As a physiotherapist with expertise in women’s health, I treat many women with varied health concerns and conditions, and one of the questions I am often asked is:
How can I get my stomach back after giving birth?
Whether the woman is pregnant, early postpartum or 10 years of more after delivery, whether she wants to look good in a bikini or her size 12 jeans, or wants a ‘6 pack’ of abs, or she just wants to feel strong again, all these women are craving the same thing: the abdominal profile they had before babies!!
I should know because I am also one of these women! You carry a baby, birth that baby then look at yourself and wonder if your body will ever look or feel the same again!!?
So where do you turn to, your doctor, your friends or google?
My first recommendation is always to seek the advice from your local women’s health physiotherapist!
If you do a simple google search the overwhelming information talks about rectus diastasis also known as RAD, DRA, diastasis recti or ‘stomach muscle separation’. There are hundreds of ‘one size fits all’ programs you can access or pay for. Lots of information saying DO THIS exercise but DON’T Do these ones. Ads popping up for supplements or belly bands/ belts. Most of the programs focus on ‘closing the gap of the abdominals’ and avoiding exercises that are going to make you WORSE! The information is varied and vast and sometimes contradicts itself. It’s hard to find a reliable website to follow!
What I want to share with you is that regaining your ‘stomach’ after having a baby is about A LOT more than ‘closing the gap’ between the abdominals and there is no “one-size fits all” miracle cure.
When you are pregnant and grow a baby lots of things happen to the stomach (and also to the pelvic floor- read more about pelvic floor and prolapse here!). Every single pregnant woman will have some separation of the abdominals during their pregnancy. Other changes to the stomach include the skin that stretches, the connective tissue and fascia of the abdomen stretch and soften, muscles (like the obliques and rectus abdomnis) get stretched and weakened, hormones change the integrity of the connective tissue and some women then have a caesarean delivery further impacting their abdomen. All of these factors need to be managed when treating the abdomen after your baby is born.
Not only do the above changes occur for every pregnant woman, but also every women’s body and baby is different! Some women grow large babies, some small, everyone gains weight, some women exercise throughout their pregnancy and some can’t for a multitude of reasons.
Then, after the baby is born, some women eat and sleep well, some get no sleep at all (like me)!! Some women breastfeed and others don’t, affecting their hormone levels. Some women get back to exercise earlier than others. (Like to know when you can safely return to exercise after your baby? Read more here!)
As you can see- every woman is in a different position postpartum, meaning their abdominals will all look and feel very different.
These changes to the entire abdomen and the unique situation of each women and her baby together mean that a “one size fits all” program to restore the abdominals is ineffective and unrealistic.
I believe every woman needs to be individually and professionally assessed before being given an exercise program and other advice and education about how to get her abdominals back. No two women are treated the same. There are just too many factors at play for that!!
So, my primary advice is find a women’s health physiotherapist who can individually assess your entire abdomen in the context of “you”. Your pre-pregnancy health, your pregnancy journey, your birth, your early postnatal experience, and your goals. All of this information combined with the expertise of a women’s health physiotherapy assessment means that your recovery plan is actually very unique to you! Only upon understanding your “whole picture” can we then work together as a team with you on getting your pre-baby body back!
Remember it is never too late to get help!! Whether you are one month postpartum, one year postpartum or 30 years postpartum, if you feel your abdomen is not what you would like it to be as a result of pregnancy, then seek help from the right people who can guide your individual recovery. We look forward to helping your with your health during and after your pregnancy!
Simply contact our friendly reception team here at Synergy physio on 07 5448 3369. We offer personalised and professional care with our women’s health physiotherapy team. We also offer telehealth consultations from the privacy and comfort of your own home, and online programs for your pregnancy health journey! Find out more here.
About Rebecca- Rebecca Reiss is passionate about caring for women’s health concerns during and after pregnancy and also into menopause. She has expertise in the management for pelvic floor problems and brings a wealth of knowledge to the Synergy Physio team.
Rebecca is also joined by Caitlin Pender here at Synergy Physio to form an expert team of women’s health physiotherapists. Their caring and professional nature will support you toward improving your pregnancy health, your pelvic floor function and help you get back to doing the things you love. Don’t suffer in silence- contact us today.