Diastasis Recti and returning to exercise

Welcome to Part 5 of ‘The Safe Return to Exercise Series’ which is all about Diastasis Recti. Many women have never even heard of Diastasis Recti let alone know if they have one! I can’t stress enough how important it is to not only understand what it is but to be assessed to find out if you have one.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is separation of the abdominal muscles.  The stretching, lengthening and weakening of the entire abdominal wall. This occurs during pregnancy and remains into the postnatal period.

How does a Diastasis occur?

The very nature of growing a baby means that your abdominal muscles need to move to make way for your growing baby. The muscles move away from each and the connective tissue (known as the linea alba) that joins the two sides of the abdominal wall together becomes stretched and weakened.

What does a Diastasis look like?

A Diastasis can look and feel very different from person to person. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are.  You can have a Diastasis with a flat stomach and you can have a separation with a stubborn mummy tummy!

Common signs of a Diastasis

You may have one or many of the following:

  • A mummy tummy
  • Protruding belly button
  • Back and hip pain
  • Leaking issues (sudden urinary incontinence)
  • Abdominal protrusion when you get up from lying down or when you lift heavy objects for example.
  • Stubborn pregnancy pooch

What Does it feel like?

A gaping hole in the middle of your tummy! Just kidding, well actually for some it can be a gaping hole but for most you should be able to feel a small gap between the two sides of the abdominal wall. Take a look at the video below which explains how to check to see if you have one. If you follow this video you will hopefully find out what it feels like! Please wait until you are a few weeks post natal before doing this self assessment.

Why does it matter if you have a Diastasis?

The muscles that move away from each other, the Rectus Abdominus make up part of your core. Picture your core as your inner unit. This inner unit provides the foundation of strength for the rest of your body. If the foundation is poor then this will have a knock on effect and lead to chronic dysfunction throughout the body resulting in pain and discomfort. Think of a house built on poor foundations. It will stand for so long but eventually the cracks will start to appear! Being a mum is physically demanding, we push, we pull, we lift, we bend, we carry, we twist and turn. Doing all of these movements on weak foundations will only lead us to long term problems and pain regardless of whether we are exercising or not!

What can you do to close the gap?

There are three questions I am very frequently asked:

  1. When will the gap close?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. What exercise can I do to close my tummy gap?

There are THREE KEY POINTS here:

  1. The gap may never fully close
  2. It is impossible to put a timescale on this because there are many factors that affect how quickly a Diastasis will heal.  These factors are as individual as the women who presents with the Diastasis. Post Natal healing is a very personal journey and cannot be compared with others.
  3. There is not one single exercise you can do to heal a Diastasis. Healing a Diastasis is quite complex. Alongside the right type of exercise, there are a number of other issues that need to be addressed. For example,  the changes that occur during pregnancy to both your posture and the way you breathe both have a huge impact on being able to heal a Diastasis.

Overall, the most important thing we can do is regain function and strength in our core and pelvic floor. Building up strong foundations from the inside out. We need to ensure that our core is working as it was designed to do.  Many of us think that our core is our tummy muscles, our abs.  However, the core is so much more. Understanding your core is vital when it comes to post natal recovery and healing a Diastasis. The video below explains the core in more detail.

If you have any questions or need any help assessing if you have a Diastasis then please get in touch. If you want to read about Diastasis Recti in a bit more detail take a look at my other blog: Diastasis Recti – What you need to know

There are lots of things you can do now to help protect your core whilst it heals. You can read more about this in the link below: Tips to Protect a Healing Core

Other blogs in this series:

Part 1 – Understanding your postnatal body

Part 2 – The postnatal healing process

Part 3 – Why the 6 week check is not enough

Part 4 – Postnatal Posture

Part 5 – Understanding Diastasis Recti

Part 6 – Your Pelvic Floor

Part 7 – Postnatal Exercise Do’s and Don’ts

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