So there is this thing I started hearing about before I got pregnant. I specifically heard about it while listening to a CrossFit podcast. It has a sinister-sounding name, and it's hard to spell: diastasis recti. So when you get pregnant, doesn't it seem like you should keep working your core, to ensure it's strong when baby comes? Um, actually not! The reason why you shouldn't is because of diastisis recti, a condition that happens to many pregnant women. When you're pregnant your abs separate, and then after the baby comes out, it's all supposed to magically come back together again, but a lot of times it doesn't, and women (some men get this from bad form during weightlifting and yo-yo dieting) are left with this “mom pouch.” I really don't want that!
I've never been known for my abs, there has always been some cushion down there, but I really don't want them to get worse, you know? And so like the crazy person I am, I have read a lot about how to prevent diastasis recti (though, truth be told, sometimes it's just gonna happen). First off, when you hit your second trimester (weeks 13) stop working your abs. Just stop it. That's the general consensus I've read. The reason being is that working your abs (planks, sit-ups, anything that stretches those muscles) makes the problem even worse because it's putting undue pressure on those muscles, when they are working hard holding the baby! The best thing to do is to get a belly support band, and work on your core in other ways, like doing squats, or angled push-ups, standing planks, side planks. Basically you want to avoid twisting or movements that will cause your belly bump to “cone.” I'll let you all know if I suffer from ab separation at all, for now I stopped doing sit-ups and most core work, while continuing to do most other exercises.
So…when you get pregnant, you'll get a lot of unsolicited advice from everyone: strangers, friends, family members. And the thing that I kept hearing when I first announced my pregnancy was this “don't lift anything” bullshit. It stuns me that there is so little known about the female body (from pregnancy to menstruation) that people still believe you can have a miscarriage from lifting weights. The majority of miscarriages happen because of chromosomal issues (read: it's not in your control) and if you were active before pregnancy, there is no reason to stop. I got clearance from my doctor, but people still give me that bogus advice. I also follow a lot of pregnant weight lifters/CrossFit athletes on Instagram, and inevitably they post every now and again that they are going to block people who give them medical advice in the form of “what the heck are you doing lifting like that you're going to harm your baby!” As if these women are not under the guidance of professional medical care. As if!
One of the things I did give up when I became pregnant was my weekly long run. Mainly because I fell one time while running (well before I was pregnant) and I really don't want that to happen while the little guy is in there. I've replaced running with long walks (I try to do about 10K steps three times a week in addition to my workouts). It's become a huge cornerstone to my mental health/feeling happy/keeping my anxiety low. And…I've come to find out that it's one of the best things I could do to prep for delivery! In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, walking will open up and keep my hips flexible for when this little guy comes out in about five months. I love how I intuitively moved toward this form of exercise, without fully understanding all the benefits.
Finally: incontinence. It's come up a bit with friends. Basically me asking if they pee their pants since having babies. I've noticed some pressure on my bladder already (with the baby getting bigger) and I notice it when doing certain moves at the gym, like jumping rope. Delivery does a lot of things to your body, including destabilizing the muscles of your pelvic floor. I've read a lot about doing Kegels (squeezing and releasing your pee muscles) to offset this. I found an app that I really like, and do it while sitting (mostly in bed, hubby has asked me a few times what I'm doing and I told him I'm strengthening my muscles so I don't pee after I deliver the baby – you shoulda seen his face haha). Anyways, it's one other thing I'm working on in addition to slathering my body with Bio Oil to prevent stretch marks (which, truth be told, are determined mostly by genetics) and trying to prevent diastastis recti (which sometimes can't be prevented).
Is this all an exercise in futility?
I'll let you know in 5 months!