Did you know that around 60% of women experience diastasis recti during or after pregnancy?
That is millions of new moms each year! Meaning that all women should be aware of what diastasis recti is and prepared for it should it ever occur.
DR is not a severe condition, but it can lead to pain during sex, constipation, abdominal hernia, as well as digestive issues like gas or diarrhoea.
I have compiled this guide with all the answers to the most frequently asked questions. Let’s get started!
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is a condition that occurs when your abdominal muscles separate along the midline.
This can cause the stomach to protrude and can make it difficult even to do simple activities such as coughing or laughing.
It is most commonly seen in postpartum women, but it can also happen in men and infants.
It can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. The condition affects about two-thirds of pregnant women and up to 90% of women who have given birth vaginally.
What Causes Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti can be caused by pregnancy, genetics and abdominal muscle tone.
It mostly happens after having a baby, when the abdominal wall is a little loose, and the thinner midline tissue doesn’t support the torso and internal organs as well as it did.
Those at greatest risk of diastasis recti include:
-Women who are expecting more than one baby
-Women with a visible sway back and those with poor abdominal muscle tone
-Women who are considered obese
Women who have a sway back or poor abdominal muscle tone are at risk of developing this condition.
How Do You Know If You Have Diastasis Recti?
Symptoms are typically absent until significant abdominal muscle separation develops, which is often largely unnoticed by those suffering from this condition.
The curl-up test can help you determine if your abdominal muscles separate down the middle:
- Lie down, ensuring your knees are bent, and your feet are flat on the ground.
- Put your fingers above your belly button.
- Slightly lift your head off the ground but keep your shoulders glued to the ground.
If your fingers sink into your belly, it means your abdominal wall has separated.
This test can be performed to check three different parts of your abdomen: at your belly button, above your belly button, and below your belly button.
How can I treat diastasis recti?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the treatment for diastasis recti may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s specific situation.
However, many people find that they can improve their symptoms with exercise and physical therapy.
If you are experiencing problems related to diastasis recti, it is important to consult a pelvic floor physical therapist or specialist.
In some cases, women may require surgical intervention to correct the problem.
Are There Any At-Home Treatments for Diastasis Recti?
You can treat diastasis recti with conservative exercise and weight loss measures.
Some at-home treatments include targeted exercises, wearing a belly band, and using cold packs.
However, surgery may be necessary if there is no improvement after 6-12 months.
Always check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your exercise routine or diet.
Diastasis recti exercises
You can do specific exercises to help correct the condition, but it is best to seek guidance from a physical therapist.
In fact, traditional crunches can actually make the situation worse, so it is important to be aware of what exercises to avoid.
Transverse Abdominis Activation
The transverse abdominis is the deepest abdominal muscle and wraps around your abdomen like a corset.
When the transverse abdominis is weak, it’s difficult for you to activate your deep core muscles.
This muscle can be trained effectively with simple exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing and the posterior pelvic tilt.
- Lie down on your back and place one hand on your stomach
- Take a deep breath, allowing your abdomen to expand
- Exhale, making sure your abdomen contracts
Posterior pelvic tilt:
The posterior pelvic tilt is a movement in which the front of the pelvis rises and the back of the pelvis drops while the pelvis rotates upwards.
The video below shows exactly how to perform this exercise:
Brace Heel Slides
Brace heel slides is another simple but effective core exercise:
- Lie on your back with knees bent, and use your stomach muscles to keep your spine from moving.
- Contract your transverse abdominis and slide your heel forward
- Slide it back to the starting position
- Repeat for 10-12 reps
- Lie on your back with knees bent
- Slowly raise one foot a few inches and then set it back down
- Next, perform on your other leg
- Perform ten repetitions on the other leg.
Brace Single Knee Extension
The Brace Single Knee Extension is a good exercise for the rectus abdominis muscles:
- Lie on your back with knees bent and perform the transverse abdominis contraction.
- Straighten out one knee while keeping the leg off the ground, then return to the original position.
- Perform the same exercise on the other leg, contracting your stomach muscles as you do so.
- Perform ten repetitions of the exercise
How Do I Know When My Diastasis Has Healed?
There are a few ways to determine if your diastasis has healed.
One is by feeling if there is good tension along your linea alba when you press into your belly.
Another way to tell is by checking if you have regained your natural waistline- if the protrusion or “pooch” is gone, then you have most likely healed.
Once you have healed, you should be able to fit comfortably into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
You may still see a small amount of separation, but it should be minimal and not cause you pain or discomfort.
When Do I Need to See My Doctor for Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is a natural, normal and necessary stretching of the abdominal muscles to make room for a baby to grow.
However, you should see your doctor if your diastasis recti persist.
In addition, see your doctor if:
- You experience any pain in your abdominal area
- You are unable to engage your core muscles or feel a protrusion in your stomach
- You have a gap of more than two fingers between your abs
- You have difficulty breathing or feel pressure on your bladder or rectum
Does diastasis recti affect bowel movements?
Diastasis recti can lead to several issues, including difficulty in bowel movements.
If you are experiencing problems with your bowel movements, it is vital to speak to a doctor to see if diastasis recti may be the cause.
What things can I do to prevent diastasis recti from happening again?
There are a few things you can do to help prevent diastasis recti from happening again.
If you are not pregnant, try to do daily exercises that strengthen your core muscles, such as pelvic tilts or planks.
You can also try to maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet.
There are also some exercises that can be done if you are already expecting a baby. Just make sure you only perform safe abdominal exercises during your pregnancy.
Diastasis recti can affect everyone, so it is crucial to understand what it is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.
Since diastasis recti can lead to various complications, including pain and incontinence, being aware of it is essential.
Now that you know more about this condition make sure to keep your abdominal muscles in shape to make your pregnancy and postpartum journey go as smoothly as possible!