Hey Moms – Ever Hear of Diastasis?

medium_8570833723Looking back on it now, there were so many things about pregnancy I didn’t know that I really wish I had! One of these was about diastasis. As with all women, my abs obviously stretched out while I was pregnant. After I had my baby, I noticed a line in the lower part of my stomach, right under the belly button. As I began to lose the weight, the line didn’t go away. In fact, it seemed like one side was actually lower than the other. I thought it was just a gross fat thing and that I just needed to do more cardio, but after discussions with a few friends in the fitness industry, they said that it might in fact be diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti is actually a protective response that often happens during the 5th month of pregnancy. The abs will split apart in the center since that area has less surface area to stretch. The split happens to help prevent the area from excessively stretching. However, if this occurs, the new mom should be focusing on specific exercises to help close the diastasis and shorten the abs back to their pre-pregnancy state. Without these exercises, the abs may not come fully back together and/or may come back together lopsided.

Typically, a postpartum plan* should first focus on the transverses abs and pelvic floor strengthening. Once these areas have begun to heal, you should then focus on closing the diastasis recti. During this time, it’s important to stay away from exercises that require a strain on the rectus abs (the center). This includes exercise or movements that require you to lift your head and shoulders off the ground and/or lifting both legs up in the air. (So don’t jump right into those sit-ups!) Once the diastasis is fully closed, then you can move on to more advanced ab work.

Be patient with yourself and don’t rush it. Debbi Goodman, MSPT,** states, “On average it takes most women (even extremely fit women) approximately 6 months to 1 year to regain full integrity of the abdominals. So, this is a slow process and one that should not be rushed. Advancing abdominal strengthening too quickly can jeopardize the joining of the recti and leave women with a central weakness.”

It can be frustrating waiting to get your body back, but trust me, it will be much more frustrating to have it heal incorrectly!

I know those first few months postpartum are so exhausting and finding the time for yourself sometimes seems impossible. But if you can, it is so worth it to work with a professional trained in these postpartum exercises to help you through and to make sure you are doing it the right way to properly heal your body. You could either work one on one with someone that has this specialty, or look for an ab rehab type of class or postpartum specific Pilates class taught by a qualified instructor. It will definitely be worth it in the long run, and at least this will be one thing that you won’t have to say, “I wish I knew….” for!

 

*It is important to talk with your doctor about any exercise program before starting. Be sure to discuss with him/her first!

**Debbi Goodman, MSPT is a licensed manual physical therapist with specialties in women’s health, dance medicine, and sports medicine. Debbi has had a private women’s health/orthopedic practice in New York City, and since moving to the Albany, NY area in 2004, she has developed a private practice in the Capital District. Debbi is one of the few physical therapists trained in internal evaluation and treatment of the pelvic floor muscles. In addition, she is specifically skilled in treatment of pregnancy problems including: sciatica, back/neck pain, pelvic pain and rib pain, and postpartum problems including: cesarean section recovery, urinary incontinence, pelvic/vaginal pain and post-delivery scars. Debbi teaches continuing education workshops for physical therapists, trainers and Pilates instructors focusing on exercise during pregnancy, and she is an instructor for prenatal and postpartum group fitness classes.

Source: Postpartum Recovery: Helping New Moms Get Their Bodies Back by Debbi Goodman in Pilates Pro

Another Interesting Article: Bigger Postpartum Challenges Than Just Baby Weight, by Sarah Nassauer in The Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: Kit4na via photopin cc

More Sunshine = More Babies??

As amazing as modern medicine and science is, sometimes it really does just take something natural to make (or break) a miracle. And when you really think about it, it does make sense.

Take the sunshine, for instance. We know that on the one hand, it can make us burn and peel and feel miserable. And worst case scenario, it can give us cancer. On the other hand, we can’t survive without it.  It affects everything around us. Sunshine helps all the plants and animals to grow. It keeps our planet at just the right temperature so we can survive. It helps us differentiate between day and night. It is literally the center of the universe. So why shouldn’t it play a part in our own body cycles as well?

There has been increasing findings that the sun and the natural Vitamin D it provides can play a factor in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and even the body’s natural immunity. But what about fertility? Studies on the role of light in both women’s and men’s cycles started back in the 1960s. But not until recently are these multidisciplinary studies showing that yes, light does play a factor in fertility – perhaps a major factor.

In terms of the body, light keeps the “circadian pacemaker” (basically the body’s master clock) on track with the usual 24 hour day. If we don’t get the right kinds of light, our bodies go out of synch with the world, and our body systems go out of synch with our bodies. We need to have a very clear distinction between the light of day and the dark of night for our bodies to perform at its top notch potential. But in a world of increasing technology where many of us spend the majority of our week working inside with artificial lights and the glow of computer screens, and our nights surrounded by more artificial lights, blinking screens, glows from charging cell phones, IPODs, digital clocks, etc., how are we supposed to help our bodies stay on track?

Ann Douglas offers several tips in the winter issue of Conceive Magazine

1. Try to keep your body in synch with the solar day. To cue your body to stop producing the nighttime hormone, melatonin, take a walk in the morning (outside).
2. Enjoy the sunshine – That whole Vitamin D thing is currently believed to affect at least 1000 different genes in our bodies that control every tissue. Studies are showing that melatonin may act directly on the reproductive tissues – meaning that women are more fertile during the time of year when there is the most daylight.
3. Don’t leave out your man! Vitamin D is very important in male fertility as well.  Light also boosts the luteinizing hormone which raises testosterone levels in men.
4. Try to keep a regular schedule not only in your everyday life, but in travels as well. Flying across time zones can really throw off your body too.
5. If you’re in an area where you just can’t get enough sunlight, consider using alternative light therapies. There are devices to block blue light, to increase light exposure, and to mimic the natural rhythm of moonlight which can help regulate ovulation.

For more info on some of these options, check: lowbluelights.com and luness.com

Source: Douglas, Ann. Light and Fertility. Conceive Magazine Winter 09/10 Vol. 6 Issue 4 pp. 46-49.

Clomid

After a year of trying, one of the first drugs your doctor will likely put you on is Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate). An ovulatory regulator, Clomid can help stabilize and time your cycle. It is a great start, however there are a lot of issues with this therapy. Clomid can severely thin out your uterine lining, as well as change the cervical mucous.  Both of which can actually make getting pregnant even harder!  Even if the sperm meets the egg, it will not be able to properly attach to the uterine wall and you still will not be pregnant.

This is not to say that you will not be able to conceive on Clomid, because there are many people that have.  It just means that you need to be sure that you are following proper monitoring procedures.  I did not know anything about this issue when I first started, and the doctor that started me on it did not do the proper monitoring.  So it is likely that the first few months I was on this drug, we were just wasting our time. When I switched doctors, I found out that the drug was making my lining almost half the size it should be for proper implantation!

What is the proper monitoring procedures? Internal ultrasounds are your best bet (especially when paired with blood monitoring).  This way, your doctor can make sure you are making sufficient follicles and measure your lining at the same time.  If caught soon enough, you can also go on another drug that will help increase the lining.

Another issue with Clomid is side effects.  Obviously every woman is different and not every woman will experience all of the side effects of Clomid (if any at all).  I had a very hard time with this drug.  I felt absolutely INSANE on it. Crazy mood swings, hot flashes, dizziness, nausea, headaches, appetite changes, weight gain, jaw clenching, and speed-like effects were just a few of the side effects I dealt with. Some women also experience vision changes as well.

Clomid has a limited time of use.  It is recommended that you do not stay on Clomid any longer than 6 months, so be sure that you are following the proper protocols so you can maximize your chances while you are on this drug, and hopefully will get your baby sooner rather than later!

The Initial Excitement

So you and your husband decided to have a baby!
It’s a great moment – the moment when you realize that you are truly ready to start your family.
It’s exciting.
It’s one of the few pure moments in your life.

And trying to achieve that goal of having a family is fun too!  At least, at first it is. You have fun with it – candles, music, sexy lingere, everywhere, anywhere – it doesn’t matter, because you are going to have a baby!

A few weeks go by.
Then a few months.
Suddenly, it is not quite as fun anymore.  You start trying to figure out the best days to do it. But yet – still no double line on that stick.  That initial excitement is gone, and now it is a job. And with jobs, come stress. And not so much fun.

Ah, what happened to that initial glow?!

On a bright note, no matter how it feels – you are not alone.
And there is hope.
There are a lot of new advances today that they didn’t have even just a year ago.
The most important thing to remember is – DON’T GIVE UP!