When I got pregnant with my son, I knew that my body would change. I anticipated that my tummy would get jiggly, my butt would expand, and my nipples would develop PTSD. What I didn't expect was the havoc that this baby wreaked. During pregnancy, I had my fair share of lower back pain, and even some crazy hip pain. Did I mention lightning crotch? That too.
On top of it all, I was diagnosed with SPD - symphysis pubis dysfunction. Essentially, the pregnancy hormones Relaxin (best hormone name ever) causes your connective tissue to loosen. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles are get a bit more loosen goosey than average. SPD specifically impacts the pelvic and sacrum. Mild cases feel like a horse kicked your pubic bone. Severe cases of SPD land women in a wheelchair, unable to function normally or even walk.
I had a “severe-to-moderate” case of SPD with both of my children's pregnancies. While I didn't end up in a wheelchair, I did have severe limitations on my mobility and lived in constant pain. Many days I couldn't get out of bed without help or get dressed on my own. Even worse, this debilitating condition doesn't necessarily end with delivery. One woman I've found through my personal research has been living with severe SPD for two years since her baby was born. No longer wheelchair bound, she's still stricken with intense pain and functional limitations. On difficult days, she uses crutches to move about her house. Running errands is out of the question. Even carrying her own children while walking is impossible.
SPD is a sign that your core is weak. Another sign, of course, is a complete lack of abdominal control after your baby is born. While my case of SPD resolved shortly after my children were born, my struggle with diastasis recti was just beginning.
Without a properly functioning core, my body began to compensate in a variety of ways. My lower and upper back ached constantly, my hips felt unbearably stiff, and my feet began to hurt like they were full of tiny stress fractures. In reality, my soft tissue was seizing in an attempt to maintain some sort of normal function. Six months after my daughter (my second child) was born, I was in such severe pain (in my feet primarily) that I couldn't walk normally.
Here's what they don't tell you: there are only two ways to heal diastasis recti. The first is physical therapy. This is long, slow, laborious process. From my own experience, I can tell you that this is still ongoing for me, three months in. If I take a few days off from my routine, I notice a serious negative difference in my body mechanics and pain. Even worse, I saw a different physical therapist after my first pregnancy. The exercises she prescribed did nothing to make a difference in my function or pain, let alone my appearance. But the amazing physical therapists I have worked with in the last three months? They've changed my life.
No, I'm not exaggerating. For the first time in three years, my stomach has started to knit itself back together. My boobs stick out further than my stomach, which is a huge relief. I don't look pregnant anymore. And yes, I've gotten that comment. It's deeply hurtful, even if it's asked innocently. My foot pain is almost completely gone. My back pain is well under control, so long as I remain diligent with my exercises. I'm very glad that this time around, physical therapy has worked for me.
The second way to heal diastasis recti? A tummy tuck. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, some people get tummy tucks because they want to remove excess skin or flatten their stomach to a nearly impossible degree. But for people with diastasis recti, a tummy tuck is NOT primarily a cosmetic procedure. While it may have a cosmetic impact, that's because the tightening and knitting together of abdominal muscles will help internal organs to recede back to their normal place (instead of poking through where abs should be). It will prevent premature wear and tear on your back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Basically, anything below your stomach is going to get MESSED UP if you don't have core strength.
Even with PT, my diastasis might never heal completely. I've already started saving for a tummy tuck. Not because I'm trying to be a post-baby supermodel. But because I want my body to function like it should. Without pain. Is that too much to ask?
Do you suffer from diastasis recti or SPD? How have you treated these conditions? Share your tips with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3.