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What Is Diastasis Recti and What to Do About It?

What Is Diastasis Recti and What to Do About It?

Written by Mia.

Preparing to give birth can create so many memories during your pregnancy. You get to have a baby shower, decorate the nursery, and dream with your family about your future child.

While there is much to look forward to, every expectant parent should also prepare for the logistics of their birth and its potential outcomes, including physical recovery. You may have heard about diastasis recti and wondered what it is and how it may impact you as some moms may get it. Let's discuss what diastasis recti is and how to deal with it after giving birth. 

WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI?

Diastasis recti is when the stomach muscles separate because the belly stretches during pregnancy. Abdominal separation after a cesarean or vaginal delivery is normal. The uterus takes six weeks to shrink back to normal throughout postpartum, and the abdominal muscles gradually move back into place. If they don’t, the lingering gaps are a case of diastasis recti.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE DIASTASIS RECTI?

You might have diastasis recti if you notice a bulge or gap in the middle of your belly. This gap is located between the muscles above or below your belly button. OB-GYNs palpate their patients’ stomachs during postnatal appointments to check for this. The bulge may appear or feel similar to a hernia but cause little to no pain.

WAYS TO HELP DIASTASIS RECTI

Your OB-GYN may recommend diastasis recti exercises to treat your abdominal separation at home. If they don’t think surgery is necessary, which in many cases it isn't, discuss these ideas to improve your diastasis recti without much change in your daily postnatal routine.

1. Try Gentle Abdominal Exercises

If your doctor recommends light exercise from a trainer or physical therapist, follow their advice to improve your diastasis recti. However, you don’t need to leave home to use your abs.

More than 60% of U.S. adults do not get enough physical activity, this is most likely due to life’s various demands. Help to overcome this by incorporating movement into your day-to-day.

Parents with one or more kids at home can play with their children to work their abs. Playing with toys on the floor or in the backyard requires subtle abdominal contractions. While you have fun together and create memories, you are simultaneously adding more physical activity to your day. 

When you’re by yourself, waiting in the school pick-up line, or feeding your newborn, try diastasis recti exercises like engaging your rectus abdominis exercise. Pull your stomach muscles toward your spine to do a mini crunch. Hold it for one second and release. Avoid extending your belly out past your ribs when inhaling after this crunch.

Research shows people with diastasis recti who do this quick exercise have more reduced inter-recti distance six weeks after giving birth than those who tried five-second transversus abdominis activation exercises. It’s easy to do while spending time with your family or lying on your bed. You can also focus on other practices to engage your core, such as breath work, which can support you during this time.

2. Hold Your Posture More Mindfully

Abdominal separation causes your muscles to feel weaker around your stomach, so it’s natural for your body to compensate by bending forward while sitting or standing. The compression doesn’t allow the muscles enough space to practice contracting, leading to greater abdominal weakness and prolonged healing. Be mindful about sitting and standing straight during your postnatal recovery to support your physical well-being.

3. Use Abdominal Support Tools

Your doctor isn’t your only support system during postnatal recovery. If you have diastasis recti, you can also use tools like a belly band. It wraps tightly around the bottom of your belly and lower back, providing passive compression so your abdominal muscles draw closer together while they contract during your daily routine or exercises.

PREPARE FOR YOUR BIRTH EXPERIENCE 

Learning more about conditions like diastasis recti puts many expectant parents at ease. Be sure to check out our blog on the six postpartum topics no one warns you about as you continue to prepare for your postpartum journey. Now you know what Diastasis Recti is, how to support it, and how easy exercises can support your journey if you experience this condition. If you believe you have diastasis recti, be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider. People with diastasis recti can slowly improve over time at home while enjoying every moment with their new baby.

*This is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider. 

Citations:
National Library of Medicine: The effect of myofascial therapy on postpartum rectus abdominis separation, low back and leg pain, pelvic floor dysfunction: A systematic review and meta-analysis
University of Toronto Press Journals: Effectiveness of Early Postpartum Rectus Abdominis versus Transversus Abdominis Training in Patients with Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominis Muscles: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
Miracle: The Importance of Play in Adulthood  
National Library of Medicine: Diastasis Recti Rehabilitation 
Cleveland Clinic: Uterus Involution 
Picture of Mia

Mia

Mia Barnes is a professional writer and researcher who specializes in postpartum health and wellness, women's health, and breastfeeding. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind magazine, where she covers topics related to motherhood and healthy living. 

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