What is diastasis recti?
The split occurs at the Linea Alba, the mid-line collagen structures of connective tissue at the front of the abdomen. In simple terms, it’s the reason that some women complain of looking a few months pregnant, even after giving birth.
It’s important to know that you are not alone. It is believed that 100% of women have some level of diastasis of the rectus abdominis in the third trimester and for many women the gap remains widened at 8 weeks, and may remain unchanged at 1 year postpartum.
Diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems tend to occur together. The Linea Alba (seam of tissue structures that form the meeting point of the 2 sides of all the core musculature) no longer provides tension and stability.
ALL the muscles of the abdomen- Transversalis, internal and external obliques, as well as Rectus Abdominis – meet at this centre midline. So all are compromised.
This lack of protection and stability affects the whole body both aesthetically and functionally.
66% of women with diastasis recti have some level of pelvic floor dysfunction. This can lead to a lack of strength and stability in the entire pelvic region and midsection.
Luckily, diastasis recti exercises can help gain back the strength and stability in the entire pelvic region and midsection.
What does a diastasis look like?
Your body may still have that “pregnant look” around your tummy area in the weeks, month and even years after having your baby.
You may see a ‘pooching’ or ‘doming’ of your stomach, especially when coming up from a lying position on your back. It often worsens when you apply pressure to it such as by performing crunch type movements.
What are the causes of diastasis recti?
Diastasis Recti is the result of excessive abdominal pressure or loading. It is common, and normal, in the later stages of pregnancy – particularly second or subsequent pregnancies.
The increased load and all the changes of pregnancy effectively stretch the entire abdominal structure and when the two parts of the muscle separate or come apart, the connective mid-line is stretched and weakened as it takes all other muscular and fascial support structures along with it.
This can mean the abdomen is unsupported or unstable. This seam of connective tissue is designed to be taut, at full length and aligned in a vertical (breastbone to pubic bone) plane. But it cannot perform or function optimally when alignment is ‘out’. So alignment is important when discussing diastasis.
This is the same issue that creates other pelvic and abdominal problems including hernia and prolapse.
DR should therefore be treated as part of an integrated program designed to re-align, re-connect and then strengthen the entire core musculature, rather than be addressed in isolation.
How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti?
Finding and connecting with your core and pelvic floor
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Relax your head and shoulders and place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button.
Step 2: Lift your head and neck very slightly off the floor and press down with your fingertips. If you feel a gap, that’s the diastasis. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head and neck.
GENTLY draw your belly button back towards your spine as you slowly exhale by keeping your chest and shoulders relaxed.
Step 3: Make sure you are not forcefully sucking yourself in, but instead subtly drawing in your lower abdominal area.
Your shoulders, chest and pelvis should not move as this will disrupt the engagement with your core.
❌ Don’t tuck your pelvis under as you do this
❌ Don’t hold your breath
Correcting your alignment
Following the below simple steps can help you to tweak and adjust your alignment over time and reduce the impact of uncontained pressure and loading.
Step 1: Walk more, this can be done around your home or out and about, while wearing minimal shoes.
Step 2: Try and sit less and stand up more, changing how you move will help straighten you up and allow the tissues in your body to heal and repair.
Step 3: Get out of heeled shoes – this will for as much natural movement of the foot.
Next you must learn to engage and release your core and pelvic floor effectively in everyday movements. You want to be able to carry your baby, push your pram, lift your children, do housework, walk, and move with a strong and functional core. MUTU retrains, reconnects and strengthens your core.
You won’t always have to engage and release your core consciously but this is where we start.
Then you strengthen your transverse abdominis muscle to help draw your rectus abdominis muscle back in together, helping your tummy to feel stronger and look flatter.
Exercises to avoid with diastasis recti.
❌. Crunches – Many of these techniques could make a weak pelvic floor even worse as you have to hold your breath or suck in, which causes the stomach to bulge out!
❌. Sit-ups – These can put strain on the middle of abdominals where the muscles have separated and will only make that dome shape worse.
❌. Twists – Twists can apply more stress to the fascia and ultimately decrease the chances of healing your diastasis
❌ Straight leg lifts or holds whilst lying on your back – It is very difficult to safely lift both legs off the floor from a lying down position without bulging the abs and arching the back. As a result, this can cause the abdominal separation to worsen and even potentially affect your spine.
About MUTU System
With over 68,000 clients in more than 150 countries, previously including Kate Middleton and P!NK, MUTU System is a 12 module digital course referred to by specialist Pelvic Health Physical Therapists, Surgeons, NHS GP surgeries in the UK, Midwives and Hospital Women’s Health Physiotherapists with proven results to remedy postpartum symptoms such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, diastasis recti and painful sex.
MUTU System specialise in exercises helping mothers of all ages to rebuild their core and pelvic floor muscles. The programme was recently assessed and approved by NHS Digital to be included in their official apps library.