I’m Pregnant and Huge – A Diastasis Recti Story

I said I would NEVER do this.

But, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if there are other mamas out there dealing with what I have dealt with for several years and several pregnancies.  Maybe this will help…even if all it does is help you know you are not alone.

OK, so what would I never do?  Post a belly shot early in pregnancy.  But, here it is:

This is me at 9 weeks.  Scary, huh?

Why do I look so huge so early?  Same reason I look pregnant most all the time…I have what is called a diastasis recti.  The basic definition of this condition is a split in the stomach muscles, but you can find a more in depth definition here.

For some women, some simple exercises will completely heal a diastasis.  For this, I highly recommend Julie Tupler’s Lose Your Mummy Tummy
book (you can visit Julie’s actual site at www.maternalfitness.com where she has several other books and products I know nothing about, but might be of interest).  However, even she says that a diastasis of my severity won’t be fixed with her methods (although I do see some closure when I use her exercises).  Someday I will need surgery to pull the muscles back together.

You might be wondering how to check for a diastasis.  It’s actually very easy.
1.  Lie on your back on the floor.
2.  Put your fingertips near the center of your belly (horizontally above your belly button).
3.  Curl up as if doing a crunch.
4.  Feel with your fingertips the center of your belly.  Is there a gap?  If so, how many fingerwidths is it?  Diastasis is measured in fingerwidths placed side by side.  Mine is usually somewhere between 6-8.

Julie Tupler says even a diastasis as bad as a 5 can be repaired.  Beyond that, you can only work to strengthen those muscles and consider surgery at some point.  {UPDATE:  Last time I spoke with Julie, she said an even larger DR can be repaired using the technique.}

OK, so what is the bulge you see that most people would assume is a 6 month pregnant belly?  What I am about to tell you is not for the weak-stomached…

It’s my internal organs bulging out.  There are no stomach muscles to hold them in place, so they sort of just flop out there.  Gross, I know.

Is it dangerous?  No.

Is it uncomfortable?  Sometimes.

Is it embarrassing?  Yes.

I always say I look better pregnant because at least the bulging belly doesn’t look out of place.  When I’m not pregnant I wear a brace.  Not the one Julie Tupler sells (she calls it a splint), because it isn’t wide enough (my diastasis is complete, from top to bottom).  I wear something similar to this:

diastasis recti brace from PainReliever.com
NOTE: I now own this exact brace and it is THE BEST diastasis brace I have ever found!  Read more about it HERE.

{UPDATE:  Julie sells a different splint from what she was selling when I first wrote this post.  She also now sells a different splint from the one I talk about in my Tummy Chronicles posts.  I liked the splint she sold when I was doing the Tummy Chronicles, but it did give out before the 18 weeks was up.  Her new design was meant to correct that but I have not tried it myeself.

In addition, I have also stopped wearing the PainReliever brace and now only wear a high-waisted girdle-type compression garment.  I realized I was not holding in my stomach muscles while wearing a brace or splint and that wasn’t helping me much.}

I have to choose my clothing carefully.  Jeans don’t fit well and shirts have to be long enough and loose enough to cover properly.  I don’t wear dresses because they are not tailored enough.  I try to wear shirts that have something interesting going on near my face to keep the focus off my belly.  Other than that, I just put up with the comments.

It is what it is.

OK, so how does this translate into later pregnancy?  Well, I get huge.  No, not the kind of huge the rest of you get.  I mean HUGE.  With no stomach muscles to hold in my growing uterus, it too just flops out there and I end up looking like this:

Note:  I was still 2 months from delivery!

In addition to just looking huge and miserable, I also now have to deal with babies who do not stay in place.  My last two babies have been transverse breech.  Their birth stories can be found HERE and HERE.

Because there are no stomach muscles to help the uterus stay in place, the baby can swim and flip freely even when said baby is over 10 pounds!

Recently, I found a pregnancy support garment that is comfy and pulls my muscles together.  It is from ContourMD:

It’s their strong support maternity belt and it supports the underneath side of your belly as well as helping to pull those loosey-goosey stomach muscles into a better position.  I’ve noticed my belly is considerably “rounder” when I am wearing the garment.  Plus, it is an easy-on, easy-off thing, unlike so many other strong support garments designed for pregnancy.

So, how did my diastasis get so severe and what can you do to avoid what has happened to me?

First off, I’ve never had strong stomach muscles.  This was probably inevitable.

Also, diastasis happens to some degree to all women during pregnancy and a severe diastasis can happen to you no matter how many children you’ve had or what their birth weight was.

You can follow the exercises in Lose Your Mummy Tummy, you can wear some sort of support through pregnancy, and you can be careful how you move (that is explained more in Tupler’s book as well), and once you’ve had your baby, you can get to work closing the gap.

Things not to do:
sit-ups and crunches,
carrying a car seat (the book explains this better than I can, but at all costs avoid carrying that pain-in-the-stomach car seat with baby in it!)

I’m anxious to some day have the surgery to bring my muscles back together, but until then, these are the battle wounds I bear.  I am a mother many times over…the bulging belly is worth it all!

{UPDATE:  After hearing what all the surgery entails, I really don’t think I’m up to it!  I do believe I can get “good enough” results from the Tupler Technique and my understanding is that the surgery isn’t a cure-all and the muscles can split again.}

Visit my Diastasis Recti Page!