Diastasis Recti has become somewhat of a buzzword lately, with people on social media and the fitness world talking about it constantly and creating a lot of confusion about what it is.
All this information can be misleading at best, and disheartening and scary to new or expecting mothers at worst.
Below, we’ll bust some myths about Diastasis Recti and also give you some tips if you’re worried about it happening, or are experiencing it right now.
Still, some of you may be wondering what the heck is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti (or divarication) is a common occurrence during pregnancy. It’s when the 2 muscles that run down the middle of your stomach separate during pregnancy.
The severity of this separation can vary, but it happens when your growing womb (uterus) pushes the muscles apart. This weakens the muscle and stretches them. Usually, the separation between your stomach muscles will return to normal by the time your baby is 8 weeks old.
After you’ve had your baby, there is a simple technique to check the size of your separation.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent, and your feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down at your belly.
- With the tips of your fingers, feel between the edges of the muscles below and above your belly button. See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles.
You can do this technique regularly to check that the gap is getting smaller and smaller. If the gap is still obvious 8 weeks after birth, you can talk to your doctor as this could lead to back problems.
Your doctor may then give you specific exercises to do, such as pelvic floor or deep stomach muscle exercises. These can help reduce the size of the separation between your stomach muscles.
You should also try to stand up tall and be aware of your posture. However, there also other exercises you can do to heal Diastasis Recti, some of which you can find below.
Myth #1: You Can’t Prevent Diastasis Recti
Every woman will experience some degree of abdominal separation during pregnancy.
The 2 sides of the rectus abdominis, i.e. six-pack muscles separate along the middle of connective tissue called the linea alba that holds them together.
This separation is needed to accommodate your growing baby, and this connective tissue is designed to stretch. If it didn’t, this would cause intra abdominal pressure that is harmful to the baby.
There is no point in testing for a Diastasis Recti during pregnancy because your muscles are bound to separate.
But while this is totally normal, we should still protect our core and linea alba through a healthy weight gain. Proper posture, practicing breathing patterns, and doing safe, core exercises can help prevent a severe Diastasis Recti from occurring.
Learning how to move and breathe with your growing belly, safely strengthening your core, and limiting stress and strain on weakened areas is the best way to maintain core connection. In this way, pregnancy can be the ideal time to reconnect with your core.
Myth #2: A Gap Between Your Muscles Always Means Diastasis Recti
While abdominal separation happens to every woman, this isn’t necessarily Diastasis Recti. The rectus abdominis will never be a solid muscle.
As we touched on in the intro, a separation of two finger widths of more is considered a Diastasis Recti, but while this is medically correct, not every woman who experiences this kind of separation has a Diastasis Recti.
Firstly, we need to consider the mother’s ability to create a core connection and tension along the linea alba to manage intra abdominal pressure.
While it is recommended to measure the width of the gap, we should actually pay attention to the depth of the gap. This is because the gap indicates the heath of the connective tissue and core strength.
With a firm two-finger gap, your core is still functional. You can create tension in your ab midline and control intra-abdominal pressure. You have a ‘functional’ Disastis Recti.
However, if the two-finger gap is squishy then it’s possible your connective tissue has lost integrity and may not carry tension well. Your core is disconnected and weakened, and you have a Diastasis Recti.
Myth #3: You Can Only Heal Your Diastasis Recti After Your Postpartum Check-up Appointment
While your Diastasis Recti should clear by the time your baby is 8 weeks old, some new moms get approval from their doctor to start the recovery process as soon as they’re ready, no matter how they give birth.
Once you’ve given birth, the linea alba can regenerate but it doesn’t do this on its own, and you need to be careful so that the tissue can heal properly.
The first 6 weeks after birth are crucial. Very gentle exercises based on abdominal breathing are extremely helpful in safely awakening your core along with your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises can help you gradually regain your strength, and recover quickly.
Myth #4: Diastasis Recti Can Only Be Cured With Surgery
While there are specific postnatal core rehab exercises that can re-strengthen your core and tighten the gap, there are also the above exercises that you can do at home.
Most mothers with a Diastasis Recti want to primarily close the ab midline, but this isn’t always possible. But there is still hope!
Re-strengthening your core with Diastasis Recti exercises, learning how to manage intra abdominal pressure, and firming up the gap helps to flatten your belly which reduces pain and allows you to safely resume more strenuous activities.
However, surgery may still be needed for more severe cases but for average cases, this is definitely the last report.
Surgery addresses the result of the damage, not the cause. Addressing the cause of the damage prevents it from happening again, and you can do this with specific postnatal exercises.
But if you have surgery or not, it’s important to restrengthen and rehabilitate your core.
Myth #5: A ‘Mommy Pooch’ Is Diastasis Recti
A distended abdomen is common among mothers, but some don’t have any ab separation. Practicing exercises that are not right for you and neglecting your posture often lead to a protruding belly that is commonly called ‘mommy tummy.’
There can be a lack of knowledge in the fitness community about pregnant and postpartum bodies, which puts new moms at risk of harming themselves.
For example, some women will do a ridiculous amount of crunches to regain a flat stomach, but crunches do not address the underlying issue or fix it.
Exercising the superficial abdominal muscles can lead to muscle imbalances because the 6-pack muscles become much stronger than your transverse (deepest ab muscle layer) and pelvic floor muscles.
This is a common mistake that encourages pelvic floor dysfunction, ab separation, and a round belly. This can end up doing more harm than good.
Unfortunately, many women are unaware they don’t need crunches to get strong and toned abs. In fact, their abs can be strengthened by practicing abdominal breathing exercises.
Myth #6: You Need To Wear A Corset to Heal Diastasis Recti
Some mothers choose to wear a splint or corset to heal but it’s not totally necessary. Soon after childbirth, new moms are extremely fatigued and experience core weakness.
A girdle helps some women to feel supported and secure, and these can also help with your posture and reduce stress and strain on the loose ab midline.
When wearing a girdle, make sure you choose the right size so you don’t squish your abdomen too much. This can put pressure on your already fragile pelvic floor and could lead to incontinence or even prolapse.
After your postpartum period, continuously wearing any type of external support garment can be harmful.
Being too reliant on a girdle, splint, or corset can erode strength and stability, affect your breathing patterns, and can prevent full postpartum recovery.
Myth #7: You Need to Heal Your Diastasis Recti As Soon as Possible
While you may want to act as soon as possible to heal your Diastasis Recti, it’s never too late to make improvements. Even if you gave birth years ago, you can still use postnatal exercises to build the proper pelvic floor and abdominal function, eliminate back pain, incontinence, and post-pregnancy belly.
Your body is incredibly resilient and adaptable and regenerates constantly with the right exercise and diet. Adopting better, healthier habits help your body to regenerate better.