Places to visit: Tania's Teahouse

Exercises to do in the Hospital Post Partum (To Prevent and Heal Diastasis Recti)

Exercise in the hospital? No, I’m not crazy!

The exercises I’ll advise you to do can be done from a hospital bed and have been shown to reduce diastasis recti (separated abdominal muscles)  when performed in two sessions during the first 24 hours after birth. The exercises are very light activation exercises, designed to help your body recover from what it’s just been through.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is a stretching and widening of the connective tissue (linea alba) that runs down the center of your abdomen and connects the two halves of the rectus abdominis muscle. The linea alba is basically a flat tendon where your core muscles (transversus abdominis, internal obliques and external obliques) all connect.

Diastasis recti primarily occur in newborns and pregnant women, but can also occur in overweight men and women with a large amount of visceral abdominal fat.

In pregnant women, the condition is caused by the growing fetus and uterus, stretching the rectus abdominis. The condition is more common after multiple pregnancies (due to the repeated episodes of stretching), in women over 35, high birth weight of the child and multiple birth pregnancies.

Additionally, excessive abdominal exercises after the first trimester of pregnancy can also increase the risk.

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The exercises below are designed for women who have delivered vaginally without complications. If you’ve had a C-section or complications during birth, wait for doctors “okay” before you try any exercises.

These exercises can even be helpful for women wanting to start an exercise regimen years after giving birth, as they help with developing better muscle activation, healthy breathing, and good movement patterns.

Exercise 1: Diaphragmatic breathing

Your abdominal muscles assist the diaphragm when doing a forced exhalation.

Position:
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed.
Place your right hand on your upper chest and your left hand just above your navel.

1: Inhale slowly through your nose for 7 seconds and feel your left hand rising. Your right hand should remain still. Pause for 3 seconds.

2: Exhale forcefully through your mouth for 7 seconds and consciously contract your abdominal muscles, imagining bringing both sides of your lower ribs together towards your navel. Repeat for 10 breathing cycles.

Exercise 2: Supine Pelvic Tilts

This movement is opposite to the anterior pelvic tilt most women develop during pregnancy, to compensate for the changes in their body.

Especially during the last trimester, the rectus abdominis has been stretched (and separated) and gluteal activation has been limited because of the changes in your body. This exercise engages your gluteal muscles and the rectus abdominis, to encourage activation of the muscles and more posterior pelvic tilt.

Position:
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed.

1: Find the bony points on your pelvis (ASIS) and place your fingertips on them. Now slide your fingers about 2 inches towards the midline of your body and slightly down.

2: Contract your glutes as you tuck your pelvis up and back, pulling your tailbone in between your legs. Simultaneously engage your deep core muscles by drawing your navel inwards, towards your spine, while flattening your low back against the bed. Hold the position for 20 seconds.

Relax for 10 seconds, then repeat 10 times.

Exercise 3: Abdominal Contraction

This exercise engages the rectus abdominis and improves its readiness to function and support you in your daily life.

Position:
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed. Place your hands behind your head and stack your palms on one another, don’t interlace your fingers.

1: Contract your rectus abdominis like you did for the supine pelvic tilts. Now hold the contraction and elevate your head from the bed or mat, just until the stomach muscles are engaged (it’s a small movement, not a full crunch) Exhale for a count of 10 seconds as you hold the position and contraction. Release and relax for 5 seconds. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

Exercise 4: Kegels

Kegels exercises strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle (PC muscle) which help restore pelvic floor strength and they really should be a part of your daily routine! If you haven’t done them before, now is as good a time to start as pregnancy weakens your pelvic floor muscles. One of the top things women experience when they have weak pelvic floor muscles is incontinence when coughing or sneezing.

To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down.
Warning: Don’t make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.

Position:
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed.

1: Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Repeat 10 times.

Focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles and relax your abdomen, thighs, and glutes. Breathe freely during the exercise, don’t hold your breath.

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Anatomy of the pelvic floor and PC muscle.


If you’re having trouble with the exercises or if you have a significant diastasis recti during pregnancy, it might be adviseable to consult with a physiotherapist at the hospital after delivery. If you’re still having difficulties after returning home from the hospital and you’d like to begin exercising, I advise you to contact af physio therapist or a personal trainer who specializes in post natal training.

If you live in Dubai, feel free to contact me for a free consultation. I am a personal trainer specializing in post natal training and I have a B.Sc. in Physiotherapy from Copenhagen University College in Denmark.

I also offer personalized post natal online coaching for anyone outside Dubai interested in my help.
Contact me today to secure your spot.

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