Diastasis recti seems to be such a hot topic now and by far what I get the most questions about. This can a great thing by creating awareness, and a not so great thing by creating un-needed fear and the spreading of misinformation. Sometimes with good intention comes some not so great outcomes. I want to provide a scare tactic free explanation. This is the first installment in an entire series dedicated to diastasis recti: what it is, how to know if you have it, exercise considerations, rehabilitation, and much more.
If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Kerri Grace. I am a CrossFit Level 2 Coach and a Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach. You can read more about me, and what I do in some previous posts starting here.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti isthe expansion or widening of the left and right abdominal muscles at the linea alba (line of connective tissue right down the middle of your abs). Here is a visual that could help:
Is Diastasis Recti Normal?
A diastasis during pregnancy is completely NORMAL to allow room for the baby to grow and occurs in 100% of women by 35 weeks (Mota Et al 2015). Think about how the skin of the abdomen stretches to accommodate baby, your abdominals do the same. They don’t rip apart or tear apart (two ways I have actually seen it described), they simply stretch to make room for baby. A diastasis only becomes a dysfunction when it does not heal after giving birth (and by that I mean months not weeks – remember it took 9 months to grow the baby, it will take time to heal from pregnancy) and may present a problem.
It’s also important to note that not everyone’s abdominals are completely together, even before having kids. Even in men. There are variations to towhat everyone’s abdominals will look and feel like. “Normal” or “baseline” does not mean that there is absolutely no space between your abdominals.
Many factors can influence the severity of a diastasis, including but not limited to the following:
- Posture tendencies
- Size of Baby (babies)
- Movement Tendencies and habits
- Pregnancies, etc…
Can Diastasis Recti be Prevented?
The short answer is no. If someone tells you otherwise, please ask them for some studies and forward them onto me please 🙂 I would love to be proven wrong on this! While we can’t prevent it, we can work at finding a strategy that works for each individual to manage the intrabdominal pressure during pregnancy. There is no one size fits all. The strategy that works for Katie could not work at ALL for Susan. It is best to work with a professional to find what works for YOU. To quote Brianna Battles’ Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism course, “There is no prevention, only an attempt at preserving and bringing conscious effort to pressure management (adjusted strategy).”
Symptoms of Diastasis Recti:
- Coning abdomen;
- A visible gap between the abdominal muscles;
- Reported weakness/discomfort in abs, back, or hips;
- Skin changes/altered abdomen/belly button.
- A distended abdomen,sometimes called a “pooch” or “mommy tummy” (ps: I hate those terms and wish they would disappear! Rant over)
What do I hope you take away from this post?
- Diastasis recti isnot scary and there is help should you need it.
- It is a normal part of pregnancy.
- It can not be prevented but you can work with a professional to find a pressure management strategy that works for you during pregnancy.
- There are so many factors in play when it comes to the severity of a diastasis; not just how wide the gap is.
I would love to hear your takeaways! Drop me a comment below 🙂 Next week I will be digging into all things coning…stay tuned!
I am available to work with you remotely online or in person in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts. For more information about me and how I can help you through this chapter, please schedule a FREE 15-minute chat here, contact me directly at kerri@gracefitnessandnutrition or visit Grace Fitness and Nutrition.
Stay strong, stay beautiful!
[I am a fitness professional that specializes in pregnancy, postpartum, and the pelvic floor. But, I am not a medical professional and am not providing medical advice. I am providing basic information and can help direct you to a pelvic floor medical professional in your area if you need one.]
Sources: Mota, P. G., Pascoal, A. G., Carita, A. I., & Bo, K. (2015). Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship to lumbo-pelvic pain. Manual Therapy, 20(1), 200-205. doi:10.1016/j.math.2014.09.002