PARENTS

A Simple 'Mummy Tummy' Exercise Could Be A Breakthrough For Moms

But it might not be for everyone.

08/08/2017 16:01 EDT | Updated 08/08/2017 16:44 EDT
BreatheFitness via Getty Images

Look, let's get this out of the way — "mummy tummy" is a derogatory term, but any woman who has been pregnant knows exactly what it means. It's that area that lies somewhere between your belly button and the top of your pubic hair that once housed a fetus, and now just houses the leftovers you've eaten off your kids' plates.

But not so fast.

According to a recent article from NPR entitled "Flattening the Post-Pregnancy Belly In 10 Minutes Of Daily Exercise," the reason for that extra skin and fat could actually be thanks to what's going on underneath, namely the abdominal separation that might have occurred during your pregnancy, when the growth of the baby causes separation between your abdominal muscles and leaves the core unsupported.

Called "diastasis recti," it's a term that's becoming increasingly used with regards to postpartum fitness, and describes a gap of approximately 2.7 cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominal muscles, according to an excellent graphic by Fit2B, which runs "diastasis-aware" workouts.

Fit2B

"This isn't something new, it's just something that we're talking about now," Justine Cappel, owner of Toronto's TwentyToes Fitness, a company that is specifically geared towards moms, tells HuffPost Canada. "Women's post-natal health hasn't been as much as a focus in the past as it has become in the past few years.

"We lose a little bit of strength and a little bit of support, so our deep core system — which includes pelvic floor muscles, the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and back muscles — becomes weakened and can become less coordinated."

It involves lying on your back, exhaling fully and then sucking your stomach in towards the spine in tiny increments.

According to NPR, the key to getting rid of what remains after this kind of injury is small, intense movements that are as different from crunches as you can imagine. In one description of the Dia Method by Lia Keller, women lie on their backs, exhale fully and then suck their stomach in towards the spine in tiny increments — not dissimilar to the kegel pulses women are told to do in preparation for childbirth. According to the method, this can help your abdominal muscles realign, and lose inches off your belly.

But Cappel isn't convinced that this is the answer for every woman who has a bit more weight around the tummy after giving birth than they'd anticipated.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

"In my experience, what people call kegels or core breathing is just a part of the picture. The solution is very individual — most of the clients I see end up having too much tone in their pelvic floor, so the solution is to release their pelvic floor muscles.

"As a woman, and a mom, I can see how women find it gratifying to close the gap [in their muscles], but the truth is, that's only part of the story."

Instead, she recommends visiting a pelvic floor physiotherapist to get an internal exam and find out precisely what's going on in your body.

Things like scar tissue, prolapse, too much tone in your pelvic floor, diastasis recti, urinary incontinence — those things are all connected to each other.

"Women need to know that they don't have to accept their physical symptoms as their new normal. I'm referring to things like back pain, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, pain during sex, heaviness in the pelvis or generally feeling disconnected from their bodies. We also need to know the rehabilitating the deep core takes time, patience and strategy."

That said, the exercises suggested by the Dia Method and others like them likely won't be harmful — they just might not bring about miraculous results.

But for Cappel, that's definitely not the point.

"It's more than just about getting your abs back. It's about building a strong foundation, it's about building a deep core and it's about gaining a new appreciation for your body postpartum."

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