During 40 weeks of pregnancy, our clever little bodies have many wonderful ways in which they adapt and prepare for the upcoming birth. We start to create milk, our ligaments start to “relax”, hormones increase and abdominals stretch. During this time, as the baby grows, it is very common for the most superficial layer of the abdominals to separate. The muscles become lengthened and the Linea alba (connective tissue more commonly understood to be the midline of your six pack!) stretches – it is VERY rare that it actually rips apart.
Don’t be alarmed, this is a totally normal change in the body for a pregnant woman, but it is very important that we deal with it correctly post birth. (It should also be said that Diastasis Recti can also be present in athletes who train abdominals incorrectly and in people who are overweight.)
So my abdominals stretched and came apart, who cares? Right?
Neglecting to “close the gap” after giving birth, or doing the wrong kind of abdominal exercises (crunches) too soon can leave us with a permanent “mummy tummy”, torso instability, lower back pain and may require surgery in extreme cases.
So, how do I know if I’ve got one?
Are you lying comfortably?
While lying on your back, bend your knees and have your feet on the floor. Place two fingers on your tummy, perpendicular to the floor, 3cm above your belly button. Press down gently with your fingers as you lift your head off the floor. You are feeling for a ridge or gap where your fingers sink down in between the two sides of abdominals.
Can you feel this? If so, this is a Diastasis Recti, you want to keep measuring to determine how wide the gap is (1 finger wide, 2 fingers, 3 fingers, etc) do the same test just below the belly button as well. Sometimes a separation can also be present at the top of the Rectus Abdominis as well, just below the rib cage, so you can have a poke around up there too.
Can’t feel anything? Not really sure? It may be best to go and see a women’s physio or specialist (or come see me!) they will be able to tell you for sure. (Unfortunately a lot of health professionals don’t know how to test, what disatasis is, or how to help heal it. I remember when I was in the hospital after giving birth to my son, I asked a midwife to check this for me and she had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain and she just said “do some pelvic floor exercises”
So, you have a Diastasis Recti, now what?
Don’t freak out, it’s totally normal and there is plenty that can be done to bring it back together, it just takes time and a little effort on your part.
Next week I will post a video showing you a great manual technique you can use to start to close your abdominal separation, as well as a few easy exercises you can do at home (even while holding a baby, so no excuses ladies!)
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have firstname.lastname@example.org Or even better, come see me in the studio.
Catch you next week!
Tamara has studied “Healing Exercises for Diastasis Recti” under Carolyne Anthony at MBodies Training Academy in Oxford UK. She has furthered her women’s health knowledge by completing courses on Pubis Symphasis Derangement, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Menopause and Pilates for Pre and Postnatal women. As a mother herself, Tamara understands firsthand the importance of core strength, abdominal connection and maintaining a healthy body.