FULL DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice. I highly encourage you to visit with your obstetrician, physical therapist or other trained professional before you proceed to heal your diastasis recti (DR).

Every time I mention my DR (abdominal separation) I get a million questions and emails. Ok, not a million, but a lot. I was actually going to show you some “before” pictures but then I decided the Internet didn’t need to have those forever. Amen? Amen.

A Little History
After my first four babies, I bounced back pretty quickly to pre-pregnancy weight, not really giving much thought to how much of a beating my core was taking. After giving birth, via emergency c-section, to my fifth child and then subsequently trying to train for a 10k (seriously, I must’ve been on illegal drugs) I learned the hard way that I was nuts and my body was in bad shape. Two years after giving birth to the preemie, I started running in earnest while cross training with Jillian Michaels via DVD. Who knew that doing all those planks and crunches were making things worse??

Then, I got pregnant with baby number six and gave up on exercising.

I did a brief stint with the Tupler Technique when she was seven months old. Honestly? I could not keep up with the regimen and the belt I had to wear just wasn’t practical for my lifestyle herding six busy kids. #moneyiwishicouldgetback

Then, I broke my knee cap.

Seriously, y’all. I can’t make this crazy up.

Finally, after spending months in physical therapy (PT) rehabilitating my knee and subsequently gaining weight because I was sitting on my ***, I asked my PT if she thought I could correct my DR with physical therapy. YES! was her enthusiastic reply. But, she encouraged me to find a women’s health PT as they would best be equipped to help me. I do think it’s worth mentioning I consulted a plastic surgeon and asked her opinion. I was suffering from lower back pain and almost no pelvic floor control. While she said she could, indeed, correct my DR with a permanent stitch in my abdominal wall/tummy tuck she said I would have to promise not to get pregnant again or I could do permanent damage. That was a promise I could not keep. But, she did believe I could correct it through PT, so off to Google I went.

Finding the Right Path to Heal my DR
First, I was first amazed that there was even such a thing as a women’s health PT. Who knew?! While I was on a mission to find the right PT, I started looking for a good workout regimen that would help in my final stretch to rebuild the quad I lost when I broke my kneecap. A friend posted on Facebook about her awesome experience with Pure Barre and her results really had me intrigued. At the same time, I finally found a women’s health PT office that I thought could be a winner. I read reviews on Yelp and doctor sites, stalked their social media pages and consulted insurance to see if therapy was covered. It was! I started both PT and Pure Barre the same week, back in June 2016.

Fast forward six months and here I am. This was me at my 100th Pure Barre class!

pb-100-class

The Nitty Gritty of Healing My DR
My initial PT appointment we talked about alllll the uncomfortable things that come with pelvic floor, bowels, back, stomach and birthing babies. For my Austin friends, I used Sullivan Physical Therapy.

Then, there was an internal exam. Thank God I read the paperwork and knew that was coming. To be fair, however, it was necessary. It gave us the complete picture of my true baseline. Your back, abs and pelvic floor work together like a sling to hold your core together. If one, or more, is weak, the others suffer. Hence, the reason for my weak floor, my lower back pain and my bulging belly that I could not get rid of to save my life. I initially measured with an open DR (bottom left) at a 3-4-3 (upper-middle-lower). There are lots of ways to measure your DR, but I was grateful to have a professional mark those numbers down. At my worst, back a few years ago, I was at a 4-5-4.

dr-chart

My PT gave me some exercises to do and told me to come back in two weeks. I’ve chosen not to link to the exercises I did for PT as those are highly personalized depending upon your type of DR. I would hate to lead you down the wrong path. I also shared with her some of the exercises I was doing in Pure Barre and she either banned some – not many – and modified a lot more. It did make me feel a little self conscious in Pure Barre class when everyone else was on the floor planking and I was leaning against the bar, barely at an angle, doing my “pushups.” But I kept at it and just got over myself. Benefit of being 40-ish. I also contacted the owner of the Pure Barre studio and we visited in person for about a half hour before my first class. Many of the modifications she gave me are ones her prenatal clients use to ease the stress on their abs.

This process continued throughout the summer: PT, home exercises and Pure Barre 4-5 times a week. There were so many times I wanted to give up, but the physical changes I was seeing and how good I felt kept me going.

Where I Am Now
Four months after I started, I went in for my final PT appointment and measured an amazing 0-1-0. While it’s highly improbable I’ll get to be 0 all around, I am 100% happy with that measurement. More importantly, I feel good. My lower back pain is gone, I don’t have pelvic floor issues and my core is so much stronger. I have a ways to go to get where I want to be, but I’m getting there. Hour by hour.

It also didn’t happen without the support of my family. Being gone for five hours a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. You mamas feel me. We’ve had to adjust our family schedule a bit but I’m coming home happier, Mr. Whitaker is liking the results and the kids are seeing a mom who is putting her physical health first. That’s an important legacy for me.

What This Means for You
While Pure Barre worked for me, it may or may not be your cup of tea. However, my best advice is this: go talk to your OB/GYN and a PT trained in women’s health before you make a decision on how to heal your DR. It might be severe enough that surgery is required. Maybe you need intense therapy and a new routine for how you engage your core in a healthy way. Or, maybe you need a combination of PT and exercise under the direction of your therapist. But, you won’t know what is – and Google can’t tell you – until you talk to train medical professionals that can guide you.

I think you also have to be honest about the season you’re in – financially, physically and emotionally. All that helps dictate what you can feasibly do without everything around you falling apart. While I am an advocate of putting mom first, there were many years I didn’t for various reasons. This is my season to heal DR, yours may be different.

Brighter days are ahead, I promise! Whatever questions you have, feel free to put them in the comments, or email me if you’d rather keep them private. This is a tough topic and I get it. I will try to be as transparent and honest as I can!

23 Comments

  1. Nicole on December 12, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Good for you for recognizing and figuring out what works for you and how you were able to heal yourself! It’s such an important lesson you are teaching your children, and those of us out beyond your household. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Sarah on December 12, 2016 at 9:28 am

    You do look great! I wonder how many gals over their childbearing years, like my friend who’s 75 and has a very poochy-out belly, have unhealed DR’s? I think mine is OK, actually, thank goodness. I am lots flatter than many 65 years old women. It’s a possibility and I am happy to learn about it. I am happy you are happy.

    • Kathryn on December 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks, Sarah! I think we just forget, as women, how important it is to engage and take care of our core. It’s so important!

  3. Aileen on December 12, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I am 59 and only have one child I delivered when I was 21. I did not have a problem losing weight after giving birth buy my belly ever since has been very pooched-out, as Sarah above says. Is it possible to have an unhealed DR after only once child?

    • Kathryn on December 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Absolutely it is! Mine just never got a rest – ha!

    • Ashley on December 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Aileen,

      Yes–it is certainly possible to have DR after only one child! In fact, it’s possible to have it without ever having been pregnant. It’s just commonly associated with having kids because pregnancy can put such a strain on the core.

      (Disclaimer–I’m not a medical expert either! I’ve just done a lot of research in an attempt to understand and heal my own DR :))

      • Aileen on December 12, 2016 at 2:40 pm

        Thank you, Ashley and Kathryn! I will have to look into this.

  4. Jenny on December 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Amazing, Kathryn! Thank you for sharing what’s working for you. I’ve been wanting to try Barre classes but afraid to be the oldest, fattest girl in the room, so I’ve been holding off but this makes me want to just give it a try. I’m also doing MuTu at home and can feel and see some progress in things flattening out/better low back stability. If you were going to have more babies in the probable future, would you still have sprung for the PT piece? Or do you think it’s something best held off until babies are probably out of the picture.

    • Kathryn on December 12, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Well, I for sure thought I’d be the oldest and then I met some gals in their 60s and 70s. We are all shapes and sizes in that class with one goal: to be stronger. I definitely would’ve done PT earlier (and between babies) if I had known about it. I think it would’ve have saved me so much pain, spared me depression and given me tools to help myself. A stronger core is so important whether you’re pre-baby, post-baby or post-pregnancy.

  5. Kimberly Reisinger on December 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Sigh…I was going to the gym 3x a week for 1.5 years, and while it was very hard at first, I realized how much better I felt. I lost weight, my BMI went down, etc. But alas, I started a new job, and the hours are exactly when I would go to boot camp. I really need a class to stay motivated, and my gym didn’t offer any classes at 5:30/6:00 AM, and honestly, I CAN NOT get up that early. Then I got sick this fall, and it’s taken me months to recover. I am going to try my darndest to get back to at least a walking regiment around the neighborhood lake after this week!

  6. Tara on December 12, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Oh man THANK YOU for mentioning women’s health physical therapy. I went for my pelvic floor (FYI: incontinence, even just while laughing/exercising is not something you just have to live with!) I’ve been encouraging ALL of my mom friends to at least go in and see a women’a health PT post birth to be evaluated. My PT fixed so much that I didn’t even know was wrong!

    • Kathryn on December 12, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      That is such awesome news, Tara!

  7. Laura on December 12, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    I have 3 children with my last 2 being twins. I did not get the opportunity to go full term. I delivered them at 28 weeks. I do have scoliosis, but not enough curvature to do anything about. I have always suffered low back pain, but it has gotten increasingly worse after the twins. I suffer daily, but have learned to deal with the daily pain. I’m wondering if this could be my problem. I live in a small town so PT and classes are not available. Any other suggestions? Thank you for sharing!

    • Kathryn on December 12, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Laura, you sound like you’re in so much pain. Again, not a medical professional here…so this is just my observation/two cents. Do you have a spine surgeon or orthopedic surgeon that is monitoring your scoliosis? I would probably first assess if your curve has gotten worse. Mine really ramped up and got crazy after baby #3. I started getting semi-regular massages which sounds luxurious but really it kept me from hopping up on pain meds. My muscles were so tense from the surgery/scoliosis that it became life-saving. Also, stretching. I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough. Especially when you have children, we tend to do repetitive movements and our muscles begin to tighten without stretching. That relieved lots of my pain, too. To measure your DR, there are YouTube videos (just do a quick google search). It basically involves lying flat and putting your index and middle finger in the middle of your belly and doing a small crunch. You’ll be able to feel the sides of abs and how far your fingers (and how many you can put in the gap), tells you how wide that gap is. Then, go about an inch or so above and below your belly button to assess the upper and lower gap. Any movement or exercise that puts stress on your core (twisting, crunches, planks) should be avoided. And when you’re getting up out of bed, roll to the side push yourself up and swing your legs off the bed at the same time, that way you aren’t “jackknifing” yourself. Those are a few little things. I hope you find relief soon!

      • Laura on December 13, 2016 at 6:41 am

        Thank you SO much!!❤️

    • Ashley on December 12, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Laura,

      If I can throw in my two cents on top of Kathryn’s amazing advice–I found a lot of relief for my lower back pain (arising from SI joint issues, herniated lumbar disk, and diastasis recti) when I started working on my posture and alignment based on the information I found on Katy Bowman’s website: https://nutritiousmovement.com/ She has a lot of info concerning diastasis, including an entire book (Diastais Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation), but her approach is really whole-body and so even if diastasis isn’t the issue for you, her info on body mechanics might be helpful.

      Another resource that has been really helpful for me has been Mutu (https://mutusystem.com/). It’s an online-based exercise program aimed at rebuilding core strength to heal diastasis and pelvic floor issues. Deirdre at Like Mother Like Daughter reviewed it here: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2016/02/bits-pieces-and-mutu/ and here: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2016/06/taking-care-core-baby-mutu-review/)

      Praying for you, Laura! 🙂

      • Laura on December 20, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        Thank you for the advice!! I will defiantly look into it. And, I appreciate the prayer…how kind and selfless of you! Sending 🙏 your way too!❤️

  8. MC on December 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for bringing attention to this topic with very good advice! The more women know, the better! I second all your advice! I didn’t realize I had a DR until my youngest was 15 months….I could fit my whole fist in the separation! So about 5 as well – I so love looking pregnant when I’m not Anyway, I had very good success with the Mutu system – home DVDs and online support program, now I’m the same as you – 0-1-0 – Praise God!

    • Kathryn on December 20, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      That’s fantastic!

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  11. Meghan Allison on May 28, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    I know this is an older article but my wife started back a purre barre this week after our forth child but has abdominal separation this time. Would you be willing to explain the modifications that you did for pure barre. That would be extremely helpful. It is not as easy for us to go to the OBGYN and PT with no insurance. An help with certainly be appreciated. She is a nurse as well so she would understand any medical lingo you might involve and of course she is a woman as well. 🙂 Trying to be helpful husband, Cody.

    • Kathryn on June 15, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Cody, I would suggest that she visit with the Pure Barre owner that’s near her. I’m not a medical professional, so I hesitate to share what was specific to me in case it’s not what’s best for someone else.

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