This is an important article for so many reasons and we’re so glad our Mommy’s Bliss 360 and Women’s Health Expert and author of Your Strong Sexy Pregnancy; a Yoga and Fitness Guide, Desi Bartlett, can enlighten us. Diastasis Recti is real, often misunderstood, and treatable. Let’s hear more about this condition that affects many. Again…knowledge is bliss when it comes to all things postnatal.
Diastasis Recti (DR) is a condition that affects many individuals, especially women during and after pregnancy. It is a common yet often misunderstood issue that when properly treated, can often help heal this condition.
What is DR?
Diastasis Recti is a widened separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, which are the muscles that run vertically along the midline of the abdomen and are responsible for the six-pack ab appearance. This separation occurs when the connective tissue between the muscles, known as the linea alba (the thin white line that runs down your belly), stretches and weakens, causing a gap or a bulge to form. Some women notice a tenting or dome-like appearance in the abdomen when in certain positions, like lying flat on your back or in certain positions like downward facing dog from yoga.
Who is Most Susceptible?
While diastasis recti can affect both men and women, it is most commonly associated with women, particularly during and after pregnancy. The growing uterus during pregnancy puts added pressure on the abdominal muscles, leading to the separation. However, it's important to note that other factors can contribute to diastasis recti, such as:
- Multiple pregnancies
- Having multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Women over 35
Diagnosing Diastasis Recti
Diagnosing DR typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional. For example, your OB can check for DR at your 6 week postpartum visit. The most common method is to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then lift your head and shoulders off the ground while feeling for a gap or bulge along the midline of the abdomen. A healthcare provider may use their fingers to measure the width and depth of the separation. Generally speaking, providers will check for a widening of the connective tissue at three landmarks: about 2-3 inches above the navel, at the navel, and about 2-3 inches below the navel. The space between the two sides of the abdominis rectus are usually measured by fingers, and a space of 2 fingers or more is considered DR. Additionally, providers are checking the integrity of the tissue, specifically feeling for firmness in the connective tissue. If the tissue has been compromised, the tissue will feel spongy, and can indicate DR. Keep in mind that the depth of DR can be measured in addition to the width of the separation, and that the spongy texture can be an indication that depth should be measured in that particular area. While it is possible to check for DR on your own, it is highly recommended to see a healthcare professional and allow them to assess the degree of the DR.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the deep abdominal muscles, known as the transverse abdominis (TVA). These are the muscles behind the six pack abdominal muscles. By bringing awareness and strength to the TVA muscles, as well as the pelvic floor muscles, you can begin to stabilize the core.
Corrective Exercises: Specific exercises, such as pelvic tilts, abdominal compressions, and heel slides, can be effective in reducing the separation of the abdominal muscles. It is very important not to be too aggressive with abdominal exercises that involve movement with large range of motion (ROM) such as leg lifts, when rehabilitating DR. Slow, steady, controlled movements can help to promote strength and stabilization of the core.
Postural Awareness: Maintaining proper posture is important for Moms with diastasis recti. Correct body alignment can alleviate pressure on the abdominal muscles and promote healing. During pregnancy it is natural to stand with more of a curve in the lower back. As the baby inside grows, your abdomen naturally stretches and pulls forward. After your baby is born, it is important to reconnect to the strength and stability of your postural muscles.
Supportive Gear: In some cases, healthcare professionals may recommend wearing supportive garments or abdominal binders to provide additional support to the weakened abdominal muscles. There are many different types and styles available, and these can be a good short-term source of external support, as you begin to reclaim your deep core strength, and internal support.
Surgical Intervention (in severe cases): In extreme cases where there is a surgical intervention may be considered to repair the separated muscles.
What to do if you have DR
In addition to the treatment options listed above, you can support your healing by consulting with a fitness professional or physical therapist to create a tailored exercise program. Returning to exercise gradually after having a baby is important to regain the strength and stability of the core. Additionally, you can support your postpartum healing by making sure that you are eating high quality foods and properly nourishing your body with a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals.
You are not alone
It is important to remember that while it is more prevalent in certain populations, anyone can be affected by DR. In fact, diastasis recti is a common condition that affects up to 60% of all women, and an early diagnosis can help you on the healing path. If you think that you may have DR, actively seek out a provider to help you determine the appropriate interventions, including targeted exercises and lifestyle modifications, which can play an important role in the healing process.
This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.