Diastasis recti is a musculoskeletal injury defined as a midline separation of the rectus abdominis (6-pack muscle) into left and right halves. It can occur from the rib cage to the pubic bone and is exacerbated by increased tension of a growing uterus during pregnancy. Although it is normal during pregnancy, it may not resolve spontaneously in the postpartum period. One study showed that 36% of women have a rectus diastasis 5-7 weeks postpartum and that by 8 weeks it was unable to come back together without intervention.
The reality of this condition is that for some mamas it is no problem at all and for other mamas it is splitting their core in half, causing a variety of symptoms (including that they still look pregnant!, low back pain, sacroiliac joint pain, mid back pain, leakage with laugh/cough, pain with sex, and difficulties with their digestive tract). Many of the daily activities and postures of a mama carrying a baby, pushing a stroller, nursing and carrying groceries may exacerbate the condition causing a mama to feel disheartened by her inability to perform the activities required.
Pregnancy and motherhood is a beautiful time in a woman’s life where a woman gets to nurture a life in her belly. However there is always a life in your belly and it may require some nurturing care of physically putting your core back together after pregnancy. A mama needs to be able to embrace and trust her body to perform the requirements of her life as a mom.
If you still look pregnant, have leakage with cough or sneeze, pain with sex, low back or sacroiliac joint pain, or are ready to begin working out after having a child you should check yourself for a rectus diastasis. There are multiple videos online to show you how to perform self -assessment.
If you have a rectus diastasis the first thing you do is to learn what movements to avoid, such as….
- Any exercise that utilizes the rectus abdominis muscle (such as crunches, bicycle crunches, sit-ups, roll-ups, Pilates 100s)
- Any movement that activates the rectus abdominis muscles (jackknifing out of bed, heaving body forward to get out of a chair/couch)
- Any movement that increases the pressure of the organs on the linea alba (hands/knees position, plank)
- Any movement that opens the rib cage apart causing the connective tissue to separate further (Wheel pose in yoga)
Very commonly diastasis recti is a condition that is present prior to pregnancy but is exacerbated by pregnancy. Therefore learning how to align body and avoid movements that caused the diastasis is crucial.