Life with a Diastasis and Two Sets of Twins
My journey with a diastasis started seven years ago with my first twin pregnancy. I did not realize I had a diastasis until the boys were 12 months old. I knew something was wrong by about 6 months I was struggling with instability, balance, and coordination. I felt like my body was twisted, uneven, and off-centered. I applied all of my training to strengthen my core, stretch my hips and regain endurance. I looked amazing, super lean and defined, but soooo unstable!
Nothing was working. I did not know what was wrong. I traveled to CA to receive treatment from Lenny Parracino (link?) who noted the poor health of my connective tissue. He said my hip flexors were so rigid and tight that they felt like ropes.
He suggested that I look into the Paleo Diet and explained the importance of nutrient density and its impact on connective tissue health. It was that trip that completely shifted my paradigm with nutrition and movement. It was that trip that led me on the path to restoring my connective tissue health and healing my body to the point where it would heal itself.
I was diagnosed with a diastasis by a women’s health PT when the boys were 12 months old. The separation was 2-3 fingers wide and deep, with a complete inability to generate tension through the gap. FINALLY! Now, I had a diagnosis…now what to do?
I struggled during the first 3 years of the boys’ lives and could not hold them much without feeling really uncomfortable. The first 12 months of nursing were out of shear determination! I could not fully enjoy this time with my babies. I was not accustomed to getting up and down from the floor, holding babies, and transferring them into and out of the car seat. I adapted by walking them everywhere so I did not have to drive and deal with car seats.
My function gradually improved as I continued fueling my connective tissue and rebuilding my nutrient stores. I also added in progressive 3-dimensional loading for my pelvic floor and core using ViPR, Coretex, and Pelvicore. The diastasis remained stable with a gap of 2 fingers, but still did not have good tension between the rectus bellies.
Fast forward to my second twin pregnancy
I was determined to do everything differently in this pregnancy! From the moment I knew I wanted to conceive until today, my diet has been focused on nutrient density, low inflammation, gut health, and connective tissue integrity. And, I am going to say this with 100% conviction and confidence… it works, there is no question it is effective, and should you give it a try, YES! J
Fortunately, I documented this journey in full detail starting at week 17.
I also completely shifted the focus of my training to a loaded movement training approach with an emphasis on creating shape stability. I trained my pelvic floor using integrated breathing techniques along with the three-dimensional loading of the hips. I integrated ground to standing patterns and focused on maintaining mobility through my thoracic spine and hips.
This 30-week post gives you a snapshot of my self-care routine.
I had a VBAC delivery with the girls at 34 weeks. I knew I had a huge diastasis right away after delivery. I started wrapping my abdomen immediately for proprioceptive reconnection. I also began breath reintegration techniques and developmental drills.
Of course, my diet this time was 100% committed to improving the resiliency of my connective tissue. I also wanted to support my body properly during the vigorous demands of nursing. I wrote about my postpartum recovery protocol in this post.
How does my training prepare me for life?
Motherhood demands resiliency. Throughout my recovery, my focus has been on building resilience through my hips, reintegrating my core with my pelvic floor, and maintaining mobility through my thoracic spine. All of these points of focus keep my function high for motherhood. My life demands are changing as the girls are now three and the boys are seven. They have more independence and require less physical care from me.
What I need to be able to do day to day, during non-exercise time:
Stand for more than 1 hour at a time (cooking, lots of cooking)
Lift and carry my 30-pound three-year-olds
Walk, 2 miles carrying backpacks and holding two wiggly three-year-olds’ hands
Lift the girls on and off the potty multiple times a day
Sprint after a runaway toddler
Work in the kitchen (prepping food and washing dishes)
All of this requires a multifaceted approach to exercise. And, most importantly a nutrient-dense diet, that focuses on connective tissue building and reducing inflammation.
My life with a diastasis.
I have a diastasis. Some days I have a 1 ½ finger separation and some days it is 2-3 fingers. My posterior abdominal wall is completely overstretched, so there is little tension without stimulus; which means I don’t have much of a waistline. But, I have great tension between the rectus bellies which makes my diastasis functional. Surgery to repair the diastasis would be purely aesthetic and would not do much to improve my function
Day today, I am quite conscious of all that I can do! I know all that I have to do to care for two sets of twins. And that is what I train for, life patterns. I also know where my body will no longer optimally perform and what makes my belly bulge more.
Things I am mindful of daily:
Nutrition: Bloating or poor digestion is not well tolerated with a diastasis. There is no support to the abdominal wall, so you will see it right away. Inflammation from a poor diet is also impeding digestion and connective tissue healing.
Breathing: A proper rib breathing technique and exhaling on exertion or with lifts are important for avoiding excessive intraabdominal pressure.
Mobility/Stability in my hips: Maintaining mobility as well as stability in my hips is key to managing the instability that comes from the diasasis.
Things I cannot safely do right now.
Run long distances
Heavy Olympic lifting
Lots of prone exercises
My overall message to you!
Ladies, here is my message to you about diastasis. You are not defined by it! Our abdominal profile postpartum is a huge part of our perception of body image. When I finally learned to accept that my abdominal profile is different than before I had these four beautiful babies and it would never again be the same as when I was a 28-year-old gym rat, it was amazingly freeing!
When I learned to shift my paradigm to that of function and focusing on fitness for life it was empowering. Letting go of body image woes and getting too focused on fat loss is intensely personal but for true happiness, essential.