Diastasis Recti: How to Diagnose and Heal Yourself?
What is Diastasis Recti?
You might have heard of the term Diastasis Recti. But what is it and why is it so important? The easiest definition for Diastasis Recti is ab separation around the midline of your stomach. After childbirth, your body will try to put the connective tissue around your belly back together. However, a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that more than 60% of women may experience Diastasis post-partum.
How to Diagnose Diastasis Recti?
The easiest way to diagnose Diastasis Recti post-partum is by checking the shape of your belly above or below the navel. The most noticeable symptom is a belly pooch that appears while using your abdominal muscles when standing, sitting, or lying down. You can self-check for Diastasic Recti like this:
- Lie down on your back on a mat on the floor, knees in a 45° angle. Slightly lift your shoulders and head off the ground while you reach with your right hand for your feet.
- Feel with two fingers of your left hand above and below your navel along the midline to measure if there is a gap between your ab muscles.
- Right after giving birth, you will likely suffer from moderate Diastasis Recti and therefore feel a gap that is 1 to 2 fingers wide. If the size of the gap is bigger than 2 cm, it’s best to see your doctor or physical therapist to evaluate what measures should be taken.
Causes and Consequences of Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti can be caused when there is too much inter-abdominal pressure. Your “six-pack muscles” or rectus abdominis must separate during pregnancy due to the growth of your uterus. It’s only afterwards that you can start to rebuild your core strength.
When your core is weakened, its functions are compromised. This may lead to annoying consequences like peeing your pants while sneezing, coughing, running, and in a worse case scenario even organ prolapse, abdominal hernia and back pain.
Treatment for Diastasis Recti - Do's and Don'ts
When you are about 8 weeks post-partum and still have a noticeable gap between your abs around the midline, there are a couple of easy practices for treatment:
- Watch your posture: stand up tall with a straight back and keep your shoulders down, especially while carrying and breastfeeding your baby requires a lot of forward movement
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Support yourself getting in and out of bed or standing up from the floor by bending your knees, rolling sidewards and then upwards using your arms
- Strengthen your pelvic floor and core post-partum with safe exercises
- Avoid twisting your core and exercises like traditional crunches, sit-ups, and planks post-partum
Safe Exercises to Prevent and Heal Diastasis Recti
Pre- and during your pregnancy you can start or continue to build core strength by performing certain exercises that can prevent and heal you from Diastasis Recti. The areas to focus on include your pelvic floor and oblique abdominal muscles. It’s important to always use good form when performing abdominal exercises.
Some exercises that are safe to start with once your doctor has given you the green light (usually 6-8 weeks after a natural birth and 8-12 weeks after a c-section):
- Band pull-apart
- Bird dog
- Leg slides
- Toe taps
- Single leg touchdown
- Side plank
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