Do I have an Abdominal Separation? The Self-Test

You might be curious about this abdominal separation if you have the doming effect or the “bread loaf” every time you do a crunch or a plank. Maybe you feel you still look pregnant.

It’s important to know if you have this condition for so many reasons; some exercises can make it worse, it creates back pain, pelvic pain, distended belly, a weak core and limitations in function.

There is much disparity in what is considered the “normal” inter-recti distance. One can read a dozen research articles on Diastasis Recti DR and come up with multiple suggestions for what is normal. The differences have been attributed to variances in measuring tools (ultrasound imaging, fingers, caliper), location along the linea alba, whether the trunk was at rest or actively flexes, if the individual was pregnant, and gender. Calipers or finger measurements, while not as accurate as ultrasound imaging are used much more frequently for diagnosis of DR. Specific diagnosis of DR typically is performed by a physician or physical therapist.

Diastasis Recti occurs in 33-60% of pregnant women. Research shows about 45% of women still have this condition 6 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. That said our bodies are made to bear children and are also resilient in getting back to their prior self!
This abdominal separation occurs when the tissue between the right and left recti is distanced more than 2 finger widths in this self-test.

So often individuals, especially women, put up with discomfort, limitations in function and poor self-image when there are options available to address the altered mechanics of the abdominal wall. There are several things you can do to better this condition: posture, functional moving in daily activity, strength in the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor and not doing exercises that can make it worse. We have a full diastasis recti program that addresses all of these solutions!

Use this Self Test to determine if you should speak with your doctor about this condition:


Place your fingers above or below your belly button (this is the largest diameter of pregnancy where the diastasis usually occurs). Diastasis recti commonly occurs above the navel, although it can occur below the belly button as well. Place your hands behind your head or touching the opposite shoulder, perform a crunch while placing two fingers horizontally above – then below – your navel.

Mild Case = 2-3 finger widths

Moderate Case = 3-4 finger widths

Severe Case = 4+ finger widths

In most cases we recommend you meet 1-1 with a physical therapist or physical therapist!

For some moms, it takes a few weeks to bridge the gap. And for some moms it takes months. Know your body and treat it well! You won’t want to advance to “traditional” ab training until the condition is better.

Meet Jenn, a mom who didn’t discover her own mild diastasis until she was over 5 years postpartum! In this video form our Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness Summit, Megan, a Physical Therapist, shows how and where to find an abdominal separation:


A distended belly can also be due to an under cued transverse abdominis. A distended belly can also be due to poor nutrition and/ or intra-abdominal fat.

Distended Belly ≠ Diastasis Recti

Flat Belly ≠ No Diastasis Recti

For more information on c-sections, running with diastasis recti, your pelvic floor and more download our Ab Rehab Guide.


The Research

At Moms Into Fitness we want to make sure you are getting solid advice.  That is why all of our exercise recommendations are based on research and all of our nutrition information is from a Registered Dietitian.

Chiarello in 2013, presented that in women who had never given birth, ≤1 cm above or below the umbilicus was considered normal, but in women who had given birth, 1.5-2 cm above or below the umbilicus was considered normal. She also stated that normal inter-recti distance in men was 1.5 cm above the umbilicus and 1 cm below the umbilicus, but noted that further research into DR in the male population is needed to adequately establish what is normal. Other research has reported that individuals with DR present with an inter-recti distance of >1.5 cm (Gilleard, 1996), >2 cm (Lo, 1999), >2.5 cm (Candido, 2005) or >2 finger widths during a partial sit-up (Sheppard, 1996).


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