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Mum looked into being 'surgically sewn back together' to sort out post-pregnancy body.

Byline: Yolanthe Fawehinmi

A Merseyside mum considered having cosmetic surgery to get rid of what she thought was just a "mummy tummy."

It was Helen Gavin's party trick when she was pregnant with her first child, to show people the bulging dome in her tummy, not knowing that it was making things much worse.

Like many other women, she didn't realise that if you still look pregnant at least six to eight weekspost-pregnancy, you may have a condition medically calleddiastasis recti, which worryingly isn't common knowledge, especially for new mums.

Helen, fromChildwall, said: "It's horrible, and very depressing. It looks like a pouch that hangs out and protrudes forward. It's like a piece of elastic when it loses its elasticity. I found it really difficult."

"There was hardly any information out there on it and I never had any support from my GP. It's not always a mummy tummy, which some mums think is normal, sometimes it's diastasis recti. I had to discover this for myself becauseI was already given the all clear from my GP. Woman are confused by what it actually is."

The 37-year-old is a personal trainer atGirl Fit, so was already into fitness, but had no idea that all the exercises she was doing were making her five finger gap bigger and putting more stress on her stomach.

Helen said: "I've looked into surgery to have it surgically sewn back together. You can get surgery done quite easily atSpire Hospital. And if you didn't have stretch marks during pregnancy, it means you have great elasticity and you could it through keyhole."

"I've accepted that I will never get back to the body I had before. It's such a long process to try and heal it because everyday tasks can flex the abdominal muscles which makes it worse. I roll out of bed now, I don't sit up because this puts stress on the muscles. And I get into a squat position when picking anything up now."

The mum of three eventually foundJulie Tupleronline and signed up for her programme via one of her UK trainers calledTummy Tribe.

Helen added: "I worked really hard and got it down to a three finger gap. Then I got pregnant again and was more conscious this time, but again it separated and it took about three years for me to get it down to a 2 finger gap. But even then it was still deep and close to 3 fingers around my belly button."

"I'm 11 months postpartum now and my gap is down to one finger and definitely healing as it's not as deep anymore."

"There is lots more information out there these days and I follow lots of people likeEmily Skyeon Instagram who post safe exercises to do while trying to heal a diastasis. Losing weight helps."

Emily Skye Fitness

During pregnancy, the tummy (abdominal) muscles has to stretch to allow room for the baby to grow.

The muscles affected by this are the "six-pack'"muscles, which sometimes separates. This causes 'gaping' particularly when sitting up from a lying down position or leaning forward in the bath.

And although this usually occurs in two thirds of pregnancies, many mums don't know where to look for help.

Mum of two, Deborah Paterson, a physio fromWest Kirby, had her last child six years ago in 2012. Her first pregnancy in 2010 was okay, but in her second one, she really struggled to heal.

Deborah said: "It can happen to anyone. I didn't expect it, nor was I surprised. I was just more gutted because I didn't have the knowledge to help with my diastasis recti."

Because of this, the 40-year-old set upPilates by Physioin 2013 to teach postnatal and natal pilates to support mums on their post-pregnancy journey.

Deborah said: "Lots of girls don't even know when they may have diastasis recti and go straight back into regular exercise, which doesn't help. Without proper care, the stomach can never go back to how it was before."

"And not enough respect is given to how it can affect women's confidence, and mental health. The cosmetic side of things are just as important as the functional, mums are constantly trying to balance the two."

"Mums still see the celebs on social media that just bounce back after pregnancy, which in real life doesn't always happen."

"I know a few women who have had surgery and its very painful. It's a huge operation which leaves you with a huge scar on your belly. You are out of action for months."

With the help of specific diastasis rehab training over the last few years, Deborah has managed to close her gap.

Deborah added: "It is probably worth mentioning that the size of the gap is no longer the prime measure in healing. It is how the tissue feels (whether it is deep or bulges up), ladies can still have a two finger gap but the tissues can still function well."

Debbie Seery, who runsMisFit Mamas, is a postnatal specialist and Holistic Core Restore A[R] coach who comes across diastasis recti regularly.

The 44-year-old, fromBebington, said: "It's not just about closing the gap but about building a firm core strength to prevent other health issues, like lower back pain, later on down the line. Pilates, and pelvic floor exercises help. Mums should stay away from traditional abdominal exercises. Patience is needed."

"Sometimes new mothers forget to take care of themselves because their focus is on their baby, especially when breastfeeding which leaves you very dehydrated. They need to take enough fluids and nutrients, and remember that their posture can be altered during pregnancy. All these things play a part in the healing process."

So does collagen levels, the size of your bump, the elasticity of your skin, which can be genetic, and hormone changes as you get older.

A mum who attends the postnatal holistic courses atMisFit Mamassaid: "I had quite bad separation and thought it was normal until a consultant mentioned it at a follow up appointment, purely because I had a big baby. I was then offered physio which helped to close the gap, although not completely."

"I was quite conscious of my tummy then as it stuck out, even months after completing physio. I felt my stomach muscles were useless, which then also affected my back as I was using my back muscles more to compensate."

"Two and a half years later I found out I was pregnant again. I've really struggled as my bump was quite big very early on. I've also been informed by physio that I will definitely need further physio after this baby to address a gap again. I just hope it's not as bad as last time!"

Another mum added: "I had searing pain at night when I was transferring the baby to and from the bassinet from my bed. We're in a caravan at the moment so space is very limited, so I was doing it all from the bed as there was no room to put my legs down. Once I realised what it was, I was more careful and would shuffle to the end of the bed and stand up and do it properly. It was hard work in the early days because I thought I'd just pulled a muscle."

There is so much pressure for mums to get back into shape. But there are many myths surrounding mums gaining their pre-baby body back, and mums choose to deal with their post-pregancy bodies in different ways.

Women can exercise during and after pregnancy, but they need to ensure they are doing the right exercise at the right stages of pregnancy. As a rough guide, poor exercise choices like sit ups, planks, running, make diastasis recti a lot worse.

If you're a mum who wants to find out about the support available, visitLiverpool Women'sandthisdirectory of women's health physios who run bespoke postnatal assessments. Or check outHolistic Core Restorefor coaches.


Credit: Helen Gavin

Credit: Helen Gavin

Helen Gavin, 37, four weeks post-pregnancy after really trying to get rid of her post-pregnancy tummy

Credit: Helen Gavin

Helen Gavin, 37, three months post-pregnancy

Credit: Helen Gavin

Helen Gavin, 37, 11 months post-pregnancy

Credit: Helen Gavin

Helen Gavin, 37, 11 months post-pregnancy

Credit: Deborah Paterson

Deborah Paterson, 40, didn't have the knowledge to help with her post-pregnancy body

Credit: Deborah Paterson

After Deborah's second pregnancy, she developed a gap in her tummy

Credit: Deborah Paterson

Deborah has managed to close her gap

Credit: Jo Taylor-Jones/Amberlight Images

Debbie Seery, 44, founder of MisFit Mamas
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Publication:Crosby Herald (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2019
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