Updated: Apr 8, 2020
What is Diastasis Recti?
DR is a separation of the muscles of your abdomen. The word “diastasis” means ‘separation’ and “recti” refers to the muscles in your abdomen. A slight separation is completely normal, and even expected during pregnancy as your belly grows and expands in order to accommodate a growing baby. Space has to be created and part of the often includes the muscles of your abdomen separating. After delivery, a diastasis may last for a bit while you recover, but if it does not heal, it can become a dysfunction which can affect many of your daily activities.
There can be several different types of DR as indicated in the illustration, but the most common is along the middle of your belly, below your belly button (the line of fibrous tissue that runs down the center of your belly between the muscles is called your linea alba). Anywhere that there is separation of the muscles in your belly, there is the possibility of a diastasis occurring.
How Do I Know if I have Diastasis Recti?
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Exhale and raise your head off the floor, looking down your chest and belly, in a very shallow crunch position – enough to where you feel the activation in your abdomen. With two or three fingers, feel along the lower part of your belly, below your belly button (along your linea alba). You should feel a harder section on both sides where your muscles are and a softer, mushy type feeling between those muscles. A 1-2 finger width is typically considered normal and functional for the most part. Anything more than that is a DR that needs to be addressed and healed in order to restore proper movement and function.
What Can I Do to Prevent Diastasis Recti?
While you are pregnant, you can avoid exercises or movements that put a lot of intra-abdominal pressure on your belly – particularly along that line right under your belly button, between those abdominal muscles on either side (your linea alba). If you notice any type of coning in your abdomen during any particular movement, that is probably a good indication that you should discontinue that exercise.
During postpartum, if you do a self-test and notice that you have a gap that is wider than a finger or two, you also need to pay attention movements or exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure. Traditional ab exercises like crunches and planks can actually do more harm than good if you are desperately trying to get rid of your post-baby belly pooch. In fact, if you have a consistent pooch that hasn’t decreased much since delivery, it’s very possible that you have a significant diastasis that needs to be addressed and healed.
Now, whether you are pregnant or postpartum, I will always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS recommend that you meet with a pelvic floor physical therapist (also known as a PFPT) for an evaluation. PFPT’s are trained to evaluate and treat all kinds of dysfunctions, including DR, and can give you very helpful advice and guidance that is tailored specifically to you and your needs. While the internet and the information you find here can be great, nothing can take the place of personalized care and the best place to receive that care as a pregnant or postpartum woman with a dysfunction is at a PFPT.
Where Do I Go From Here?
If you have DR and go to see a PFPT, then you can proceed, armed with information to help you on your road to healing and recovery. Your PFPT can give you more specific advice, but there are several exercises that are safe for pretty much any woman that is trying to heal a diastasis. Keep an eye out on the blog for some of those exercises coming later in the week!