Diastasis Recti

What is Diastasis Recti?

During pregnancy, many women experience a separation of their stomach muscles. known as Diastasis recti, this condition occurs when the main abdominal muscles (called the rectus abdominus) begin to pull apart. The left and right sides of this muscle separate, leaving a gap in between. Separated muscles do not tear or rupture, so little pain is involved, at least initially. Instead the muscles thin out, creating a space in the abdomen.  During the postnatal period this gap begins to close. For some women this gap closes fully and causes them no problems. For others this gap can be slower to close and may need certain exercises to help facilitate the healing.  This gap can get worse over time, if posture or nutrition is less than ideal and unsuitable exercises are done this may result in future health complications such as lower back pain, hernia's and pelvic floor issues..


What Causes Diastasis recti?

The rectus abdominus is kept in line by your transverse abs (the girdle like muscles that help keep your stomach flat) & your oblique abs (the muscles around your sides). During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles tend to separate due to babies growth in your uterus. This exerts pressure on the rectus abdominus muscles, causing them to separate. Women who experience rapid growth of their stomach during pregnancy are more likely to suffer. Women with particularly weak abdominal muscles may also end up with a split between the left and right side of the rectus abdominus. 

Symptoms of Diastasis recti 

Separation of the abdominal muscles is typically painless but there are a few symptoms that will help you to identify the condition. These include:

A gap or space just below your navel bump or ridge running from your breastbone down to your navel

Weakness with the pelvic floor

Pain in the lower back

Complications Associated with Diastasis recti

If you are suffering from separated muscles during pregnancy or in the postnatal period, it is important to take steps to encourage your muscles and connective tissue to heal fully. If the separation is large over 2 fingers, It is unlikely that these muscles will heal by themselves and they may actually continue to separate after you have given birth. 

How to check for separation:

  1. Lie flat on your back, bend your legs placing your feet flat on the ground relatively near to your buttocks.
  2. You should place 2 or 3 fingers below, at or above the belly button between the sheaths of the rectus abdominis so you can see the palm of your hand.
  3. Pull in and tighten the abdominal muscles
  4. Aiming to keep your tummy flat and pulled in raise your head off the floor (2 to 3 cm), looking towards the tops of your knees.
  5. The two sides of the rectus abdominus should close together on your fingers. If you don't feel anything add another finger until you feel the 2 sides of the abdominal wall. If a gap is greater than 2 fingers wide then diastatsis is still present and doming may occur.

Having a separation is normal, often a small separation remains. For some people they might have had a separation before falling pregnant but have never checked. Men sometime suffer from this and babies have it. What is important is to strengthen the muscles and connective tissue correctly so that they function correctly so no doming occurs and so that they do their job correctly within the core.  

What is doming?

The core consists of the pelvic floor, abdominal wall muscles & connective tissues, diaphragm and lumbar/thoracic muscles and connective tissues. 

During exercise abdominal pressure will increase, so it is important to exhale on the effort to reduce pressure. Where there is the separation there is a weakness and as this pressure increases within the abdominal cavity the muscles may not be able to remain flat due to the weakness and at this point doming occurs.

Exercises to avoid if separation is greater than 2 fingers:

Press-ups, Exercises on all four's, Oblique work, crunches,  planks and any exercise where doming occurs.

Holistic Core Restore is a programme that will help you heal a small diasisis. Click here for more info. One2One sessions are available for a more personalised approach. Click here to get in contact.


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