A diastasis expert answers all of your questions!

by inspiredrd on February 4, 2013

Last June I put up a post called “Dear Diastasis Recti, I’m so over you“.  At the time, I was frustrated with my own weak core.  A result of two little bundles of joy who had previously claimed residency in my tummy.  I was determined to fix the gap between my muscles and planned to do the exercises necessary to do that.

A diastasis expert answers all of your questions!  Alysa Bajenaru interviews Wendy Powell of MuTu System on InspiredRD.com

Little did I know that,
a) there are multiple theories on the best way to fix a diastasis and strengthen your core muscles,
b) the post would eventually go viral on Pinterest and bring in over 750,000 views (so far),
c) hundreds of you would have great questions about this subject that I am not qualified to answer.

I didn’t want to leave you all hanging, and I definitely wanted to get to the bottom of this issue for my own healing, so I went to the experts. I spoke with three diastasis specialists, Julie Tupler, Helene Byrne and Wendy Powell. All three have different approaches, and I would encourage you to check them out for yourself.

A diastasis expert answers all of your questions!  Alysa Bajenaru interviews Wendy Powell of MuTu System on InspiredRD.com

Wendy Powell, creator of the MuTu System was kind enough to sit down with me and answer your diastasis questions. We did the interview over Skype as she lives in the UK.

Y’all, she is so cute. And she knows her stuff (for instance, did you know you can have a flat tummy and still have diastasis?). Take a peek at the three videos below. Watch all of them or skip to your particular question (see the outline below each video for time stamps).

If you like Wendy and want to try her program (I can’t wait to get started!), click on the link at the end of the post. She is giving 20% off to the first 50 women who sign up with the code “INSPIREDRD“.  I’ll be blogging my way through the program so I can let you know how my healing journey is going (a lot of you asked about that as well).  I will also be posting new workouts designed just for moms that tackle issues such as “Mommy Posture” and getting a great workout in before the kids wake up from nap time.  Make sure to check back or subscribe so you don’t miss more tips from Wendy and workouts from me!

Part 1

Introduction to Wendy, her credentials and background.  I talk about my personal situation and the blog post that inspired the interview.

2:45 What is diastasis recti, how does it happen and how do you know if you have it

4:45 How common is diastasis recti? Is it normal and how big a gap is normal?

6:30 Why does it matter? Apart form aesthetics and a tummy that protrudes, what are the implications of diastasis recti for the rest of your body function?  (Wendy’s answer here is particularly important as it explains the root cause of diastasis: excessive intra abdominal pressure, the lack of ‘connection’ that results in frustration for many women not seeing results form their ab exercise program.)

Part 2

What would you say to those women whose kids are not babies anymore? Is it ever too late to fix, or can you be ‘beyond hope’? (Wendy clarifies what will happen naturally in terms of closure and healing. What we can do to re-train and narrow the gap after that.)

2:00 So how do we fix it?  (Wendy reveals the vital first steps you must take in shifting whole body alignment and reversing intra abdominal pressure before any ab exercises are going to work.)

3:49 What to do continued: Why ‘sucking in your stomach’ is not engaging your core muscles, and what is.

5:42 How to engage your transverse abdominis muscle and common pitfalls

6:33 What sort of exercises are included in MuTu System programs. (Wendy explains why she doesn’t recommend hundreds of repetitions of any ab exercise, plus an explanation of her emphasis on truly functional exercise for moms.)

8:35 I agree that I wans to run and do circuits and other workouts, not just ‘engage my transverse’ exercises. Why I like the idea of whole body functional exercise, using the transverse correctly engaged instead.

9:23 What shouldn’t we do? Many women have read you can’t do crunches – why not? What about planks? (Wendy explains not only what not to do, but how to know if you shouldn’t be doing it if you’re not sure!)

10:53 When can I go back to doing those more traditional exercises? How will I know when I’m ready?  (Wendy talks crunches, how to get a flat stomach and how to test yourself and know when you’re ready to move forward. How to test for abdominal midline stability and strength as well as the width of the gap.)

Part 3

0:40 What about people who have asked about hernia? What exercises should they do? Is this a related problem?

2:10 Is there a point at which only surgery is going to fix this?

3:50 Some programs ask you to use a towel, or a binder or splint to ‘pull the muscles back together’. Should I do that? Does it help?  (Wendy discusses the key differences between MuTu System and other programs that use occasional or constant splinting.)

6:50 So I want a strong core, a strong back, I want to do lots of workouts and I want a stomach that looks good… now we’re so much better informed, where do we start? (Wendy gives a checklist of alignment tips, exercises and strategies to start putting your middle back where you want it!)

 

I hope you enjoyed the interview and feel a little more equipped to tackle this issue.  If you have more questions, visit Wendy on the MuTu System Facebook page.

Not sure if you have a separation?  Learn how to check yourself for diastasis recti with this video.

Get a free video with Wendy’s top 10 ab exercises and a free report by signing up on her website (top right corner).

The MuTu® System
Make sure to share this post with your friends and social network. Let’s get this information out to all the moms we know!

 

 

Disclosure: I was so impressed with Wendy that I decided to become an affiliate of her program.  An unintentional but exciting result of our interview!

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  • Bethany

    Thank you for the update! I got an email since I had commented on your previous post, and I sat and watched it right away. Very helpful discussion and you asked excellent questions! I really appreciate it. I am one of those with a very large separation (whole fist +) and really looking for ways to improve my core strength until I am sure I’m not having any more children. Then we’ll see where things stand as far as benefits of surgery. Thanks again.

  • http://www.theoptimumyou.weebly.com Charlene

    thanks, I’ll check this out!

  • http://www.yourfitness-411.com Lisa

    Great video! But, did I miss her exercise techniques?

    • inspiredrd

      Lisa, if you go to her website, you will find a box on the top right corner where you can enter your email and she will send you her top 10 core exercises. I will also be posting her top tips next week.

  • Tarah

    I am so excited about this! Thank you so much, I’m currently dealing with diastasis as well thanks to two huge baby boys! :)

  • krystalhubbs

    its been 8 years since i had a c-section and i had one 2 years before that. i checked for diastasis and i had a one finger gap. is that good?? do i have it?/

  • April

    I ordered it. It will be the 4th system I’ve tried. Hopefully this is the missing piece to keep it closed.

  • Kate

    Thank you thank you thank you so much for this!! Hel

  • Kate

    It helped me so much and hope I can now use this information to tackle this hole in my tummy! I have always had a hard tummy so been very hard to deal with a weak tummy and a half in half out belly button! Thanks again so much for sharing this and including me on this email list. I am so thankful for you! Hope we can all have hard tummies in time for summer :)

  • Elisabeth

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! I had 2 big babies (both c-sections) 16 months apart and developed an umbilical hernia, and diastasis, after my second. I had the hernia repaired but have been unsure about how to work on the diastasis. It’s encouraging to know I can try something that has worked for other women! :0)

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  • Sarah

    Alysa,
    I am 12 weeks post partum and crippled because of diastasis recti !This is my third pregnancy and despite all my efforts, I have gained 80 lbs each time around- there definitely is a lot of pressure pushing those muscles apart! This time, I also fell during pregnancy and dislocated my pubic bone….now my core is decimated and I am struggling to find a way back to my active lifestyle. Thank you for posting.

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  • Jill Morgan

    Thank you! This is all so helpful!

  • April

    3 kids, 3 C-sections, pre-baby weight, pooch still here! My oldest is 7 and my youngest is 2. I can’t believe I even had an umbilical hernia repair, plus saw another surgeon post checkup and yet neither one of them said a word about diastasis. I did the check last night after a friend referred me to your site and sure enough 2 1/2 finger gulley. Wow. I cannot wait to fix this and have a nice strong core again! Thank you for sharing the wisdom!

  • http://walkaschildren.blogspot.com Dawn Marie

    I am the proud momma of five beautiful blessings and after the first two, I was able to do pilates and get my core right back in place. I have been struggling after each of the last three births wondering what I was doing wrong! I couldnt understand why my core was so weak (with back pain and everything that goes with it). I had NO IDEA that this even existed! I wish I had known about this years ago! I could have saved myself so much grief and pain! Thank you!

  • http://Www.foreverfound.org Shannon

    I am mom of two :)…have multiple health issues so hard to determine what causes what sometimes, but I have diastasis and with both kids have had difficulty breathing for weeks after labor. After much testing the last week (week three postpartum) I am starting to become convinced that my remaining breathing difficulties/annoyances are from my diastasis. Anyone else ever heard of breathing trouble from diastasis?

    • Alix Davis

      I have the same problem after my births! I just had my third baby 3 weeks ago and I have dr. My midwife diagnosed it at the beginning of this pregnancy, I had no idea that it even existed! But I believe I have had it since my first baby, and yes I have trouble breathing for a day or 2 after all my births.

  • http://www.strongandpure.com Anna

    Thank you for this! I found it pinned on Pinterest and have since been sharing it with everyone because it turns out my DR was over 3 fingers wide and I had no idea! I just figured the pooch would be a post (2) c-section thing.

    3 days of working on these exercises and I can feel and see the difference (not to mention feel muscles I haven’t felt since healing from the c-sections themselves).

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!

  • Marcela

    AMAZING!! I had 3 C sections, and on my last I had my umbilical hernia repaired at the same time. I am 7 months post now and I have 3 finger DR but i have lower back pain constantly and what I HAD been researching seemed like the only thing left for me to get tummy tuck muscle repair. Totally the last thing I want to do after having 3 c secs and hating every second of the recovery. I was told Exercising can make it worse but it sounds like this is safe exercising? I am scared of making it worse, even stretching or running hurts my tummy. IS that possible with these exercises ??

    • inspiredrd

      Wendy encourages a minimum of walking while doing these rehab exercises. As you get stronger, your body will be able to do more!

  • Marcela

    Does hiking up and down my two story house 100 times a day?? I ordered Wendy’s program last night. Here we go….

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  • Shana

    This information is wonderful. I too had distasis recti and would work out often, focusing on my belly. When I ate, my belly protruded out embarrassingly. I am petite and can have a flat stomach when eating like a chicken, a peck here and a peck there, but a full meal just did me in and made me look four months pregnant again. After three kids and exercising my heart out, I opted for a tummy tuck. In my case, I am so glad I did as my gap was 3-4 inches and I had to be double stitched and they were so stretched, one round was just not enough. I wonder if I had started these exercises earlier, would my gap be so problematic. I have high hopes for everyone trying. For me, I’m glad to not live with it any more and moved on. I could never do a full sit up or half sit up as my neck would take over. Excited to be able to now. Thanks for bringing awareness to this much needed topic!

  • Bethany C.

    I was wondering why you chose Wendy Powell’s program over the other two. I’d like to choose a program for myself (I have a 2.5 finger diastasis and would like to fix it because it’s still enough to keep me from fitting comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy jeans). I’ve looked at the other programs a little, and I really like the look of Wendy’s, but to be frank, it seems like quite a lot of money. I’m not trying in any way to diminish her product or her work. I’m sure it’s worth that, but it’s a bit much for our budget, and if another program that costs less works just as well, I feel I should probably go with that one. So, all that to say, I was wondering how you came to your decision as to which program to use. Thanks!

    • inspiredrd

      Hey Bethany, I completely understand. It’s not cheap. I’ll tell you though in the first two weeks, my diastasis went from 2.5 to 2 fingers, and I keep getting stronger. There were a few reasons I went with Wendy after talking with Julie and Helene. First, I wasn’t willing to do Julie’s strict program where I had to wear a splint 24-hours a day and not do any other exercise. Second, I believe Helene and Wendy get it right when they talk about healing from the inside out. And really what separated Wendy’s program from Helene’s is that it seemed more complete to me. More holistic, and something that would provide me with a lifetime of not only healing and strength, but follow-up support. I am very happy with the program so far, and I really think Wendy has gotten it right. I hope that helps. Please know I would never promote something I didn’t believe in. Just like everyone else, I am trying to heal and get strong, and I believe in the MuTu system to do that. Hope that helps!!

      • Bethany C.

        Thanks so much for your thoughts. That does help. I appreciate your perspective, especially since you talked with all three experts. I’m going to look into it a little more and talk it over with my husband and hopefully get on the path to healing as well! Best wishes to you.

  • http://www.kumquatblog.com gretchen

    so excited to discover this on your site! need to work on diastasis and minor umbilical hernia post-baby girl! thanks, alysa! xo

  • Sarah Huss

    I too just reviewed Wendy’s website. I’m also slightly discouraged by the price. I am also concerned because I have about a 4 finger gap in my abdominals and I am about 30lbs overweight. I really want to heal myself naturally without surgery. I have had two c-sections and the thought of a tummy tuck really freaks me out. However, I still look like I’m pregnant and my skin sags. My point is that I am desperate, but don’t want to make any decisions on impulse. Being that I have a four finger gap, along with everything else I mentioned, do you feel that this program can help me?

  • Jenni

    I just found this blog via pinterest and found it very interesting! My daughter was born last July and I still find myself with diastasis. The gap is only about a finger width, but it hasn’t improved in the last 3-4 months at all. I know it’s affecting my body still because my lower back is often very sore. With such a small gap, what sort of improvement timeline can I hope for? I know it said no crunches for a 1+ gap but I was doing some crunches about 2 months ago (before I realized the gap was still there) and I wonder if that has halted my healing?

  • http://pintrese Elizebeth

    OMG im so excited that I have found this and im going to start today .im a mommy of 5 boys and I want my body back , my youngest is 9 is it still possible to tone my 2 fingure separation s
    After 9 years , and get my buldge gone ? And how long does it take?

  • Lovinglife

    I have had 4 C-sections and the last one was done a little less than 3 years ago.
    I have been to a physical therapist through the hospital who told me that I couldn’t close my gap on my own and therefor sent me to see a DR.
    The Dr sent me to a specialist who looked at me and said that the gap was too small to justify such a major surgery.
    She said I have a 4 fingers wide gap between my top muscles but “only” a 2 fingers wide gap between my inner muscles. I’m confused…
    If my “inner” muscles (core muscles) are about 2 fingers wide and my outer muscles are 4, doesn’t the top gap count?
    I excercise pretty hard and it is VERY frustrating that I can’t do crunches etc.
    It puts a damper on my whole workout routine + my posture is terrible and I get tired easily (can’t stand for long).
    Can I close both gaps without surgery? Can I do crunches, the plank etc if I have the gaps I have? Is my core gap the only gap that counts?
    Thanks

  • Sue

    Could this come from an abdominal surgery (hysterectomy)? I have three children, the youngest being 9 years old, all three were large babies ranging from 8 lbs 3 oz to 9 lb 12 oz, all vaginal births. I had a hysterectomy three years ago due to a large fibroid too large to be removed vaginally, and the incision location is still numb. I have wondered if the connection (or lack thereof) Wendy spoke about, from the brain to the muscle, is the problem (if I can’t feel the muscle, how can I work it?). I’m tall and small-framed; my weight is in the normal range, but I do have issues with urinary incontinence (i.e. I cannot run anymore or there will be a leak) and I am wondering how much of that is related to the diastasis. I’m so glad I found this! Thanks for your research and for posting this information!

    • Jen

      Hi Sue,

      I am a Physical Therapist and what it sounds like you are experiencing is a weakened and/or tight pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor muscles cannot contract well (from being too tight or too weak), things that increase intra-abdominal pressure, such as running, put stress on the pelvic floor and they cannot work to close off the urethra very well, hence the leaking. Your pelvic floor muscles can be re-trained and strengthened with the correct exercises. I’m not sure what exercises Wendy does in the MuTu system (they may be great), but I would encourage you to seek out a Pelvic Floor Physio in your area and get some help! Good luck!

      • trish

        hi jen,

        thank you for offering this info. it’s good to hear from a physical therapist on related issues. i apologize in advance that this comment will be long. my questions are short but my explanantion is lengthy to anticipate any questions you might have, because i know the answer is so often “it depends.”

        *you mentioned that tight pelvic floor muscles can be a problem, too. my midwife praises my strong pelvic floor and says you’d never know i had a baby. i had no trouble with delivery (no tearing) and recovery was a cinch. i did not have incontinence throughout my pregnancy or after, even with running several miles a couple times a week, right up to my due date.
        BUT
        sex is very painful (before and after baby). it’s as if my husband just won’t fit upon initial penetration. once we work our way into it, it’s okay for me, but it burns after. is this a symptom of a tight pelvic floor that can be fixed with therapy? have you heard of hypertonic pelvic floor or myofascial release?

        secondary question:
        my son is 14 months, now, and we’d like to have another baby. i’d like to minimize the damage to my healing diastasis (it’s down to 1 finger width and very shallow) and so i’m trying to pinpoint what might’ve caused it the first time.

        *you said that running increases intra-abdominal pressure, and i ran often (with a support belt) throughout my previous pregnancy. do you think this caused or contributed to my diastasis? i had assumed it was something i did at the gym, even though i stopped doing crunches when pregnant and was more cautious with other exercises. (i am a small person and gained only 25 pounds during pregnancy, but i definitely had the split before
        delivery.)

        If you read this, THANK YOU!

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  • Dana

    Hi there Alysa! Not sure if you are still checking/replying to this post but hopefully you are. I came across your blog on Pinterest and have already learned so much, thank you for sharing such great info. I am have two kids (2.5 & 5 mo) and definitely have DR (2 finger gap). Just trying to figure out how to fix it but so much conflicting info. I’ve read and watched your interview with W. Powell and am wondering how you are doing with the program? Is it working? Do you need any equipment? What kind of time commitment does it take? Hoping this may be what I need but want to make sure before I invest the $$$:) thank you!!

    • http://diastasisrectified.wordpress.com Emily

      Hi Dana,

      I have been doing Mutu and am blogging my progress (with bare tummy pictures! eek), so feel free to check in with me as I see how it goes.

      To answer your questions:

      I am still on the week 1 exercises, even though I’m a few weeks in, because I can’t do the week 2 exercises yet. I had a 3+ finger diastasis that is very deep. However, I am feeling stronger and have seen some decrease in the width (although I’m with Wendy in trying not to stress about numbers!). You do need equipment like a midsize exercise ball, a half foam roller, a theraband, and some other things. Wendy does mention alternatives that are free where possible. The first week takes 6 minutes a day, the second week is 6 minutes a day + 10-15 more minutes 4 times that week. I’m not sure past that because I haven’t gotten there, but I think it never exceeds 30 minutes.

      FYI I have *not* signed up for her affiliate program at this point, so I’m in no way incentivized to push Mutu. I’m just the mom of a 5mo looking for some support and encouragement to see this thing through and get my strength back!

  • jeanne

    Thank you, I did’t understand why when I tried to strengthen my stomach muscles it made my lower back go out! Going to study and try to fix this!

  • Ladyv

    I am late to this discussion, I only just discovered this article, but just wondering if the sheet of exercises you posted in the original post on this topic are still relevant/recommended? Thanks!

    • http://inspiredrd.com InspiredRD

      Actually there are a few on there that are not recommended. Have you seen my more recent posts? I am actually doing a new post on Friday that will have 5 exercises to heal diastasis.

      The original post brought on so many questions that I consulted with multiple experts and have decided to recommend the MuTu-based exercises because they are the safest and most effective.

      Check back on Friday! :)

      • http://okieolio.com/ trish

        i wish straightforward diastasis recti info was more widely known! thank you for doing the homework and spreading the word!!

        are you saying that you found in your research that julie tupler’s exercises can be harmful to recovery? i have been doing the tupler method for several months (as well as simply being more aware of engaging my core throughout my daily activities) and have seen some improvement. but now reading your article and comments i am worried that i should stop those exercises (contractions, head lifts, etc), because none of them are included in the 5 exercises you (and Wendy) recommend in the post you mention above. some other online sources i’ve looked at say that the heel slides and stretching are not great. it’s so confusing…grrr

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  • Angela duffey

    Ok I java an issue I have 5children in 15 years and I resently went to a doc about it and he said that my case was bad that I would need surgery to fix it I have been working out like crazy now for almost a year but my mom tummy won’t go anywhear do u think thes excerises will help I am going to try this for 6 months hopefully it works
    Sincearly frustrated

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