As a yoga teacher, doula and somatic sexologist I help women process their births and the subsequent changes in their bodies and relationships. I often say that I help women put their bodies back together after birth. My area of specialty and great passion is the core which includes the muscles of the abdominals, low back, pelvic floor and diaphragm. Most women come to me initially for weakness and the change of appearance in their abdominals due to diastasis recti. They want to lose their mummy tummy! In our first meeting it quickly unfolds that diastasis is affecting numerous areas of their lives including, and often especially, intimacy!
Diastasis recti is a common condition seen in postpartum women where connective tissue in the abdominal muscles, the linea alba, thins and spreads out causing the abdominal muscles to separate. This separation in the rectus abdominis can cause a bulging tummy, umbilical hernia, back pain, postural problems and pelvic floor weakness. Women who have diastasis recti describe an overall feeling of disconnection from their center.
Our core, is our very center--as the name implies--and when the core is out of alignment or weak it can throw us off in a multitude of ways. As a yoga teacher and somatic sexologist I look at the physical, emotional and energetic components that come into play for women who have diastasis. Each of these different layers can interfere with sexuality and intimacy.
New parenthood in and of itself is an adjustment for couples. The lack of sleep, the newness of the bond they find with their baby, the demands of taking care of that baby 24/7, financial stress and hormonal changes are all well known ingredients in extinguishing the romantic fire for both men and women. Here, I would like to explore specifically how diastasis might add strain to your love life through each layer; physical, emotional and energetic.
Physical - Women who have diastasis are often in pain or discomfort. Their backs and shoulders ache, they may have pelvic pain. There can be a feeling of discomfort in the abdomen itself. It doesn’t matter how you slice it, pain is not sexy.
Women with diastasis also have a feeling that their bodies don’t work the same way and that they don’t have the same amount of strength and feeling of togetherness, or full body integrity that they were previously used to. Their bellies can be bulging and bloated. A common phrase I hear is, “This doesn’t feel like my body.”
Lastly in the physical realm, diastasis can contribute to pelvic floor weakness which can lead to incontinence and organ prolapse (when organs like the bladder or uterus fall out of place and start to hang into the vagina).
Emotional - We know that negative body image is an issue that almost universally impacts every American woman at some point in her life. The postpartum period is certainly no different and can be a real challenge for women’s self esteem. In fact, muscles carry, or hold, emotions and certain muscles are associated with specific emotions. The emotion most connected with the rectus abdominis (the abdominal muscles that separate with a diastasis) is self esteem.
Women feel so much pressure to obtain a certain, unobtainable body image that pervades all areas of our culture where real pregnant and postpartum bodies are not recognized. When women are feeling ashamed of their bodies because of how they look or feel, they don’t want them to be seen and they often don’t feel like they deserve to be loved, honored and cherished with their imperfections.
Energetic - Just like emotions, the body also has energetic qualities that have been part of ancient eastern philosophy for centuries and are now being recognized by modern science. In yogic philosophy the sexual center is in the core. The area below the navel that holds our womb and organs of reproduction also holds the energy of creativity, wealth, fertility, sensuality and sexuality.
When a woman is not feeling physically or emotionally connected to her core, she is unplugged from her libido. She is missing out on the magic of her desire, passion and sensuality.
The good news is that there are specific exercises to heal diastasis and there is also a process of self acceptance and self love that can heal the emotional wounds. Through reconnecting to the core physically, emotionally and energetically women can start to feel full again and get their mojo back.
As a woman who has never given birth, I am humbled by the stories that so many women have shared with me about their births and postpartum recovery experiences. I feel blessed to hold space for the processing of these great rites of passage and to support women on this journey.