So you think you might have diastasis recti? Don't worry, you're not alone! It's actually a very common condition where your abs separate during pregnancy and/or postpartum, leaving you with a gap in the middle of your “six-pack” abs (rectus abdominus). In this blog post, I’ll break it down for you, discussing what diastasis recti is, what causes it, how to spot the signs, and most importantly, how to heal it and strengthen those abs!
What the heck is diastasis recti?
Let's start by understanding the nitty-gritty of diastasis recti. It's when your rectus abdominus muscles decide to take a little break and part ways down the middle. Blame it on the stretching and pressure that comes with pregnancy or even other factors that can affect anyone, not just expecting moms.
Why does diastasis recti happen to us postpartum?
Pregnancy is a big player, especially if you had multiple pregnancies or gained weight excessively. But improper exercise techniques and genetics can also come into play. Being aware of the culprits can help you make informed choices to prevent or manage your diastasis recti.
Telltale signs of diastasis recti
Recognizing diastasis recti symptoms is key! Look out for that coning, ridge or bulge along your midline of your abdomen, lower back pain, weak core muscles, and struggling with everyday movements. Spotting these signs will empower you to take action. Especially as you become pregnant again – the lack of support from the abdominal muscles may make vaginal delivery more challenging.
Spotting the gap
If you see coning on your belly when you do movements or exercises that put pressure on your abs (for instance, a plank or a sit up), or if you can feel the separation in between your abs, you might have it. I’ll teach you a simple self-check that you can do at home to measure the width and depth of the separation. If you're still unsure, simply schedule a free consultation video call and I'll help you assess your DR.
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CHECKING FOR DIASTASIS
Lie on your back with your knees bent. This position allows your abdominal muscles to relax, providing accurate results
Locate your rectus abdominus muscles. They run vertically down the middle of your abdomen.
Now, let's perform the diastasis check together. We will check at three different areas of your abdomen.
Lift your head and neck (think double chin). Place your fingers horizontally just above the belly button. Gently press and feel for any separation or gap between the muscles.
Move your fingers down to the middle of your abdomen. Repeat the gentle pressing technique to assess for any separation.
Now, move your fingers to the area just below your belly button. Once again, press gently and check for any separation.
Assess depth. Go through the three areas of your abdomen again and check how deep it is. How many nuckels of your fingers does it take to feel some resistance?
Finally, check again for the gap while creating tension. Give your neck a break and then go through all the steps from the beginning. Lift your head and neck, engage your pelvic floor and exhale. This will allow your abdomen to brace. You will notice whether your gap closes or opens more when you have to use force (i.e. lift a car seat or a baby).
Having a gap under 2 fingers wide and not too deep is quite normal and it usually means it will heal itself with time - especially if you are under 12 months postpartum.
I think I have it, how do I fix it?
Having diastasis recti up until you’re 12 months postpartum is not uncommon (32% of moms still have it according to a study). The good news is that you can support the healing process with safe and effective exercises (once you've been cleared by your doctor).
To start, download my pregnacy and postpartum yoga foundations course where I break down key exercises that you should do before you address your diastasis recti, especially if you have recently given birth and have weak pelvic floor muscles. Why? Think of your core as a balloon, air (or pressure) needs to come out somewhere to protect your spine. If you have diastasis recti, it probably means you’re releasing pressure through your abs. Closing the gap means that the pressure will go down towards your pelvic floor, and if your pelvic floor isn’t ready for that pressure, it may cause complications such as pelvic floor prolapse.
Once you got the basics on breathing, alignment and pelvic floor strength down, then you can start a personalized exercise program. Think pelvic tilts, activating your transverse abdominals, and modified planks.
When to call in reinforcements
There are tons of on demand online programs to help you heal your diastasis recti. However, most of them don't take into account how weak your pelvic floor muscles might be. To ensure that you are doing the exercises effectively and that you don't end up doing more harm than good, I encourage you to seek guidance from a specialized personal instructor.
In my 1:1 postnatal yoga and corrective exercise support program, I assess your diastasis recti and break down your exercise program step-by-step, and focus on breathing and alignment too (hello, yoga) because it matters SO MUCH!
Small changes can make a big difference. From rocking proper posture and body mechanics to being mindful of your movements throughout the day, I share with you practical tips to ease the strain on your abs and boost your recovery in a way that fits your schedule and lifestyle. You can schedule a consultation video call with me here.
However, if I we see that your diastasis recti is too deep or if things are tough or not improving, it's time to bring in a medical professional or a physical therapists who specializes in treating this condition.