How to Prevent Diastasis Recti Post Pregnancy | FitMama

Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti

What is Diastasis Recti and How It Can Be Treated?

The growing belly of a pregnant woman is often considered “cute” and “endearing”, but once the baby is born, that same belly results in a “mummy tummy”. This is because of the Diastasis Recti.

If you are a pregnant woman, or if you have had a baby recently, you need to know what Diastasis Recti is, and how to treat it to get back into shape after your baby is delivered.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti (DR) is the thinning of the linea alba (fascia down the midline of the rectus abdominis), which allows space for the baby to grow during pregnancy.

The amount of the thinning or separation between the rectus is dependent on factors like:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Weight gain
  • Baby’s size
  • Baby’s position
  • Natural intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) created by a growing baby in the abdomen
  • Self-induced IAP due to certain ab exercises, bearing down, holding of breath, doing contraindicated exercises during pregnancy (planks, pushups not done on an angle, any workout move that is too forceful and requires holding breath or bearing down)


Common Myths about Diastasis Recti


Myth: DR automatically heals postpartum, with no effort required or you doing anything to fix it.

Fact: Core training and rehabilitation is essential to heal DR. Even with core training, in some cases it might not ever fully heal.

Myth: You can go back to regular exercise with DR.

Fact: DR can lead to a very dysfunctional core and it can get worse by doing conventional ab moves like crunches or v-sits.


Signs and Symptoms of Diastasis Recti

  • Doming appearance
  • Mummy tummy or pooch appearance in the abdomen, usually around or below the belly button
  • Incontinence
  • No tension across midline
  • A feeling of a very soft belly that if poked in can feel like you are going right through to organs or spine

Take This Self-Check Test to Discover Diastasis Recti

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees, while keeping the soles of your feet on the floor.
  2. Keep one hand behind your head and the other on your abdomen, with fingertips at your belly button’s level (across your midline and parallel with your waistline).
  3. Gently press your fingertips into your abdomen, while relaxing your abdominal wall.
  4. Roll into a “crunch” with your upper body off the floor, moving your ribcage closer to your pelvis.
  5. Feel the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscle by moving your fingertips back and forth across your midline. Test for separation at, above, and below your belly button.

The Correct Form Helps You Get Accurate Results

Ensure you’re not just pulling your head off the mat, since your ribcage needs to move closer to your pelvis for effective abdominal contraction. Inadequate abdominal wall activation can cause you to think you have abdominal separation, but the proper form lowers the width of the gap at your midline.

In the first few weeks postpartum, you may feel a “hole” in your belly, which is completely normal. After childbirth, the connective tissue at the midline is lax, but it will regain its former density and elasticity as you recover. The “hole” becomes shallower and narrower, if you do the right exercises.


Test the Gap


A simple partial curl-up test can be effective to test the finger widths that can fit in the gap between the rectus abdominis. The key thing to note here is that there is no “perfect distance” between the rectus, so a 2 finger gap may be perfectly normal for one person and a DR for another.

Tension across the midline is more important, so core rehab will allow you to restore it. You can have a functional core even with a diastasis, so do not fret if your core doesn’t close after years.

The key is that it remains functional, you’re breathing in the core breath way, and that you have gone to see a pelvic health physiotherapist to take care of any incontinence, prolapse, back pain or other core dysfunction.


Special Precautions for Faster Recovery


Be very diligent with your core breathing practice, especially the part where you tighten the belt around your hips to engage the TVA. This makes a huge difference!

DR Don’ts

  • Planks
  • Bird dogs
  • Crunches
  • V-sits
  • Lying leg raises
  • Lifting heavy loads, bearing down, or doing anything that causes more IAP


Best Things to Do:


  • Core breathing when seated, lying, standing and during all movements
  • Core rehab moves like clams, pelvic tilts and heel slides
  • Walking
  • Core breathing
  • This “side lying safe move” (youtube video on my page) allows you to safely lie down and stand up without creating more IAP.
  • Be especially careful while lifting your baby or older children.

Patience and perseverance are what you need most, to resolve Diastasis Recti. However, if rehabilitative exercise does not help you lose that mummy tummy, seek professional help.

FitMama’s focus is on helping you achieve safe and effective postpartum health – If you have DR, first “heal your seal” as I always say, and close that gap!