Diastasis Recti is the separation of the two rectus abdominis muscles, or ‘six pack’ of more than 2.5cm. It may often be referred to as ‘The Gap’ and occurs when these abdominal muscles separate and do not close after pregnancy.
HOW DOES DIASTASIS OCCUR?
Firstly, the stretching of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy is quite normal and perfectly natural! You have a baby growing in there. It usually occurs during the second or third trimester.
The two abdominal muscles run from the breastbone to the pubic bone. At the midline of these muscles, there is connective tissue, called the line alba (which was were you had/have a brown line during pregnancy). Due to the growing foetus, uterus and hormonal softening, this connective tissue stretches and weakens during pregnancy.
WHAT INCREASES THE RISK OF DIASTASIS?
Research has shown that between 35 – 62% of women have diastasis recti postpartum.
The gap usually closes naturally 6-8 weeks after having your baby. However sometimes it doesn’t and it may be because of the following factors:
- Pregnancies with twins, triplets or more
- Females are overweight pre or during pregnancy
- Delivering a large babies
- Having Uterine Fluid during pregnancy (or Polyhydramnios which is the condition of having high amniotic fluid levels)
- Previous laxity or muscular imbalances caused by overtraining the rectus abdominal muscles versus the internal ‘Core’ or Transversus abdominal muscles.
- Pregnancies that are close together
- Older Maternal Age
- Anterior Tilt of the Pelvis (Lordotic Posture)
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF DIASTASIS?
- Lower back pain
- Pelvic Region Pain
- Upper back pain
- Pelvic floor weakness and incontinence
- Intestinal and digestive issues
- Inability of the abdominal muscles to stabilise the pelvis against any force or resistance
- Compromises the posture and ability to breathe effectively
- Correct movement and recruitment of the abdominal muscles
- Compromises vaginal delivery
- “A mummy tummy” which is a bulging of a females’ abdomen which diet and exercise doesn’t fix.
HOW DO I PREVENT DIASTASIS DURING PREGNANCY OR HELP HEAL IT POST PARTUM?
Prevention is always better than attempting to cure and if you’ve just read the list above, here is what you can do to help prevent being at risk:
1. Exercise. Ninety percent of non‐exercising pregnant women showed Diastasis Recti while only 12.5% of exercising women had the condition in research conducted in 2002*. Abdominal exercises that target activation of your Transverse Abdominal Muscles (deep muscles, like a corset that wraps around your trunk) can help prevent diastasis. Ideally you want to do these during your pregnancy but after the baby will also help close or minimise the gap.
2. Avoid piling on the pounds during pregnancy by eating for two or being inactive.
3. Improving your posture and correcting it, correctly! This is particularly important when lifting other children, other objects or when exercising, particularly strength training.
4. Avoiding certain abdominal and pilates exercises that will make the Diastasis worse. These are sit-ups, pilates 100’s, planks, oblique cross-overs or bicycles and strong rotations or side flexion exercises.
HOW TO CHECK YOURSELF FOR DIASTASIS RECTI
This is one of the best, most helpful and accurate videos I found for checking for Diastasis by LaraCatone. There are many out there and some rather poor and misleading!
*Chiarello et al (2005): The effects of an Exercise Programme on Diastasis Recti Abdominis in Pregnant Women.