How healthy is the Dad Bod?

The Dad Bod

The ‘Dad Bod’; the Internet is abuzz about it.

Apparently the term has been used by teenagers for  years, but only last month entered mainstream usage. This was a result of student, Mackenzie Pearson, in Clemson University,  writing for her college website an article ‘Why Girls Love The Dad Bod’ 

Essentially Pearson writes the ‘Dad Bod’ is not about having a chiselled six pack but rather a figure that says:

‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily at weekends and enjoy eating right slices of pizza at a time’

So should we be celebrating this body type?

In her article Pearson dwells very much on the pros of the aesthetics of this figure type.

As a women and a wife I’m going to keep my opinions about this between me and my Mr Dad with a Bod; who incidentally does not like the term.

As a doctor I’m not interested in appearances but rather what a body type might mean for an individual’s health.

Pearson goes onto say in a later interview that the man with the ‘Dad Bod’ just looks like your average healthy guy


A healthy looking Guy?

Defining health is complex, so I’ll content myself with using the current definition from the World Health Organisation:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

How does this fit with the ‘Dad Bod’?

In my reading, no-one has said it explicitly, but part of the appeal of this figure is that it appears to belong to someone who has a good balance between these three aspects of health; the physical, social and emotional.

To paraphrase Peasrson, the man with a ‘Dad Bod’ looks as if he cares for his physical health by exercising at least occasionally; emotionally, he’s not that hung up on his appearance or adhering to a strict ‘health regime’ and he looks as if he has a fun social life.

I am definitely an advocate for health encompassing these three important domains.

However, Mr ‘Dad Bod’  I can’t really tell much about your health by your appearance. How you look does not tell me anything about your emotions or social life. I have no idea if you have a good body image, just because you have an average build. Just as I cannot guess how much you enjoy pizza. Or alcohol for that matter.


In fact I cannot even make the assumption that you are physically healthy from your body type.

I might be able to make a rough gauge of your body mass index by looking at you, but that is about it.

Body mass index is a calculation of weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared. A healthy body mass index is generally between 18.5-25.


So Mr ‘Dad Bod’ even if I assume you conform to the outlined definition of your physique what might this mean for your health? 

Well I’m all for you eating the occasional pizza if it’s good for your emotional and social wellbeing but be careful to keep an eye on your BMI especially when you reach for that seventh or eighth slice.

Then Mr ‘Dad Bod’ I’d like to know how much you actually drink; the Royal College of Physicians recommends no more than 21 units per week for men, with 2-3 alcohol free days to recover after drinking.

I’m afraid according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre Statistics from 2014, among men who had drunk alcohol in the preceding week, 55% drunk more than the recommended daily amount.

So if you ‘drink heavily’ on the weekends I suspect you may be over doing it. You are not advised to regularly drink more than 3-4 units per day.


Then there’s your exercise. How much does ‘going to the gym occasionally’ really mean? As an 19-64 year old guy you should be doing at least 2 hours 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week, in addition to twice weekly muscle strengthening activities.


Perhaps I am taking Mr ‘Dad Bod’ a little too seriously, after all as I suggested earlier he doesn’t really exist.

At work I am taught to use visual clues to about a person’s health right from the start of an examination. But in real life we can sometimes make assumptions based on physical appearance all too easily.

Essentially it is unhelpful to label a person according to physique. We are all individuals.

So the current internet obsession with the ‘Dad Bod’ may have given a few men the confidence to strut their bodies via Instagram. A bit of fun and a bit of body positivity is a good thing.

But ultimately, despite Person’s summary description, we cannot rely on this to tell anything useful about an individual’s emotional, social or physical wellbeing.

The outward appearance a ‘Dad Bod’ or any other physique does not actually tell me anything that really matters to me; either professionally about their health, or personally about the man behind the bod.

The Twinkle Diaries
Fitness 4 Mamas

 Approach to exercise: 8 lessons from a determined toddler

My baby has just turned 11 months. Watching him on his determined quest to walk has reminded me of some important considerations about the way we approach exercise as adults.

His determination and dedication are inspirational. Goal setting and risk assessment require a little work.

Here are 4 things he has reminded me about physical fitness:

1. Find something that generates enthusiasm:

He just loves to walk. It might be hard work but he will practice at every opportunity. This is true about my approach to fitness too. I love to run so enthusiasm is a major motivating factor. I quite enjoy Pilates but primarily do it because it’s good for me. Both reasons are motivating factors, but I spend much more time running. Finding an activity that makes you enthusiastic will help you prioritise it when time is pressured.

2. Fit it into your everyday life:

Walking is one of the easiest exercises to fit into everyday life. Well, perhaps not for a wannabe toddler, but it is once you’ve mastered it as an adult. The NHS advices 2 hours 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week (for adults aged 18-64). Fast walking counts as aerobic activity. I particularly like the advice that to gauge if you’re working hard enough you should be able to talk but not sing a song… I’ll rember that next time Sunflower requests a reduction of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ while I’m pushing the pushchair.

I digress. My newbie toddler has beautifully demonstrated how to fit his chosen exercise into everyday life. He walks as soon as he is awake in his cot. He potters around the furniture. In the bath. In his cot again at night (I definitely don’t advocate getting up at 3am in order to demonstrate your commitment to exercise). On a more sensible note whether it is walking, gardening, workouts with your baby or planks in the living room, choosing something that fits with your daily routine is helpful when life is busy.

3. Fun triumps over style:

His wobby gait would not win him any awards for elegance. But does he care? He has so much fun with his delighted totter. I suppose this part of the message of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. It doesn’t matter what we look like during a workout, having fun is the key.

4. Get help from others:

He will grab the hand of any passerby. He can toddle between bits of furniture but it’s so much more fun to drag someone with him. I’ve recently rejoined my running group, after an 18-month baby-related absence. I enjoy the sociability and find the group setting incredibly motivating.

Now much as my 11 month old is a genius for imparting all this wisdom about exercise. Here are a few points he might need to work on: 

1. Set yourself achievable goals:

Yes darling, I know you might very badly want to climb into the bath by yourself. No matter how often you try it isn’t going to happen. Wait until you’re a little older. This currently applies to me. One day I’d love to run a marathon. Right now I couldn’t do it. Just as he clings tenaciously to the hope of getting into the bath unaided (a goal that he will achieve in time). I too believe I will run a marathon. In the meantime we both need more appropriate short term goals.

2. Make sure you get some rest:

Again to reiterate point 2 above; If like my gorgeous boy you’re getting up at 3am to workout, stop it. Relax a little. Rest and kindness to your body are helpful too.

3. Mix it up a little:

After my 40th circuit round the living room with him I quite fancy a change of scenery. Or adult company. Or failing that just a cup of coffee. Whilst it is admirable to work conscientiously towards a goal, variety is important too. Ideally adults should be doing muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days a week in addition to aerobic exercise.

4. Try to learn from mistakes:

I admire his persistence. It is an important trait to achieving exercise related goals. However, my little one, you have now bumped your head ten times on the edge of that table. Improve your co-ordination then try again. Similarly, I have tried multiple times to complete the dreaded Pilates ‘teaser’. I’ve put my attempts to one side for now. I need to work more on my core strength, co-ordination and balence. If a goal is out of reach, try to find a new way of approaching it, or work on some different skills.

So there you are 8 fitness related lessons from my determind toddler. 

He is so delighted by this new adventure I can’t help but share some of his enthusiasm. In fact I would quite like to apply a toddler’s infectious zest for learning and taking on new challenges to all aspects of life. 

However whilst I love and admire his enthusiastic totter, right now it would be a little more restful if he sat down occasionally. So when I’m not waxing lyrical about my inspiring boy you will find me in the kitchen sneaking a coffee after his morning living room circuits.

As always I do enjoy reading your comments. Have you found any unusual sources of fitness inspiration?

The Twinkle Diaries
Mums' Days
Fitness 4 Mamas
Fitness Friday

Celebrating imperfect cupcakes

I do enjoy pretty pictures of the delicious food. Creations that I imagine conjuring up in my kitchen and feeding to my enthusiastic family; at our perfectly set dinner table; in the spotless kitchen.

It doesn’t always work like that though. Sometimes frequently I create imperfect food. Often my family, particularly the younger members have varying degrees of enthusiasm. Always I create mess.

And you know what, I don’t really think it matters. (Well I suppose the mess matters a little when it’s 9pm and I still need to finish the cleaning)

What matters is that I really enjoy baking and cooking, especially when I can involve Sunflower, my almost 3-year old girl. Have a look here at the fun we had creating these chocolate cakes. I try to cook nutritious food, but balance this with occasional treats. To me the imperfect finished product; the flour dropped all over the floor is less important than her delight at joining me in the kitchen and my efforts to provide a balanced diet. Sometimes we do even manage to create a delicious treat such as these amazing carrot&coconut cake pops.

Today we attempted a healthy courgette cupcake made without butter, oil or refined sugar.


  • Wholemeal flour
  • Ground Almonds
  • Honey
  • Raisins
  • Courgettes
  • Cream cheese
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaked Almonds

They weren’t perfect. To be precise they were tasty but a bit squidgy. Annoyingly they didn’t peel well out of the wrapper.

But I am still going to celebrate their creation:

  • Sunflower and I shared a special time together.
  • She is now excited to eat courgettes.
  • Mr R ate 4 of them – they must have been at least edible.
  • My intentions – to create a healthy(ish) treat were good.

There are many factors that make cooking with a pre-schooler more complicated. (Just like my previous post about complicating factors when trying to exercise as a parent)

Complications when cooking with a pre-schooler:

  • The mess. Oh the mess. That’s all I have to say.
  • The repeated hand-washing, hand licking, hand washing cycle
  • The laborious need to stir everything
  • The time consumption involved in allowing a small person to spoon mixture into paper cases.
  • The need to drag steps everywhere around the kitchen to satisfy curiosity at each cooking stage.

For me it’s worth overcoming these complicating factors when Sunflower takes delight in the activity. I always feel better when I know that I have done something beneficial or enjoyable for her, even if there may have been other easier, less messy, options.

I think the same applies to exercise and physical activity. As a parent there are complicating factors, but there are definite benefits to being physically active. I usually find my body appreciates it when I do make an effort.

Of course like my cupcakes, the outcome of my exertions are not perfect. Today I ran another 5k Parkrun. I am still a couple of minutes slower than my personal best.

But it doesn’t really matter if my cupcakes are squidgy; my running slower than it was. I will aim to celebrate the imperfect outcomes and try to enjoy the process whatever the complications.

So here’s to squidgy cupcakes, messy kitchens, and relaxed running! I hope you all have fun this week and celebrate your endeavours regardless of the outcome.

30 second summary: Today I made squidgy cupcakes. I am still running more slowly than pre-baby. I am going to celebrate my imperfect achievements regardless.

What do you think? Is it ok to celebrate an imperfect outcome? Is it adequate to have fun and good intentions?


Mami 2 Five

Barriers to exercise for parents

Barriers to exercise

I’ve been reflecting on barriers to exercise and fitness as a new(ish) parent.

This is a topic of importance to me personally. Well it is important to me now.

I was told in the early haze of (second time) parenthood I needed to exercise for ten minutes a day.  I knew then in my head it was important; My poor tummy muscles, objecting to even the teensiest bit of stress, knew it was important; but my heart, and hands, were too full of my brand new baby boy.

I was so lucky to have sufficient support from professionals, family and friends to achieve this tiny, but also challenging goal.

There are many potential barriers to exercise as a parent.

I am not advocating rushing back to the gym in the early days as a parent. Far from it. Conventional advice I received was to avoid high impact exercise such as running for at least 3 months after childbirth. Many women like myself with pelvic floor weakness may even be advised to take it easy for 6 months.

But what about those like me who need to do something early to re-establish core strength; Or those that enjoy the social, as well as the physical benefits, of exercise; what about later on… Being a parent lasts a long time.

These are some of the barriers to exercise I have encountered as a parent. Perhaps you have also experienced others?

1. Time: It can just be so busy. Juggling children, domestic duties, work and sleep. Exercise and fitness may not be a priority for precious adult time. Sometimes this is quite appropriate; time for emotional wellbeing is also vital.


2. Energy: It is tiring physically and sometimes emotionally exhausting as a parent, particularly if sleep is disrupted. Fortunately running after toddlers, lifting and carrying babies, walking with pushchairs and generally being physically active is in itself good for physical wellbeing. Personally I still feel a greater benefit from also having adult time to exercise. I also find I tend to gain energy from exercise in this way, even when my energy resources are low.


3. Motivation: I’ve been struggling to write about motivation for weeks now. Not because I lack motivation but because I know how hard it can be to find. I don’t want sound patronising or as if I have all the answers. I often rely on the inspiration of others to help motivate me.

4. Confidence: I think this particularly applies to women after having children. Our bodies undergo immense changes. They don’t necessarily look the same and they may not respond in the someway to physical stress. I can’t be the only one worrying about exercising whilst breastfeeding or about the consequences of pelvic floor weakness whilst running (that means potentially leaking a little wee).

5. Childcare: Definitely a practical issue for many parents. There are some classes to which you can bring children also some gyms with crèche facilities. Knowing what’s on where can be a challenge too.


6. Knowledge: Following on from the point above, I often rely on friends to recommend groups and classes.

7. Guilt: Although finding motivation and time for fitness is difficult, sometimes justifying adult time for our own priorities is almost as hard.


I felt a little deflated after writing this list. I don’t just want to write about the barriers to exercise as a parent without being able to offer some kind of solution.

I alone don’t have all the answers and nether does this blog. However, I believe that many of these barriers can be overcome by parents. Particularly when they are not trying to overcome these barriers in isolation.

So I’ve created a Facebook group for parents to share motivation and ideas. I hope Mums and Dads might use it to share their knowledge of local exercise classes suitable for kids and parents; to motivate each other; to help others improve confidence and to perhaps share and achieve goals together.


Here is a link to the group. I hope it might help a few of us over come some of these barriers to exercise.

Ten Minutes Spare – Families and Fitness

Please do come and join in if you think it may be useful to you. I’m sure that you will be able to inform, inspire or motivate someone else.

30 Second Summary: It can be tough to exercise or maintain fitness as a parent. I hope that this new group might help overcome a few of these barriers.

What have been the biggest challenges to looking after your physical health as a parent? Have you any tips for overcoming them?

I’m linking up with these great blogs:

Mami 2 Five
Fitness 4 Mamas

Running with gratitude

Running with gratitude (the slightly less cool version of running with attitude)

The exhilaration of a bit of time to myself is matched by the wonderful feeling of freedom running along the beautiful Northumberland coast.

But on some days I’m exhausted. Emotionally and physically. There can’t be many jobs that require you to walk around doubled over, both hands occupied by a small want-to-be-toddler. Simultaneously dealing with the capricious whims of 2-year-old want-to-be (insert interchangeably dancer, doctor, shop keeper, member of Peppa pig) Parenting is amusing, beautiful and ever-changing, but relaxing it is not.

Some days getting out the house to soft play is a 45-minute ordeal. Getting my trainers on at the end of Mummy duty (or rather the evening break before night shift starts) requires a little effort.

But then I remember. I am so lucky to be able to run.

To do this thing that I love, that is also good for my body physically and good for my mind emotionally (I’m still talking about running, tsk no smut here.)

I’m so grateful because after the birth of Pumpkin I wasn’t sure I would run again.

Two weeks after the birth of my gorgeous, and hefty 9 pound 2 baby boy, I discovered I had a third degree uterine prolapse.

As a medical professional I was fairly sure of the diagnosis even before it was confirmed by my GP. I knew that it could potentially result in bothersome but ultimately not serious symptoms.

As a women I cried a little. I quite liked my organs where they were. Most of all I cried because I was worried I would never run with freedom again.

Running has always been part of my life. I would not consider myself a serious runner. I usually ran alone for enjoyment rather than competition. However, the thought of not being able to run without risking further damage to my pelvic floor was difficult.

Of course I like to think if running wasn’t to be I would have coped graciously. Loss of running pales into insignificance in comparison to many of the things I see at work.

But I was lucky.

My prolapse dramatically improved and by the time I attended for my 6 week postpartum check it had almost fully resolved.

So when I lose motivation or when I’m tired at the end of the day sometimes I curl up on the sofa and enjoy precious time with my husband.

Even on those nights. I know how lucky I am. That at any time I can put on my trainers and go out for a run. The freedom that could have been taken away from me is a constant motivation to go out and exercise.

Of course I am also human. Some days when I run I am tired, achy and disinterested. But mostly these days I run with gratitude.

How do you feel about exercise? Is it a chore when you are too busy or is it something to look forward to as a bit of an escape and time for yourself?

Please note this is not a formal review of evidence about running with prolapse. I will be writing more on this topic later. This post was primarily focussing on my emotions.  I hope some of the following might be of interest if you are concerned about running and prolapse. 

Running in Lavender

Brilliant blog posts on

Fitness 4 Mamas

Cooled cake with coconut oil contains less calories

Researchers find a special method for preparing cake to reduce calorie content!


The line above is my wishful thinking headline. Substitute rice for cake and we have a genuine story published on the BBC health website.

cooked rice

Did anyone else read this fascinating article? The health editor at the BBC reports that rice boiled with 1tsp of coconut oil then cooled for 12 hours can contain up to 60% fewer calories.

The theory is that treating rice this way changes the starch to a more resistant form less easily absorbed by the body.

bowl of uncooked rice

This research originates from an undergraduate student, Sudhair James, at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka. The findings are from his preliminary research and were recently presented at National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Here is a link to the video of his presentation to the ACS. Essentially his  research is still in the early stages. Results so far have only produced a 10 to 12% reduction in calories with certain types of rice tested. This data has been extrapolated to other varieties and it is expected to reduce calories by the 60% quoted by the BBC but this has not yet been tested.

So a slightly less dramatic finding than the BBC would have us believe but interesting nonetheless. rice field

I don’t have access to the actual research methodology but it sounds as if he hasn’t yet reached the stage of testing how the specially prepared rice actually impacts on the human glycaemic response.

I await results of future research with interest.

Am I going to alter how I cook rice now. No.

I do aspire to be one the super-organised meal planning Mummies. Instead every week I buy a selection of vegetables, various forms of protein and hope for the best on daily basis. This results in occasional culinary triumphs and the odd meal that my mum would kindly refer to as a ‘hotch-potch’. Mr R may refer to it in less publishable terms.

So cooking my rice 12 hours in advance feels like a bit too much hassle especially when the actual benefits are still somewhat unclear. Throw in the added risks of food poisoning, associated with reheated rice, and I’d rather just cook a little less rice.

However if I could cook and cool that slab of cake and consume 10% fewer calories….

chocolate cake

30 second summary: Some potentially exciting preliminary research  this week suggests cooking rice with coconut oil then cooling it may reduce calorie content. Research is still in the early stages so I will not be altering my cooking method just yet.

Has anyone else read this story or found it interesting? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Why do Squats with a kettlebell?

Squats with Kettlebell

IMG_0867This week I thought maybe I’d try to learn something new for my workout post. I often stick to roughly the same routines and runs so I thought why not use the blog as an excuse to try something new?

I’ve always been slightly intimidated by kettlebells. I only usually use really light hand-weights (only up to 3kg!), but I’ve always wanted to try as Mr R uses a kettlebell as part of his routines.


So I asked Mr R to show me how to do the most simple exercise he could think of with the kettlebell. He picked squats.


How to do body weight squats

  • Stand with feet hip distance apart
  • Push body weight backwards whilst bending knees
  • Raise hands out in front for balance, parallel to the ground with palms downwards
  • Don’t let knees go over toes
  • When the bottom starts to stick out, keep spine neutral – don’t let it curve.
  • Aim to get legs parallel (at 90 degrees) to the floor.

Actually when I was researching technique for squats (to be sure I’ve been doing them properly!) I have found debate on-line about the benefits of full squats versus the version above which are half squats. I’ve always done half squats and from what I understand there is debatable risks to the knees by doing the full version. However I did find this very interesting site advocating doing the full squat over the half squat.

Why to do squats

  • Bottom toning
  • Non- impact so gentle on the back, knees and ankles
  • Improved balance
  • Tones muscles in the leg
  • Burns calories
  • Improves core stability

Why to do kettlebell squats?

A bodyweight squat strengths primarily the lower body, back and core. By adding in a kettlebell the arms and shoulders also get a workout.

How to do kettlebell squats

  • Hold kettlebell in front of, and close to, chest with two hands.
  • Lower into squat position as detailed above whilst holding kettlebell close to the chest
  • Keep elbows tucked in.
  • Rise up again and repeat motion



How I coped with doing kettlebell squats

Actually as you can see by my posture in this picture I found it surprisingly MUCH harder than a weight free squat. I couldn’t squat with my legs quite parallel to the floor and certainly couldn’t maintain it long enough to take a picture!

I also struggled to keep my back in a neutral position.

Overall I’m glad to have discovered the benefits of squats with added weights. I’m going to try adding a hand weight first and might work up to using a kettlebell regularly. I’m also hoping Mr R will show me a few other kettlebell exercise now that I’m no longer intimidated by them.

30 Second Summary: Squats are a great exercise for the lower body and core, adding in a kettlebell also works out the arms and shoulders. However, its important to only use weights if you can continue to squat with the proper technique.

Have any of you had any experiences of using a kettlebell? Or like me have you been a bit intimidated of trying out new bits of equipment? I’d love to hear any comments.

Mums' Days

10 minute abdominal exercises

Trying to find time to exercise

I’m sure lots of you will relate to my  struggle to find time to exercise. As I’ve written previously I had a significant diastasis recti after giving birth so it’s really important for me to keep looking after my tummy muscles. If I have a week without core exercises I can feel the diastasis gap widening again. I know not only does this mean my core and pelvic floor are weaker but it also has cosmetic implications. My tummy starts to bulge out again and I can go from being my usual size 6-8 to looking about 6 months pregnant on a bad week!


So…..I am also a huge fan of 10 minute workouts at home. I’m going to share one of my basic abdominal exercise routines taking around 10 minutes. There is no equipment is required. You will also note that I don’t include any crunches only because I still really find these difficult to do without causing stress on my diastasis recti.


Please note: Although I can just about do most of these exercises now, if any of you have issues with diastasis recti I would strongly recommend getting a professional to show you how to engage your transverse muscles when exercises and also how to check whether you are getting any doming of your abdomen (which is a sign the recti diastasis is under stress).

I aim to perform each exercise for around a minute.

10 minute Abdominal Workout

1. Plank


  • Lie on front
  • Push up onto your elbows (forearms remain touching the floor)
  • Try to hold in tummy muscles and also don’t stick your bum in the air!
  • Try to keep the whole body in a straight line.
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to a minute

2. Bicycle

  • Lie on back with knees  and hips bent at 90 degrees and feet off the floor
  • Reach right elbow towards left knee and straighten right leg at the same time
  • Repeat with left arm towards right knee
  • Continue to alternate arms and legs for up to a minute
  • (this sounds really complicated but its not once you’ve started!)

3. Side plank left


  • Lie on left side
  • Push up onto left elbow and keep hips in straight line
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to 1 minute

4. Side plank right

  • Lie on right side
  • Push up onto right elbow, keep hips in line with the rest of the body
  • Hold for as long as possible up to a minute

5. Alternate Arm/leg stretch (Mr R calls this the superman)

  • Knee onto all fours
  • Lift left arm and right leg off the ground and stretch them at 90 degrees to body
  • Return to start position and repeat with other arm and leg.
  • Continue to repeat with alternate arms and legs.

6. Plank with toe taps

  • Get into plank position
  • Hold position and lift left foot just off the ground. Tap immediately back down again and repeat with right foot.
  • Continue to tap from left to right foot for as long as possible up to a minute.

7. Double leg circles (this one can be tricky….if its too difficult just make smaller circles!)

  • Lie on back
  • Stretch both legs into air – at 90 degrees to body
  • Keeping feet together move legs around in a slow circle
  • Continue for as long as possible up to a minute

8. Side plank push ups (30 seconds each side)


  • lie on side with knees slightly bent
  • Raise hip off ground (as if doing a sideways push up!)
  • Lower and repeat as many times as possible – up to 30 seconds then switch sides

9. Scissors


  • Lie on back
  • Raise left leg off ground
  • Lower back to ground and as the heel taps down lift right leg
  • Continue to alternate legs for as long as possible up to a minute.

10. Stretch!

Please let me know if any of you also have experience with diastasis recti or anyone also struggling to find time to exercise?

Mums' Days

Diastasis Recti – My experience

What is Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti)?

The group of muscles in the abdomen, and also the pelvic floor are sometimes referred to as our ‘core muscles’. The outermost layer of this group of muscles that runs down the centre of the abdomen is the rectus abdominus. This is joined in the centre by connective tissue, the linea alba .

Sometimes when the abdomen is under significant pressure, for example during pregnancy, the connective tissue stretches and causes the two halves of this muscle separate in the middle.

This is known as a Diastasis Recti- separation of the rectus abdominus muscle into right and left halves.

Why does abdominal separation matter?

Diastasis Recti can often spontaneously resolve after childbirth with no further complications. It is important to remember that it isn’t a serious condition in a medical sense in that it doesn’t have an associated mortality.

However, if the separation is significant it may cause some symptoms.

My Experience of Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti)

This was what I experienced in the few days after giving birth:

  • Difficulty sitting up from a reclined position
  • Discomfort coughing or sneezing – a sensation as if my insides were falling out
  • Pelvic floor weakness (and associated uterine prolapse)
  • Difficulty lifting anything (including my baby)

How to check if you have abdominal separation:

To check out what was happening with my tummy I used the following method to check for Diastasis Recti:

1. Lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet placed on the floor

2. Place a couple of fingers under the ribcage in the centre of the abdomen

3. Gently curl the head off the floor and feel if there is a gap beneath the fingers – measure how many finger breadths you can fit in the gap.

4. Check again positioning the fingers over the belly button, and then again around 2 inches below the belly button.

Usually the gap is widest in the middle of the tummy around the belly button. A gap of more than 2 finger breadths is considered an abdominal separation (diastasis recti).

If you find a significant gap it is advisable to get specialist advice before starting an exercise regime. If you are experiencing significant symptoms you may benefit from physiotherapy input.

When I performed this test a few days after birth I could fit a whole hand between the gap – a five finger breadths Diastasis Recti.

The conclusion of my story

I was fortunate to be referred quickly to a fantastic NHS physiotherapist. I wore an abdominal support for several weeks and had physiotherapy input for 3 months.

My Diastasis Recti has now (10 months post-partum) narrowed to 2 finger breadths at its worst point and has completely closed at one end. I no longer experience any physical symptoms. I do have to be careful performing certain abdominal exercises not to cause undue stress or ‘doming’ of my abdomen. If I neglect my abdominal exercises I do have significant worsening of the cosmetic appearance of my tummy – it can bulge back to looking around 5 months pregnant.

Fortuantely as my Diastasis Recti improved so did my pelvic floor symptoms. By the time I attended for my 6 week post-partum check my prolapse had fully resolved. It has been a slow journey returning to my previous level of fitness but I am now confidently able to run for an hour or so without symptoms of pelvic floor weakness. I have taken part in my first timed 5k run recently.

I hope writing this little overview about my experiences of significant Diastasis Recti and associated uterine prolapse might be helpful for other women experiencing similar symptoms.

However, the post above represents my personal experience only. I am currently reviewing evidence in the form of research trials about post-partum Diastasis Recti. I will be posting again soon.

Further information

If you are keen to read more just now here are a couple of helpful general resources.

30 second summary: This is a brief overview of my story of symptomatic diastasis recti and uterine prolapse. The story has a happy ending.