Diastasis Recti-Does every mom get it?!

Diastasis Recti- buzz word in postpartum fitness right now. Ab separation, stomach muscles that literally separate during pregnancy. Sounds scary to new and expecting moms, is another “issue to address” for many busy, repeat moms. Either way, it affects most of the moms out there to some degree.

Research shows that about 60 % of women will have DR when pregnant and immediately after having a baby. It is actually a very natural response of the muscles to allow more room for a growing baby and our muscle fibers are created to stretch. Some bodies heal themselves in postpartum and the abs come back together most or all of the way within the first 6 weeks to 6 months after the baby is born. Many women, however, need to do a little extra work to not just heal the abs but regain core strength and tension to keep their bodies in good working order

Symptoms of DR can include a bulging in the tummy area that makes you look pregnant long after having a baby, a weak or “gappy” core feeling, weak pelvic floor muscles, and hip/low back pain. Assessing a DR is fairly simple. Here is how you can do it to yourself:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground
  2. Place one hand at the belly button with fingers running laterally across belly and the other behind the head to support the neck.
  3. Bring the head up off of the ground in a partial curl-up. Hold the top position and feel the stomach at the belly button to feel the sides of the outer abs/”six-pack” abs (you may have to press hard to feel under abdominal fat). Feel how many fingertips you can’t fit between the two wall so of the abs. Feel at belly button, above a couple inches, and below a coup inches (in front of the pelvis).
  4. Feel how many finger tips you can fit in AND what the muscle tissue feels like in the gap. Can you feel ab muscle layer below when you try to engage the lower abs (bring belly button “in”)? Or does it feel like a big valley below/deep hole?
Checking DR Part 1

If you have a hard time getting a good idea of what your abs are doing, seek out a professional to help. A core physical therapist, pelvic floor PT, or OBGYN should be able to check for you.

What you do with this information is critical. If you find that your gap is more than 2 fingertips wide, and if it feels like a deep valley below it (you don’t feel the inner core muscles engaging below) then the separation needs to be addressed.

If you suspect or know you have DR, mama you are NOT broken. Your body has NOT failed you. And you most likely do not need to consider surgery as your first option. Postpartum is often seen as a time to adapt behaviorally into being a mom. As a trainer, postpartum ALSO means a time of healing. THIS is the season to not focus on just losing baby weight (SUCH a misguided message by media). But instead to focus on healing and recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. This takes more than 6 weeks, commonly 1-2 years. If done well and properly the body will respond very well the rehab process. Postpartum means rehab and if it was treated as seriously as any other injury more women would move through it in a more healthy and successful way both physically and emotionally.

Many women do NOT need surgery to fix their DR. Several months of intensive/specific/progressive/consistent core exercises can heal much of the ab separation. Learning proper posture/form and use of the core during daily movements will help it continue to heal.

The wrong abdominal exercises can cause an ab separation to worsen and even lead to worse injuries (ie umbelical hernias and pelvic organ prolapse). Heavy lifting without proper core engagement can have the same affect.

My Mom Core Challenge was created for moms of all fitness levels to get a jump start on healing their DR (or just simply restrengthening the core) in postpartum. It has been successful for hundreds of moms who are 2 months postpartum to 40 years. Check it out here…

Mama, whether you know you have a separation or not, getting assessed and understanding how your core is doing is a helpful part of the healing process of postpartum. A core is the foundation to a strong body and a strong mama!