot tall body.  When I shared with her that she had a diastasis, she turned white, nearly fainted, and had to eat ice chips for about an hour.  I know that having a separation of your abdominal muscles can sound scary and/or gross.  It IS important for you to understand what this is and how it can effect the way you feel and look AND what you can do about it (don't ever let someone tell you there's nothing you can do!), but I've never seen a case so severe that I sent someone for emergency surgery.  So, again, read on. 

This separation starts sometimes during pregnancy and in other women it seems to not be apparent until after delivery.  

There are four layers of abdominal muscles, and all four are held together at the center of your belly by connective tissue.  As your baby grows, that connective tissue stretches.  In some moms, the connective tissue and abdominal muscles come back together well on their own a few weeks after delivery.  For others of us (me included), it takes quite a bit more work.  

You might be wondering right now if having Diastasis Recti can make you post-baby look poochy? Answer: YES.

If you're a mom who loses weight after your baby's birth but notice that your belly still looks early-second-trimester pregnant, hang with me here. 

I want you to know that the reason that I am so passionate about helping as many moms as possible learn about this condition is because it's about SO MUCH MORE than the way you look.

I speak from firsthand experience when I share with you that having this separation of your abdominal muscles can be associated with back pain, hip pain, pubic symphysis pain, and more.  Why?  Because it decreases your core strength and stability.  

I was somewhat relieved when I learned about this condition, because it explained in part why I had had so much low back pain and pubic symphysis pain during pregnancy.  Chiropractic adjustments helped temporarily, but the more active I was the more I hurt.

Having Diastasis Recti, and the way that it effects your ability to generate intra-abdominal pressure, can also make you more likely to have other conditions in the future, such as uterine and/or bladder prolapse. 

And I don't know about you, so I'll speak for myself here: keeping my organs where they currently are (without any surgical intervention) sounds nice. 

Disclaimer: I also have a genetic protein disorder that effects my connective tissue.  So that played a big part into my experience, too.  (Another topic for another day.)

Time after time, when I ask a woman who has been pregnant if her OB checked her for this condition before releasing her back to regular activities and exercise at her 6- or 8-week postpartum visit, the answer has always been NO.

Truthfully, as physician and a mother, I do NOT understand why OBs are not checking every woman for Diastasis.  It's a huge disservice to women.  When you've checked a lot of women, you learn to find this separation very fast and measure it quickly.  I suppose we could chalk it up to the current poor state of obstetric care in the U.S. or our crummy medical system, in general.  But it's just not acceptable.  

So, here I am. Sharing this with you now. Because I believe that you deserve to feel good in every way possible.

If you happen to be a mom who wears her baby,  believe this is especially important for you know about.  Not just if you have Diastasis or not, but also what you can do "in as little as 10 minutes a day right from the comfort of your own home" to heal it.  

If you babywear and/or generally consider yourself an active person, then be sure to enter your name and email address below to keep learning more in a step-by-step series I've created for active moms like you.