The Post-Pregnancy Body Problem Nobody Talks About

If you’ve never had kids, it’s easy to assume that with plenty of crunches and a healthy diet, your belly will eventually go back to normal after you give birth. After all, plenty of women have babies and eventually bounce back to their pre-baby bodies. But most mums know that’s actually not the case most […]

by | Apr 13, 2018

If you’ve never had kids, it’s easy to assume that with plenty of crunches and a healthy diet, your belly will eventually go back to normal after you give birth. After all, plenty of women have babies and eventually bounce back to their pre-baby bodies.

But most mums know that’s actually not the case most of the time. Even women who gained relatively little weight during pregnancy are often left with a belly pooch that lingers long after the rest of the baby weight has dropped off. It’s a condition called diastasis recti, and it happens when the parallel bands of abdominal muscles separate where they meet in the middle in order to accommodate the baby growing inside your uterus. It happens to a whopping two-thirds of pregnant women.

And diastasis recti can leave you with more than just that annoying pooch, says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. You could also wind up with a weak core, trouble holding in your urine, and back pain.

RELATED: Debunking The Top 10 Pregnancy Myths

Post pregnancy belly

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What causes diastasis recti?

It’s pretty obvious why diastasis recti happens during pregnancy: you only have so much space in your abdomen to hold a growing human, and the baby can put so much pressure on the belly that the muscles simply can’t retain their shape. What doctors can’t say for sure is who will and won’t develop the condition—but there are a few things that seem to increase your risk. Lifting heavy weights, having weaker core muscles pre-pregnancy, having a shorter torso, and having multiple pregnancies or a pregnancy with multiples can increase your risk, says Laura Ward, a women’s health and pelvic floor physical therapist. Being age 35 or older during your pregnancy can also increase your risk.

There’s only so much you can do to prevent diastasis recti, but building up your core strength before you get pregnant and in the earlier stages of your pregnancy can definitely help, Ward says. You’ll also want to avoid very heavy lifting (which isn’t really recommended during pregnancy anyway), she says.

RELATED: 5 Tips For Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Post-Baby

How do you treat diastasis recti?

For some lucky women, diastasis recti goes away on its own, says Christine Greves, MD, a certified obstetrician-gynecologist. But other times, certain exercises—and even surgery—are needed to help close the abdominal separation.

Diastasis recti is best treated after you give birth (since your belly is flatter at that point), Ward says, and treatment largely includes exercises that work your core but avoid stressing your rectus abdominus muscles (i.e. your abs) and transverse abdominus muscles (a layer of muscle in your front and side abdominal wall). There are also manual therapy techniques that can help break up connective tissue in your abs to help get your abs back to their former position, she says.

Ultimately, it’s important to find a physical therapist who specialises in women’s health who can help create the right plan for you, as well as which exercises to avoid, Ward says. But unfortunately, sometimes that’s not enough. “For some women, exercises and physical therapy can do the trick,” Wider says. “In others, surgical repair may be necessary.”

If you think you have diastasis recti, don’t try to treat it on your own. Certain exercises like crunches can actually make it worse, so talk to your doctor. They may be able to design a treatment plan for you, or may refer you to a physical therapist who can help.

RELATED: Zoe Foster Blake Reveals What No One Tells You About Pregnancy

This article originally appeared in Prevention.

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Women Fleeing Domestic Violence Can Now Receive A One-Off Support Payment

It’s been labelled the shadow pandemic and the fact remains that for many women across Australia, domestic violence is a lived reality that doesn’t discriminate by age, occupation, or socio-economic status. Researchers have found that during Covid-19 lockdowns, there was a surge in family and domestic violence, with agencies experiencing a surge in demand as nearly half their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours. 

As many who have lived through such turmoil and trauma can attest, the roadmap to fleeing such situations at home can be fraught with challenges and extremely difficult to navigate, particularly when such bureaucracy makes it even harder. Now, it’s been announced that women fleeing a violent relationship will be given a one-off $5,000 payment as part of a federal government trial scheme. 

Known as the “escaping violence payment scheme,” the government has set aside $144.5 million over the next two years to give women $1,500 cash, with the remainder to pay for goods and services, bond, school fees and other necessaries to establish a new safe home. UnitingCare Network will be tasked with delivering the payments while helping link women and their children with relevant community services. 

As the Daily Telegraph reports, “An analysis of domestic violence data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that while it is more common for women from poorer areas, women from high socio-economic areas are not immune from experiencing partner violence.”

As Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston explained, the trial has been introduced with the aim to help women overcome the financial barriers that might deter them from leaving a violent relationship. “We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse - which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money - reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” she said. 

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter. Often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

To be eligible for a payment, women must be facing financial stress and have some evidence of domestic violence such as a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, or an AVO, court order or police report. As UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said, “We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and children.”

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence, please call the 1800 

Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. 

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.