Diastasis Recti, otherwise known as an abdominal separation, is the distancing of the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles.
Research has shown that 30-60% of pregnant women can have diastasis recti. And, the research shows about 45% of women still have this condition six months postpartum. You are more prone to this abdominal gap if you have a weaker abdominal wall, if you are carrying a large baby, if you are carrying more than one baby, if you have a narrow pelvis, if you have more than one child, if had them close together, or if you’re over 35 when you get pregnant. After that long list of predisposing factors, you can see why 33-60% of mamas have diastasis recti during the second half of pregnancy. This abdominal separation occurs when the tissue between the right and left recti is distanced by more than two finger-widths. If the condition goes undetected, it can lead to low back pain, poor posture, bloating, or worse, an umbilical hernia.
You might notice you have a diastasis if your abs “cone” or “dome” or “bread loaf” during the concentric phase of a crunch or when performing a plank.
If you have been diagnosed with a diastasis, there are a few things you can do to improve your condition: Use proper posture, incorporate functional movements into daily activities, performing exercises to strengthen the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor and avoiding exercises (i.e. planks, crunches, twisting motions) that can make it worse will help you manage this condition during your pregnancy and after you give birth to your baby.
While this condition may be unique to you, there are some general guidelines that we tend to follow in our workouts. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you cannot do planks another other more traditional ab exercises if you have been diagnosed with Diastasis Recti. If you are completely in tune with your core and you know how to properly activate your Transverse Abdominis (TA), you should be able to perform our diastasis approved pregnancy core workouts. If you aren’t sure how to properly activate your TA, you will need to start with the Core Foundation TA workout before you can gradually add in other, functional exercises. Rest assured, we have everything laid out for you in all of our pregnancy core workouts, specifically the Foundation Core workout for Pregnancy.
There are several movements and exercises you can do during pregnancy. But in most cases the diastasis recti cannot be healed until the baby is no longer adding pressure to the tissues.
So does this mean you are out of luck? No!
I recommend some transverse abodminis exercises, postural changes, pelvic floor exercises and stretches. It is always best to see a professional one-on-one for your specific needs (your doctor might recommend a physical therapist or physiotherapist). We also have a full library of Diastasis-Friendly workouts for pregnancy, including these transverse abdominis core workouts and full body workouts.
Overall what research shows:
After pregnancy if you are left with this abdominal gap – there are some exercises you can do to narrow this gap. Because your abs are no longer contracting effectively, you need to heal your muscles from the inside out starting with the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis. Check out exercises for diastasis recti after pregnancy.
We always, always recommend 1-1 attention with a physical therapist for this condition. Once that is extablished, follow our prenatal and postnatal programs modified for diastasis recti.
For fitness professionals, we cover this topic more extensively in our Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness course.