Postnatal A-Z: D for Diastasis recti
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Postnatal A-Z: My previous posts about Breathing and Core lead us nicely onto D for Diastasis recti or abdominal separation. Many mums think of this as their mummy pooch! The key to healing a diastasis is to breathe laterally and to strengthen the core, more specifically the transversus abdominis (TVAs) and the obliques.
What is a diastasis recti? It simply means a separation of the two superficial abdominals, the rectus abdominis, and is completely normal during pregnancy. This is what allows the connective tissue (the linea alba) to stretch and make room for the growing baby. After the baby is born, it takes a while for this tissue to compress and it also takes time for the TVAs to strengthen. If you had a big baby, or twins, or this is your second (or more) pregnancy, it may take longer to heal.
We can measure this separation by width and by depth. When you are newly postnatal the gap will be wider and the tissue soft and squishy but as you get stronger, you will ideally get more of a trampoline-feel as you press down on the linea alba.
You can check this yourself by lying on your back with your knees bent, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor as you exhale and pressing the finger down onto the linea alba. Start in the area of the bellybutton and then check below and above it. If the gap is wider than two finger widths, it is classified as a diastasis and it makes sense to do specific exercises to help it heal.
Any exercise that compresses the abdomen will help, eg posterior pelvic tilts, bridges, toe taps and heel slides. What exercises can make it worse? Heavy lifting, strong twists and planks. Some core exercises may be ok if you are breathing laterally as opposed to into your belly and engaging your core by pulling your bellybutton towards your spine as you exhale.
You will know that you’re doing it incorrectly if you get doming, in which case, rewind and go back to shorter levers and less pressure. I also avoid strong backbends as these actively stretch the abs and tissues further. Think ribs down and compression and strength before flexibility in the early postnatal period 🙏