Embracing Your Postpartum Body

New motherhood gives you little time to adapt to your postpartum body. Here are 5 frequent questions and real answers to help you understand and embrace it like never before.

1. What is diastasis recti, and how can I resolve it?

Embracing Your Postpartum Body. Every Mother. Diastasis recti drawing.

Source: Nick Sousanis/Courtesy of Every Mother

Diastasis recti is a musculoskeletal injury caused by outward pressure on the abdominal wall, which contributes to back pain, incontinence, pelvic dysfunction, and prolapse. A majority of childbearing women (over 60%) experience some degree of diastasis recti, also known as abdominal wall separation, postpartum as a result of even a first, singleton pregnancy! It can be a challenge for many women when it comes to their postpartum body.

The good news is, we have published medical evidence that it’s possible to resolve diastasis recti and restore core strength and function with therapeutic core training. 

Hint: It doesn’t include crunches.

Diastasis recti does not resolve spontaneously on its own and can linger for years—or even decades—without intervention. And while increasing core strength postpartum is important, many of the core exercises thought to restore core strength and function worsen or even induce the condition. 

Forget sit-ups, crunches, and bicycle crunches – in fact, skip any exercise that bulges your abs forward. 

The key to resolving abdominal wall separation and restoring your postpartum body is a comprehensive exercise program based on correct activation of the transverse abdominis, your natural corset. One that teaches healthy alignment, posture, breathing, and the functional movement habits to avoid re-injury. And EMbody Reclaim, our signature program profiled by NPR, does just that! It’s the only clinically proven program to resolve abdominal wall separation. In fact, Weill Cornell found that 100% of women who followed our program as part of a study achieved full resolution of diastasis recti

Learn more about diastasis recti in our Diastasis Recti 101: Everything You Need to Know guide. 

2. How can I resolve pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum? Are Kegels the answer to eliminating incontinence, enjoying sex, and renewed pelvic health?

Yes, you can enjoy great sex after birth. And no, you don’t have to fear an embarrassing dribble the next time you laugh, sneeze, or cough at an inopportune moment (aka urinary incontinence). You can resolve these pelvic floor dysfunctions because the hammock of pelvic floor muscles that stretched and expanded during pregnancy and childbirth are remarkably resilient. Everything ‘down there’ really will return to normal – but not without a little effort.

My advice for a majority of postpartum women, do some Kegels! Those deep core exercises are key to restoring strength and tone in the overstretched pelvic muscles, will help you regain bladder control, and enjoy sex again after pregnancy. Most postpartum women would also benefit from incorporating Kegels into their daily Core Compressions – learn more about Core Compressions and Kegels (you’re not alone if you don’t know what these are) in our Intro to Core Compressions video. And because there is more to a healthy pelvic floor than just Kegels, incorporate squats, lunges, stretches, back extensions, and other movements to provide a balanced, global approach to pelvic floor health, and to give some support to your postpartum body.

For women who suffer from chronically overactive pelvic floor muscles – symptoms include chronic constipation, tailbone pain, and pain during intercourse, you are better off skipping Kegels entirely. If unsure where you are on the spectrum, see a pelvic floor physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction.  

To learn more about the pelvic floor, check out pelvic floor physical therapist, Rachel Gelman, DPT’s guide to pelvic health, and postpartum recovery

3. How do I get rid of postpartum hemorrhoids?

Ouch! They hurt. They’re embarrassing. Many women won’t mention hemorrhoids to their doctor, partner, or closest friend. The truth is, hemorrhoids are really common during and after pregnancy, and they can linger for a very, very long time… But don’t despair! A few easy changes in your bathroom habits can alleviate the stress of bowel movements (constipated or not), and allow your body to heal. Simply prop your feet on a step stool or wastebasket, lean forward, and gently pulse the belly up and in as you exhale. 

With a little patience and relaxation, the bowel movement will happen without straining. Never bear down! Read this article for more in-depth guidance.

4. Why can’t I lose the pregnancy weight to restore my postpartum body?

Since becoming a mother, your metabolism has fundamentally changed. Learn how to navigate this new terrain to feel and look your best with your postpartum body!

It goes without saying that women experience a surge of hormones during pregnancy. One effect of pregnancy hormones is weight gain and fat storage – a positive sign of a healthy pregnancy! However, sometimes hormones remain elevated after the pregnancy is long gone, and this hormonal context can make it a challenge to resume a healthy weight with your postpartum body.

If you’re struggling with postpartum weight loss, the most important change you can make is to reduce carbohydrates in your diet. But how does this look? What do you eat instead?

Read our guide to Embody Healthy Eating and 13 Superfoods for Fertility, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding, to learn more about how to deeply nourish your body and support hormonal balance with real food (no counting, measuring, or obsessing).

5. How can I improve my C-section scar?

Embracing Your Postpartum Body. Every Mother. C-section scar.
scar from a c-section birth on a white background.

Recovering from a surgical birth poses unique challenges, and a lingering “muffin top” is among the chief complaints when it comes to the postpartum body. The good news is that you can eliminate scar adhesions, the underlying cause of puckering, with daily scar tissue massage. This is especially effective when combined with moist heat (a shower, bath, or heating pad) and castor oil. Even if you underwent a C-section decades ago, consistent massage will gradually and effectively release scar tissue adhesions to free you of both pain and puckering.

Learn more about postpartum scars and scar tissue massage with this guide by pelvic floor physical therapist Jordan Mrosewske, PT, DPT. 

As a mother, you have given—and continue to give—so much to your children. With all the wonder and excitement, it can be challenging to find time to strengthen and adapt to your new body. To feel good in it again. And even embrace it like never before. The good news: you don’t need to look far. You already have the strength you need inside of you. You demonstrate it every day! So pause for a moment each day to give back to yourself, and to nurture your own amazing, life-giving body.

By Leah Keller, founder of the EMbody Program.

Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration—of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. 

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