We’ve been talking to a lot of mums and mums-to-be recently about Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) – Now, if you’re reading this wondering ‘what on earth is that?’ you’re definitely not alone. It seems that this common (perfectly natural) outcome of pregnancy is a mystery to so many people including those with children and this is something we definitely want to help change.
So, what is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is the separation of your abdominal muscles. During pregnancy the connective tissue (Linea Alba) that runs between your recti muscles (from your sternum to pelvis) becomes more elastic in order to make space for that growing baby. As this happens, the abdominal muscles, which usually lay parallel to each other, widen (pretty amazing huh). (See diagram above)
After giving birth you can be left with a gap, which can appear like a dip in your tummy and/or a little pouch aka ‘Mum Tum’ (we’re not a fan of this phrase). Essentially, the muscles and connective tissue that normally hold everything in place, aren’t as tight and so won’t be functioning quite as well.
The size of a gap varies from person to person….not only in width (DR can vary from 1-2 fingers to 4-5 fingers, sometimes more) but also where abouts it occurs in the connective tissue. For example, some women see most of their separation around the belly button and others along the whole length of the connective tissue. Everyone is different so don’t worry if yours isn’t the same as your friends or members of your NCT group
After giving birth, your abdominal muscles should naturally start to come back together (bad ass body in action) and so there’s usually no need check your separation for the first couple of weeks.
Below in the slideshow is Lisa at 1 – 8 weeks postnatal with Diastasis Recti
During the very early stages, it’s important to take care when lifting anything and also sitting yourself up, i.e. when getting out of bed, the car or even off the sofa. Excessive force and flexion forwards can aggravate separation.
How to self-test
Lay down on your back (carefully, coming on to your side first) with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor
Take three fingers and place them over your belly button and gently push down
Gently roll your head and shoulder blades off the floor a little (this is not a sit up) in order to create some tension and allow you to feel any separation – at this point you should be able to make out the edges of the abdominal muscles
From your belly button move your fingers up your midline, always feeling for the edges of your abdominals and establish how many fingers of separation you have at each point… then work your way back down and also below your tummy button
Remember, the width of abdominal separation can vary from 1-2 fingers to 4 or 5 fingers, sometimes more in width. Take note of where you’re at now and we then recommend testing again every 2 weeks or so to monitor progress.
NB: Always speak to a professional if you’re concerned or want someone qualified to test your separation for you
In our next diastasis post we’ll be looking at the exercises, movements and non exercises (yes, you read that right) to help reduce your DR and improve function of your core muscles long term…
Our goal with these posts is to raise awareness of Diastasis Recti and arm you with better knowledge in order to address it. Without proper care, DR can cause long term issues including back pain, pelvic floor weakness and incontinence. These issues are currently far too normalised (‘Oops Moments’ anyone?) as just outcomes of pregnancy, rather than getting to the core of the problem (see what I did there?) and we want to see that change… starting… now!
Please feel free to ask us any questions and we’ll get back to you…
Knowledge is (body) power!!
Thank you to Lisa @thenalongcameyout for sharing her postnatal images with us
Diastasis Recti diagram – sourced from Katy Bowman’s book ‘ Diastasis Recti – The whole body solution to abdominal weakness and separation’