Moms, we Need to Talk about Diastisis Recti

It’s been seven years, three months and twenty two days since I gave birth to my first baby, and I am still recovering.

A few minutes after my gorgeous, 9lb 8oz baby girl made her appearance into the world, I had what’s classed as a ‘major' postpartum haemorrhage.  Within a matter of seconds, half of my blood volume had launched its way across the delivery room and a team of medics were working on me whilst intermittently muttering the words: “stay with us, Louise.”

I needed hormones intravenously to force my uterus to contract and stop the bleed, but I’d lost too much blood far too fast, which had caused my veins to collapse.

Several nurses repeatedly pricked all the way up my hands and forearms, trying to get a line in, all the while a consultant OBGYN was carrying out the procedure that helped save my life.

The procedure he was forced to do is called bimanual uterine compressions and essentially consists of contracting the uterus manually, with one hand pushed against the body of the uterus and the other hand compressing the womb from above, through the abdominal wall.

Seven years later, the pain of those compressions is still palpable.  Yet emotionally, I feel at peace.

It is the physical scars that burden me now.

You see, I was left with an eight-finger diastisis recti.  That means that my abdominal muscles were separated by a width of eight fingers.  I only found this out when my daughter was two and I slipped a disk in my spine, due to having an exceptionally weak core (go figure). Before this point, I hadn’t even heard of a diastisis, let alone knew I was a poster girl for the condition.

Yet moms with uncomplicated birthing stories can also suffer from a diastisis…my eight finger separation is pretty extreme, but smaller gaps are very common, with 98% of new moms thought to be affected.

After three further slipped disks, three rounds of physical therapy, lots of yoga, two online diastisis recti recovery programs, another baby and a small separation is now stuck at a stubborn three finger gap.

So why am I writing about this?  What’s the big deal, right?  I have a weak core but I’m still alive after all.  Shouldn’t I be thankful and quit moaning?

Of course I am thankful - beyond measure - to still be here, but coming to peace with such a traumatic birth has finally enabled me to allow brutal honesty to creep in alongside the gratitude.

And honestly, right now I am thankful AND disappointed.  I’m disappointed that nobody thought to check for a diastisis after I’d given birth.  I’m disappointed that postpartum physiotherapy isn’t a standard service offered to all mothers, regardless of location or economic status.  I’m disappointed that something so apparent and significant as an EIGHT finger separation on a 125lb, 5,9" frame can go completely unchecked and undiagnosed until it causes a ripple effect of other issues.

As a society, we have a long way to go in terms of postpartum care.  Women enter motherhood with the expectation that they will morph into Mary Poppins straight after delivering their baby, all whilst slipping seamlessly back into their skinny jeans and wearing nothing other than a perma-smile of endless gratitude.

Moms, we’re allowed to be grateful AND pissed off.  Experiencing contradictory feelings simultaneously is what bridges the big stuff with the small stuff…being human is a messy and complicated thing.

So if you find yourself reading this and nodding along, I salute you, mama.  And if you do just one thing for yourself today, maybe check yourself for a diastisis recti, as per the steps below:

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
2. Place your fingers on your belly button, with your palm against your skin
3. Lift your head and neck slightly off the floor.  If you feel a gap open up beneath your fingers that's wider than a width of two fingers, this is a diastisis.

Because the first step towards recovery is diagnosis.

Much love, strength and healing to you,


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