From Bump to Baby Wifey's Black Book

Bye Bikini, Hello Diastasis Recti!

It all started with some sharp pains under my ribs whenever Leroy pressed onto me when I was lying down. After several incidents, a trip to the General Practitioner (GP) revealed something unexpected – Diastasis Recti after pregnancy!

It’s been some time since the doctor’s diagnosis of Diastasis Recti, so pardon me if some details are fuzzy! #momsbrain

At the same time, I’ve added updates to what I’ve been doing to close up my separated abdominal muscles. Some of you may already know that I’ve started on non-invasive and painless treatments for Diastasis Recti at Orchard Clinic. If you’re considering to fix this postpartum condition, read on to find out what solutions are available in Singapore!

diastasis recti after pregnancy mum symptoms
#throwback to the time I was modeling for Mondays Sundays, getting styled with fashionable accessories. Staying active during pregnancy is great, but being mindful about the core muscles can help with avoiding Diastasis Recti… which I didn’t know!

Assessing my stomach and abdomen at the clinic for pains

The female GP told me to lie down so she could check on the area of pain. But before she got down to pressing, she gave my unevenly shaped tummy strange looks.

She’s a mother too, and I felt a tinge of embarrassment and annoyance for having to receive such looks. After 2 kids, washboard abs aren’t gonna happen… Well, okay, except for those who are super disciplined or are able to splurge on aesthetics and/or fitness services.

But I digress.

She started asking me questions about the shape of my abdomen area, how long this state had been, and when I delivered my second child.

Her concerns?

That lumpiness around my belly button seemed to be a result of collapsed stomach muscles from the insides!

WHATTTTT??? After being shockingly diagnosed with Pubic Symphysis right after birthing Leroy, I wasn’t ready for another body scare, please!

Narrowing down on her suspicion, she promptly wrote a referral letter to consult a specialist. An appointment was promptly arranged with Prof. Wong Wai Keong, a senior doctor in General Surgery, at the Singapore General Hospital.

My first appointment with the specialist at the Singapore General Hospital to assess Diastasis Recti after pregnancy

Being at the Singapore General Hospital brought on a flush of emotions. My late Grandma was in and out of the hospital during her last years, and it was an emotional memory. I had to tell myself that this visit was only a preliminary check; everything else was simply left to fate.

I waited for my queue number and entered Prof. Wong Wai Keong’s room to meet him for the first time. Seeing a specialist always makes me nervous – both psychologically and financially – the fear of the unknown health condition, as well as the fear of the medical bill! HAHA! Yikes.

So I re-enacted the dialogue between the female GP and I… and why I ended up at the hospital. He did the same by asking me to lie down so he could check on the pain as well as the suspicion for collapsed stomach muscles.

He was absolutely certain about the collapsed stomach muscles (BIG SOBS!) and promptly diagnosed it as Diastasis Recti.

What in the world is Diastasis Recti?? What symptoms are there and is it life-threatening??

I’ve never heard of it, but the doctor said I could have done certain things to reduce my risk of getting Diastasis Recti when I was pregnant (?!?!). Why didn’t anyone tell me about this!? :(

Now that things are cast in stone, a full recovery was pretty slim – unless I was thinking of aesthetic procedures. That can help tighten those loose stomach walls and muscles. A Diastasis Recti surgery is similar to a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), and that means seeing the plastic surgeon!

Interestingly Thankfully, the ultrasound done to investigate the sharp pains turned out fine. But that also means there were no concrete answers to the pain. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not… Oh well, guess I’ll just observe and see how things go.

diastasis recti pregnant mum Singapore
Who knew commemorating my baby bump could be this fun with belly painting? Definitely clueless about Diastasis Recti when I was pregnant!

What causes Diastasis Recti? How can Diastasis Recti be prevented?

Can DR really be prevented? Perhaps not totally since no one can completely control what happens to our body during pregnancy!

According to BabyCenter, women who are trying to conceive can begin with core strengthening exercises in a bid to avoid Diastasis Recti. For pregnant mums in the first trimester, you can continue some of these exercises, as recommended and approved by your gynaecologist.

Prof. Wong Wai Keong explained to me that Diastasis Recti happens when our stomach tissues are stretched. It’s further aggravated by carrying heavy things.

Naturally, pregnant mums are susceptible to Diastasis Recti since our wombs and organs expand/shift/get squashed to accommodate a growing baby.

How would it be possible NOT to carry the kids? Sigh.

prenatal exercise for pregnant mums diastasis recti
Here’s a pregnant me, trying out Prenatal Pilates at Breathe Singapore. So thankful for the session of free workout that I’d won at mama Justina Tey’s contest back then. Guess what? Both of us delivered on the SAME DAY, in the SAME HOSPITAL! Her number 4 and my number 2 were born on Chinese New Year, and share the same birthday! :P

Interestingly, when I told my bestie about my condition, she had heard of it through the doctors in London. As a mum herself, the health care providers there advised pregnant mums on how they should get up from bed with a big belly. This helps to prevent mums from getting Diastasis Recti during pregnancy.

In fact, the “right way” for pregnant mums to get up from bed while lying down, is to first, turn to the side then sit up. Sitting up straight from a lying down position adds stress to the stomach muscles which are already stretched by the belly. In turn, that worsens the Diastasis Recti.

Ahhhhhh… I wished I knew that during both pregnancies! Perhaps I could have avoided this condition altogether! The lack of such knowledge in Singapore is disappointing! :(

Can patients with Diastasis Recti recover completely?

In fact, I’ve nearly forgotten about my condition since diagnosis! I was also consciously trying to add exercise into my lifestyle by attending some of the free fitness classes organised by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

I’ve since stopped going for yoga, piloxing, Kpop, and HIIT, only because a friend casually asked about my condition. It struck me that patients with this abdominal condition should not be doing regular yoga with Diastasis Recti as we may aggravate our core muscles! Ahhh… That’s #momsbrain there!

Well, again in October 2018, when I attended a Yoga class with my colleagues, that I remembered about my condition again! #momsbrain

But it’s all good. For now.

Treatment for Diastasis Recti after pregnancy – are they available? What type of exercises can mums like me with weaken and separated recti muscles do?

I made an appointment to follow up with Prof. Wong on my condition recently. While he didn’t have exact measurements of the gap (he used his fingers and could SEE the split. SIGH!) between my stomach muscles, I’m glad he gave the green light to say I could resume a “normal” active life with fitness classes.

Of course, we should also always listen to our bodies during exercise. My core muscles are nearly non-existent – I ain’t trying sit-ups and crunches since Dr. Wong did tell me to avoid those during my first visit.

Although BabyCentre mentioned that there is still hope of improving Diastasis Recti conditions even after several years from the last pregnancy and childbirth… but until then, the condition will not get better unless I go for physiotherapy sort of workout with fitness professionals who understand and know about Diastasis Recti.

Just hoping it doesn’t get worse since slackened muscles deteriorate over time. Until then, goodbye bikini-ready bod… Or, perhaps I should consider a structured exercise approach to improve Diastasis Recti. Or, how about getting that surgery done to fix my split abs? Ah, but the idea of a surgery sounds like pain on my body and my pockets.

***Updating on how I’m tackling DR and the treatments that I’ve started in Jan 2022. I’ll be sharing more details on my Instagram stories too since many of you started asking me again about my DR issue and types of non-surgical treatments that I’m doing :) Hope this helps!***

How to fix Diastasis Recti years later? I decided to skip the Diastasis Recti surgery and undergo non-invasive treatments at Orchard Clinic.

So, here’s a little update to my Diastasis Recti condition: a postpartum issue nobody seemed to know much of or talked about years ago. Does Diastasis Recti heal on its own? In my case, no. I didn’t do anything to improve it. These days, Diastasis Recti treatment methods in Singapore includes physiotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and technological devices (machines).

Over the year, many mums DM-ed or left messages to ask how to tell if they’ve a Diastasis Recti, what steps have I taken to close up the gap etc. Now, it’s not just a matter of weak core muscles; my lower back aches have worsen and become more frequent. The bulging torso/abdomen area got bigger too, due to weight gain (thanks, sedentary lifestyle!) and my shorts/pants are tighter at the belly button area. I look like I’m almost in my 2nd trimester if I don’t suck in my belly. HAHA.

Enough was enough – waiting wasn’t doing me any good! Procrastinating only caused the DR condition to deteriorate. In mid October 2021, I made an appointment to visit Orchard Clinic for another opinion and to get proper assessments with measurements. I wanted to find out how bad my abdominal separation issue was. Unfortunately, it’s pretty badddd!! 

Treatment for Diastasis Recti
Surgery sounds too scary plus the unwanted risks involved, so I’m opting for a safe, non-surgical method to tackle my Diastasis Recti issues. Hope to close the separated muscles soon!

Hence, I started my first round of treatments at Orchard Clinic for Diastasis Recti on 7 Jan 2022, and will be undergoing many treatments (at least 60!) to help close the Diastasis Recti gap, improve skin laxity around my abdomen area and correct that “crater”, that’s more than just a mum tum!

That DR gap measures 4.4.cm at its widest at my belly button. But the severity of that “hole” is worse than I had thought – I’m at Type 5 for the degree of depth (the worst!) WISH ME LUCK!

Starting Diastasis Recti treatments at Orchard Clinic, an all-female specialist centre that supports post-pregnancy body recovery

I’ve started on these recommended treatments:

  • HIFEM (Embody machine): To strengthen abdominal muscles and treat Diastasis Recti. Abdominal muscles are pulled inwards and upwards to tighten, condition and close the gap. That’s like doing 20,000 sit-ups in 30 minutes. HA!
  • Shockwave Therapy: To improve skin laxity, firm up loose skin and boost skin elasticity. Uses energetic acoustic waves that penetrate connective tissues to stimulate collagen production and break down enlarged fat cells. Aimed to improve skin appearance. There’s no heat for this, just lots of tapping/knocking like someone’s doing some renovation on my belly area. Haha!
  • Exilis Therapy: To firm, tighten and accelerate fat cell metabolism while stimulating and strengthening the collagen network. Fats and toxins are removed through lymphatic drainage. This treatment is a combo of ultrasound and radiofrequency, and there’s heat and auto-cooling technology involved so it feels like a warm massage.
  • HIFEM (Emsella machine): To improve vulva and vagina laxity. It’s more for general maintenance for me; although it has proven effective for ladies with urinary incontinence (leaking). Imagine 11,000 Kegal exercises effortlessly done in 30mins. 
  • Floorwork: 1-to-1 session to better understand what exercises are okay for Diastasis Recti patients, and what to avoid. Think of it as a physiotherapy session with an expert to guide you through so you can be more mindful of your movements. I’ve not started on this yet but will share more on Instagram Stories when I do!
distasis recti post pregnancy treatment Emsella
Sitting on the Emsella “throne” and clocking in 11,000 Kegal exercises in 30mins to tighten “down there”, and improve urinary incontinence amongst other post-pregnancy concerns.

Each patient will have a treatment plan drawn up after the assessment. Fees and the duration of the treatments depend on your conditions too. If you’re suffering in silence over your postpartum body conditions like me, it’s time to take charge of your long term health. The ladies at Orchard Clinic have been professional and each time I visit, I feel comfortable and not awkward. Hope you regain your health and sort out any concerns too :)

Just for my friends and readers: Receive a medical-grade postpartum girdle (worth $300) when you start a treatment plan with Orchard Clinic (Kembangan). Schedule an assessment for a postpartum assessment at Orchard Clinic. This is a comprehensive 3-point assessment to check for common postpartum body conditions: Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation or ‘Mummy Tummy’), Pelvic Floor conditions (e.g. incontinence) and Vulva/Vaginal Laxity. The same checks that I did during my assessment too :)

***Updates on April 2022: I did an Instagram Live with Cheryl Han, co-founder and Principal Consultant at Orchard Clinic to address mummies’ questions on Diastasis Recti! Fret not if you’ve missed the session, you can watch the video here :)

Know someone who suspects she has DR or wants to know how to close up the abdominal gap safely? Share the video too!

Do you know another mum who has Diastasis Recti after pregnancy too? If you’ve a success story on your Diastasis Recti treatment in Singapore, I’d love to hear from you!

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