Diastasis recti is a common condition that can occur during pregnancy and even extend postpartum. DR affects women and men in different ways and during different stages of their lives.
Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure and stress on the core musculature of the abdominal wall. A diastasis recti most commonly occurs due to extended, focalized pressure upon the abdominal wall which weakens the structural integrity of your rectus abdominis muscles (6-pack).This can prevent the muscles from maintaining their shape and, postpartum, you may discover that there is a gap in between your abdominal muscles.
This gap typically creates a slight or significant bulge in the center of your abdomen: a belly “pooch,” as many call it. This gap and bulge can result in a host of varying symptoms. These may range from back/pelvic pain, poor posture, incontinence, pain with intercourse, constipation, bloating, and more significantly a weakening of your stomach muscles and pelvic floor.
There are, however, many ways to help lower the risk of developing a diastasis recti during or after your pregnancy. Although you can’t change the pressure within your abdomen – you’re pregnant – there are a few things you can change. Having a regiment that focuses on good posture, functional moving in daily activity, strengthening your transverse abdominis (your lower abs) and pelvic floor, and eliminating movements and exercises that may make it worse helps lower the risk of a diastasis and aids in postpartum rehab.
During pregnancy, the abdominal wall will stretch and separate. Rectus abdominis separation that does not correct on its own (postpartum) is called diastasis recti. 70%-100% of all women will experience abdominal muscle separation during their pregnancy and roughly ⅔ of all pregnant women will have developed diastasis recti postpartum.
Although the muscles tend to return to their natural state, some studies have shown that some women with diastasis recti struggle to close their gap a year postpartum.
When the abdominals separate like this, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue (the linea alba) to hold them in place. Although the muscles tend to return to their natural state, some studies have shown that some women with diastasis recti struggle to close their gap a year postpartum. However, there are many things you can do to help prevent and restore your body from diastasis recti.
During your pregnancy there are many things that you should try to practice and others that you should try to avoid. While carrying your little one, whether it is your first time or your fourth, here are a few things to do and not do.
We highly encourage exercise and stretching during your pregnancy. However, it is important that you are careful with how you approach various exercise routines while pregnant. Exercises like: crunches, sit-ups, pushups, press-ups, and front planks, can make abdominal separation worse. Talk to a specialist or consider looking at My program for women: One Strong Mama.
This can be done through proper breathing techniques. Your transverse abdominal muscles help hold your baby in place and assist you in a vaginal delivery. To learn more about exercises to aid you, click here.
Having good posture greatly aids you in limiting the amount of pressure and tension you add to your core during everyday tasks or even while sitting. As you move daily –whether exercising or at work – you will want to practice working functionally with your diastasis recti. Anytime you bend, lift, twist, etc. think about tightening your transverse abdominis muscles. This reduces the strain your child’s added weight places on your linea alba and can also help reduce back and pelvic pain.
This may go without saying, but as you are moving about and taking on your daily tasks, your muscles will inevitably be strained, sore, or tired at the end of your day. Stretching appropriately and safely can help keep your body functional and reduce and muscles strains or soreness you may be experiencing.
While lifting heavy objects be sure to implement correct posture and be mindful of your core. You should avoid doing any exercises or activities that may negatively strain your core. This can involve the way in which you stand or sit, your bowel movements, and/or any exercises that would normally be okay. Especially when getting out of bed. Try to roll onto your side when rising from a laying down position in order to take the strain off of your linea alba.
Many exercises to avoid during your pregnancy include exercises such as:loaded spinal flexion (crunches), sit-ups, and push-ups. A lot of exercises that are high intensity are likely best avoided as well.
There are several daily motions and exercises that someone with diastasis recti should avoid. If you have diastasis recti or abdominal separation, you want to avoid adding any additional pressure to your midline. A few exercises of motions to avoid if you have diastasis rect
There are many sites and programs that offer many helpful tips and tricks for you as you walk through your pregnancy. On our homepage we offer many varying programs, like One Strong Mama, and exercises tips for you to consider during your pregnancy and postpartum. Below is a taste of what those programs have to offer.
One of the best things you can do during pregnancy is prehab. I have many long term clients who were able to prevent their diastasis recti from returning with subsequent pregnancies by working their core in a smart, functional way the entirety of their pregnancy. Many report that their core felt stronger than ever with the prehab work that they did. Pregnancy is not an illness, there is no need to halt all exercise. We do, however, want to make good exercise choices. It is very important to exercise your core during pregnancy but not to increase intra ab pressure as you do so.
Our online prehab program, One Strong Mama, is designed to prepare your body for the unique demands of pregnancy, birth, and recovery. Everything you need to prepare your body can be found in this program which combines functional exercise, strength training, posture and alignment instruction, and even key educational tools so that you are given a chance to enjoy your pregnancy without stressing over it.
Diastasis recti is often more apparent postpartum. I usually recommend waiting at least 6 to 12 weeks before checking for a diastasis recti. Here are a few tips that can help prevent and/or heal a diastasis recti.
If I could have a dollar for every mom who wished she had rested more in order to spare herself injury. Rest is so important for healing your body postpartum and ensuring that you do not damage your core and your pelvic floor. We recommend getting back into exercise at least 6 weeks postpartum, but even then, easing into it is key. The “I want to get my body back” sentiment can be very harmful to a recovering body.
Once you are cleared for exercise by your medical professional, you want to focus on core building exercises which properly strengthen your core without aiding in diastasis recti development. My program Restore Your Core is designed for any woman with core issues such as: postpartum issues, diastasis recti, incontinence, and constant back pain.
Restore Your Core is designed so that you can use helpful and intelligent core building strategies not only during exercise, but in everyday motion. I help you approach healing and restoring your body in a personal way. I challenge you to train your whole body to move correctly in order to get you stronger and heal properly.
If you have diastasis recti, avoid flat belly programs and focus on function over form. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen and rebuild your core. Find comfortable movements that prevent your stomach from pushing out and practice proper breathing techniques. The goal is for healing and function–not aesthetics.