Two Moms Share Their Experiences With Postpartum Ab Separation and How They Treated It

The postpartum period is full of surprises; one of which is definitely the state of the body you’re left with. You’re undoubtedly proud of yourself for carrying and birthing new life, but it can be a bit jarring to look in the mirror and not wholly recognize what you see or how you feel.

What many people don’t tell you, though, is that a lot of the symptoms you experience postpartum—like weak abs, leaking, tight pelvic floors, weak or unengaged pelvic floors, prolapse, mommy pooch, low back pain, weak core, and poor posture—are all something that can be addressed and improved. You don’t have to endlessly live in discomfort.

Nancy Anderson Fit’s 12-Week Ab Rehab program has you covered. This program isn’t specifically just for ab separation or diastasis recti—it’s an all-encompassing program to rebuild a strong and healthy foundation in your body post-pregnancy. And that is something that every single mom needs.

 

The postpartum period is full of surprises; one of which is definitely the state of the body you’re left with. You’re undoubtedly proud of yourself for carrying and birthing new life, but it can be a bit jarring to look in the mirror and not wholly recognize what you see or how you feel.

 

Regardless of how many months or years (!) postpartum you are, it’s never too late to heal your core, abs, or pelvic floor, and you can start anytime. In fact, the latest guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that gentle exercise is safe as soon as you feel up to it after delivery—no need to necessarily wait six weeks. Nancy Anderson Fit’s 12-Week Ab Rehab program takes this into account and starts off slow and gentle, so you can gain strength and confidence as you move through the program at your own pace.

The program is a three-month protocol, beginning to end, and it includes coaching (and prizes/challenges in each phase). It is broken down into four three-week sections with advice from DPTs and certified trainers with Masters in Exercise Science. But the best part is that, compared to the cost of one hour of personal training or seeing a physical therapist, the 12-Week Rehab program’s cost is manageable and accessible for more mothers and can be used as a supplement to other specialists you might be seeing as a part of your birth recovery. Even better—Nancy Anderson Fit is offering our readers $20 off of the full price!

 

A Nancy Anderson Fit participant before and after taking the Ab Rehab program.

 

Enter promo code EMOM at checkout to receive $20 OFF the 12-Week Ab Rehab program!

 

Read on to hear two of our team members describe their respective experiences with ab separation and how this program helped to strengthen their postpartum bodies.

When I went in for my six-week postpartum check-up, I pointed out my soft midsection to my doctor and said something self-deprecating along the lines of “I have a bit of work to do.” Her awesome self shut me up and said, “Girl, you just had two babies in two years. You get at least two years to get back into shape. Don’t even think about it.”

What a good point. I love her.

Now, my little one is 6-months-old, and our older son is almost 2. I had no idea toddler energy was a thing, but holy whoa is it! Between carrying the baby around and chasing after Henry, I’m more motivated than ever to increase my strength and energy by getting back in shape. 

To rewind, I’ve never been a huge fitness enthusiast, but I’ve always had a strong base because of how active I was growing up. My legs and arms have just always been strong. My core? Not so much. 

I gained about 20 pounds with my first pregnancy, went back down to a few pounds above my prenatal weight before getting pregnant again, then gained about 30 pounds with my second. I was also a lot less active during my second pregnancy due to some complications. And because I was so healthy with my first, I really indulged in all of the pregnancy cravings with Charlie since I am planning on that being my last pregnancy.

Well … that extra weight is hanging around a bit longer than I thought it would, and I just don’t feel great overall.

 

 

My colleague and friend Alexandra has already been through Nancy Anderson’s program and swears by it. (Keep reading to hear more about Alexandra’s experience with Ab Rehab!) She’s the one who informed me that the coning I experienced in my stomach when I sat up and contracted my muscles during my second pregnancy was actually diastasis recti–or separation of the abdominal walls. She had struggled with this as well and informed me there were proper exercises to fix it and that I needed to help that heal before just jumping into crunches or other exercises (both of which could actually make the situation much worse). 

“What are said exercises?! Help me!” I replied. Enter Nancy Anderson, my new hero.

I’ve only just begun the program, but it’s extremely helpful and informational from the get-go. It’s actually very similar to postpartum exercises I’d be given if I saw a physical therapist. Plus, the program has a supplement specifically designed to help with C-section recovery, as Nancy herself experienced two C-sections. 

 

My colleague and friend Alexandra has already been through Nancy Anderson’s program and swears by it … she’s the one who informed me that the coning I experienced in my stomach when I sat up and contracted my muscles during my second pregnancy was actually diastasis recti–or separation of the abdominal walls. She had struggled with this as well and informed me there were proper exercises to fix it.

 

Reading through that packet alone made me feel so seen—I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Having a C-section is an intense surgery, and recovering is not exactly a picnic. Your body goes through so much and, not to mention, your stomach looks completely different afterward. If you’re a C-section mom, you know all about the infamous pooch—the lump of tummy that swells up below your scar as a result of scar tissue and muscle not healing properly. I didn’t have it as badly after my first, but the second surgery really did me in.

Nancy’s C-section guide gives massage therapy practices and exercises to help reduce the inflammation and puffiness of the pooch. I personally love these massages and think they feel good–I feel so empowered breaking down that scar tissue, as weird as that might sound.

I began with the assessment portion, as you will too, and learned I do, in fact, have diastasis at the top and middle of my abdomen. So, the rehab program would help me heal that. But, to be honest, as much as I wanted to start working out, I was intimidated to start a fitness routine. I’ve been putting off workouts and making excuses, but Alexandra convinced me this was the program I needed.

 

 

Still, I was worried about how difficult the actual workouts would be seeing as my core is at a zero in terms of muscular strength. And if they were too tough, I’d probably just give up because that is easier. 

But I am elated to say these exercises feel completely doable. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. The length and difficulty level of Phase #1 exercises (that’s as far as I’ve gotten) are completely manageable. The ab workout is about 10 minutes and the rehab moves are 10 minutes, so 20 minutes overall—which is easier to fit into my day rather than something longer and more complicated. It’s honestly been such an amazing break in my day from sitting at the computer. And both my boys actually get a kick out of watching me, and my toddler tries to join in.

I peeked ahead to Phase #2 and saw cardio is added to the weekly schedule (it’s optional in Phase #1), and I’m honestly so excited for it. It’s nice to have a comprehensive plan and schedule and a coach cheering you on and outlining everything for you. I’d never have figured this out on my own; more so, if I had tried I would have probably done it wrong.

Like I said, I didn’t have strong core strength to begin with before babies, and I’m hoping to come out even stronger than I was going into my pregnancies. I know this 12-Week Rehab program is going to help me get there. 

 

 

Enter promo code EMOM at checkout to receive $20 OFF the 12-Week Ab Rehab program!

After five long years of battling infertility and recurrent miscarriages, I found myself pregnant with a healthy baby boy in spring 2018. I was elated and also incredibly afraid that something would go wrong. 

In the beginning of my pregnancy, I tried to continue a modified, low-impact workout routine, but due to some placental complications, I experienced concerning (yet “routine”) bleeding in both my first and second trimester. After several bouts of this—brought on after doctor-approved exercise—I decided it was best for my mental health to really take a step back from working out during my pregnancy. 

When the bleeding resolved around 20 weeks, I tried to ease back into a workout routine. During my first week of exercise, I started to notice my abs doing something odd while I did push-ups, planks, and pull-downs. There seemed to be a bulging “cone” down the center of my abs, so I started to do some research on what that might be from and what I could do about it. I found that this is a common issue that many women face in pregnancy called diastasis recti, or ab separation. I also learned that many routine exercises can actually make this condition worse. 

I was overwhelmed, to say the least, and wanted to ensure the exercises I was doing were safe for both myself and my baby. At my next OB appointment, I inquired about diastasis recti and what I could do to correct it during the remainder of my pregnancy and postpartum. My amazing doctor, whom I love, glossed over the subject and told me it happens to everyone and I just had to deal with it, in so many words. 

That didn’t sit well with me as I really was looking forward to getting back into a normal workout routine and rebuilding my strength. After looking into local physical therapists and trainers who specialized in properly healing my core and getting nowhere, I stumbled upon Nancy Anderson’s Instagram account and knew I had to try her Ab Rehab program when the time was right.

 

After looking into local physical therapists and trainers who specialized in properly healing my core and getting nowhere, I stumbled upon Nancy Anderson’s Instagram account and knew I had to try her Ab Rehab program when the time was right.

 

I really related to the fact that she was a mom herself who had been through two pregnancies and wasn’t willing to accept that your body after baby has to be something that you aren’t happy with. It felt like she was speaking my language and was offering a routine that is backed in science from trained physical therapists and trainers—so I could trust that it was safe. 

 

Alexandra at 34 weeks pregnant with her first baby.

Alexandra at two weeks postpartum.

 

Before getting pregnant, I would have considered myself an incredibly fit and active person. I did a variety of different workouts, ran half marathons, and was very proud of my overall fitness and muscle tone. I bought the Ab Rehab program before my son was born and, once cleared for exercise at my six-week postpartum OB appointment, I got started. The program is incredibly comprehensive and educational, which I loved. I felt like I was really getting answers to my questions and understanding how I could go about healing and strengthening my core. 

During my pregnancy, I felt weak, and the “jelly belly” feeling I was experiencing while doing even simple activities around my house was weighing on me. My biggest issue wasn’t how I looked, but how I felt. The postpartum period was a massive adjustment for me, both mentally and physically. I would look in the mirror at myself and the body I saw just didn’t look or feel at all like I was used to—and I was determined to feel comfortable again.  

I started Nancy Anderson’s Ab Rehab program by evaluating my ab separation. My top abdominal section was normal (my abs had a one-finger width), but my umbilical and lower abs were not.  The width of my separation in both of those sections was two or more fingers—and I was shocked. I could feel the space and instantly felt defeated. I remember laying on my yoga mat thinking, “Oh sh-t, this is going to be way harder than I thought.”

The entire Ab Rehab program is 12 weeks long, with six days of work per week. The program is divided into four, three-week phases that combine a set of ab rehab moves with an ab exercise circuit plus an additional supplemental program in the later phases. The time commitment per day is completely doable—just under 20 minutes in Phase #1 and 30-40 minutes in Phases 2, 3, and 4.

 

The entire Ab Rehab program is 12 weeks long, with six days of work per week … The time commitment per day is completely doable—just under 20 minutes in Phase #1 and 30-40 minutes in Phases 2, 3, and 4.

 

Once you’re familiar with the ab rehab moves (which are breathing and pelvic floor strengthening exercises), the workouts go even faster. 

The breathing and pelvic floor exercises were my biggest challenge, as they were just very outside of my workout comfort zone. I had never focused on engaging my muscles this way, and I was discouraged at first by how weak I was and wondered more than once what this was doing for me. It helped to remember that the program is designed to build day after day on the strength you are creating, so I just had to start somewhere.

 

Alexandra at nine weeks postpartum.

Alexandra at five months postpartum.

 

By Week #2, I was already feeling like the ab circuits and the rehab moves were getting more familiar. While I wasn’t physically seeing a major difference yet, I was starting to feel the changes in my core, especially in how I felt going about my daily life. I finally had some relief for my back and hip pain, and this progress was enough to motivate me to keep going, even when I was so tired, being a working mom with a newborn.

When I reached Phase #2 of the program, I enjoyed the challenges of the additional strength workouts, and it felt really great for my body to get moving and see myself gaining some strength back. I really challenged myself to use the proper form that Nancy teaches during the exercises, so I was maximizing the impact of the workout and not causing any further injury. This really meant slowing down and listening to my body, which is not the way I normally worked out pre-baby. I always thought that a more intense workout led to results—but I was wrong. 

At the end of my fourth trimester, I started to get into a much better routine of managing my daily schedule and finding time to get my workouts in. Every day, the moves got a little bit easier, and I could feel my strength coming back little by little. The biggest challenge I had to overcome with this program wasn’t physical—it was mental. It was making sure that I was finding the time to invest in myself and be kind to myself on the days that I just couldn’t make it all work.

It was one of the hardest things for me to accept postpartum (and still is), but it is so important. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. 

At the end of Nancy Anderson’s 12-week program, I noticed a visible difference in my abs. I could see them beginning to peek out again, many of my pre-pregnancy jeans fit again, and my physical strength was increased. My husband commented that I really seemed to be comfortable when I was exercising, and he could see a big difference in my strength from Week #1 to Week #12. I was not one of those women who lost weight from breastfeeding (I experienced the opposite, actually), and at the end of this program, I still had a fair amount of pregnancy weight to lose. For me, the point of this program wasn’t weight loss, but healing my body correctly so that I could regain my strength and safely move into my previous workout routine.

 

At the end of Nancy Anderson’s 12-week program, I noticed a visible difference in my abs.

 

Right after my son’s first birthday, our family was blessed with a miracle we were told would never be: another pregnancy. I’m currently in my second trimester, and I can already feel the toll that pregnancy is taking on my body again. I know I will have serious work to do after this baby is born, but I know that with the right tools, I will be comfortable again. 

 

A Nancy Anderson Fit participant before and after taking the Ab Rehab program.

 

Enter promo code EMOM at checkout to receive $20 OFF the 12-Week Ab Rehab program!

 

My postpartum plan for this pregnancy feels more informed and less unknown than with my first pregnancy. I will be completing another round of Nancy Anderon’s Ab Rehab program—even if I do not have as severe of an ab separation this time—when baby #2 arrives. But with my doctor’s permission, I will also follow the updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and begin the program if I feel up to it rather than wait until the 6-week postpartum mark. The first section is very gentle, and I think this will be a nice way to focus a bit on myself every day during the challenges of the newborn phase. 

My second pregnancy has, thus far, been uncomplicated, and I have continued to work out when I feel up to it (morning sickness and mind-numbing exhaustion are real, y’all). By mixing in jogging with my son in his stroller, Peloton rides, and the Move Your Bump strength program (also from Nancy Anderson and includes Ab Rehab as a part of the monthly subscription!), I already feel stronger overall than I was going into my first child’s birth.

I was never able to regain the same level of fitness after welcoming my first baby, but this time around, I’m planning to really focus on building strength and endurance so I can feel like my best self for my two boys.

 

This post was in partnership with Nancy Anderson Fit but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.

 

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