What is Diastasis Recti (DR)?
Diastasis Recti is so common and 1 in 2 women may experience it during pregnancy or postpartum! So what is it and how can we heal it, what are the exercises to avoid in order not to make it worse during postpartum recovery?
Diastasis Recti is a midline separation at the linea alba of the recti muscles of the abdominal wall. A palpable midline gap of more than 2.5 cm (>2 fingers) or any visible bulging on exertion is considered as diastasis. It happens quite often as a result of your expanding belly during pregnancy.
How to assess Diastasis Recti (DR)?
First thing first. How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti? It's actually pretty easy to assess it at home on your own or with a friend. Simply follow these steps:
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat.
- With your abdominal wall relaxed gently press your fingers into your abdomen at the level of the umbilicus
- Lift your head off the mat coming into a "crunch", making sure the ribcage comes closer to the pelvis
- Note the number of finger separation between the rectus halves
- Repeat 3 inches above and below the umbilicus
Remember that you can always ask your doctor to assess it for you during your postpartum check up.
Assess Diastasis Recti (DR) with Desi Bartlett (@mothersintolivingfit)
Exercise Principles for Correcting Diastasis Recti (DR)
Diastasis Recti usually should heal within 6 weeks-3 months. Follow these principles when try to exercise when you have DR:
- Focus on stabilization exercises that maintain ribcage/pelvic alignment without excessive Intra-Abominal pressure (IAP)
- Avoid crunches, sit ups, back bends, oblique twist and crunches, straight leg lifts
If you have severe abdominal split, please consult a healthcare professional for treatment suggestions.
Here are Five exercises you should definitely do when you have Diastasis Recti (DR)
Before jumping right back to any exercises, please make sure to obtain the green light from your doctor at your postpartum checkup. Depending on the way of delivery, you may need to wait longer to be able to work out.
The following exercises are proven to be safe and have great benefits of healing Diastasis Recti. Follow these great fitness experts to start your journey!
1. Transverse Abdominal Breathing (TVA Breathing) and Kegels
Did you know your Core & pelvic floor are the most affected muscles during and after pregnancy? Your TVA and pelvic floor muscles stretch and weaken during pregnancy in order to carry your baby. It’s important to engage and activated those deep core muscles during and after pregnancy.
It takes time and practice as it can feel unfamiliar. Making the mind muscle connection is the first step! You have to actively focus on these muscles and eventually it will become a habit.
Start with your breath! When you try these exercises do them with connected breathing.
- When you inhale, fill your belly with air.
- Then exhale and feel your core and TVA tighten and wrap around your midsection. Don’t just suck in you stomach in, really feel those muscles engage!!
- Complete the exercise on the exhale
- After engaging your core, lift your pelvic floor up. (This will be the same movement as doing a level or stopping the flow of urination.)
- Then slowly relax your muscles as you begin to inhale again.
- Take your time and practice! You can practice this breathing technique watching TV, breast-feeding, in the car, doing dishes, cooking dinner!
TVA Breathing and Kegels with @KimPerryCo
2. Toe Taps
Let’s talk toe taps (or heel taps ). This exercise is so helpful to activate your TVA (transverse abdominus) and strengthen your deep core. It’ should be one of your favorite exercises to do postpartum because anyone can do it, and it’s easy to start slow then progress as we get stronger. And even if you’ve never been pregnant, this exercise is great for anyone! Strengthening our TVA is essential for a strong core all around, and getting that flat belly we all want.
Some tips: .
- Keep you core engaged, but in a neutral spine. Try not to tuck in or let your back arch
- Breathe through the movement, keeping in mind those TVA belly breaths
- Start with feet flat, and bring one knee up, then the other. As you start to get stronger, progress to both legs up in tabletop, then tap toes down one at a time
- Get on the floor with your baby during tummy time or kiddo during play time and try these! Start slow with a few sets of 10, then progress to 3 sets of 20
Toe Taps with @BodyFitbyAmy
3. Side Planks
There are many variations of side plans that can be performed to allow you to really focus on your deep core muscles and activating your TVA and pelvic floor. Take whatever modifications you may need, from your forearm or hand, knee up or knee down, and always listen to your body.
Reminder: Your want to take a deep breath in and fill your belly with air, then engage your core on the exhale. Perform the exercise on the exhale, but be sure you're not holding your breath. If you find yourself holding your breath or not engaging, rest and reset and start with the inhale again.
Various Side Planks with @randilynngreene
Working your glute might seem unrelated to healing your abdominals, BUT it is actually a hugely important part of the process!
Why? POSTURE. Working your booty will help create better postural alignment.
Poor alignment makes it very difficult for your diaphragm and pelvic floor to synchronize properly as you breathe. Your ribs must be stacked over your hips. IF you’re not stacked, these muscles are not moving properly and you often end up with dysfunctional breathing patterns - this causes too much pressure in your abdominal wall, making it really difficult to heal Diastasis Recti.
If you have poor alignment (super common during pregnancy and when carrying and feeding babies all day long!), working on strengthening your glutes can help improve that posture!
Try These Clams Variations From @thebellemethod
B. Feet Up Clams
C. Can Can Clams
Another great exercise for working on your glutes! There are safe to do and also great for healing your Diastasis Recti (DR).
B. Single Leg Up Bridge
Special thanks to our beautiful and knowledgeable fit mom experts @thebellemethod, @KimPerryCo, @randilynngreene, @BodyFitbyAmy, and @mothersintolivingfit for sharing these great videos. Follow them on Instagram to get more pregnancy and postpartum fitness tips.