Pregnancy Uncategorized

Core Connections: Navigating Diastasis Recti on the Motherhood Journey

Let’s dive into a topic that might not get enough spotlight: diastasis recti.

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it before; we’re here to unpack what it is, how it happens, and what you can do about it during and after pregnancy.

Image of a person who has diastasis recti.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Picture this: Your abdominal muscles start to part ways during pregnancy. It’s like your abs are saying, “Hey, we need some extra wiggle room for the bump growing inside!” This pulling apart causes a separation, creating a 2 cm (or more) gap in the middle of your abdomen. This separation and gapping is what we call diastasis recti.

It is very common in pregnancy and postpartum, impacting more than half of women (some statistics say upwards of 80%). Every pregnant body has to accommodate a growing uterus, and every baby (or babies!) needs that space. The abdominal muscles separating is par for the course, so there is no need to fear the process! But let’s talk about how exactly it happens.

image of a person's abdomen postpartum

How Does It Happen?

Blame it on that adorable baby bump. As your belly expands to make room for your little one – thanks to hormones allowing greater elasticity in the muscles – the connective tissue between your abdominal muscles stretches out. This leads to that separation. It can be exaggerated by the pressure of the baby (or babies!) against the abdominal wall for a prolonged period of time – which is where issues may come in postpartum.

Diastasis recti can appear as a gap or even a small protrusion, and it can appear at varying degrees and locations along the abdominal midline (i.e. it can be anywhere above and/or below the belly button). As I’ve said, diastasis recti isn’t something to fret over – it’s extremely common! If you’re feeling a bit uneasy about it, know that you’re not alone in this journey.

image of a person who is being treated for diastasis recti

What Can You Do About Diastasis Recti?

While you cannot prevent the separation of the muscles – because it’s a natural accommodation of the body to allow the expansion of the abdomen as the baby grows – there are things we can do to help support our bodies as they do this work.

During pregnancy: we can be mindful of our movements. Avoiding exercises that strain the abdominal muscles too much is key here. Instead, opt for gentle exercises like pelvic tilts and Kegels or stretching and strengthening the muscles that are supporting the abdomen (think legs, hips, and booty). And hey, don’t forget about good ol’ posture! Sitting up straight can do wonders for your core.

During postpartum: we need to be careful not to rush back into hardcore ab workouts. The body just conquered a major feat and needs to have a little support getting back into a normal groove. Easing back into exercise gently and focusing on strengthening the core with exercises tailored for diastasis recti, like pelvic floor exercises and gentle abdominal moves, is the move here.

Other pathways of support:

A few other options that are proven effective for supporting diastasis recti are abdominal binders, manual therapy, neuromuscular stimulation, and therapeutic exercises. I would suggest talking to a birth worker (midwife, doula, L&D nurse, etc.) or a physical therapist for how-to’s. If you’re really struggling with the separation and it is causing you issues, you should consider seeing a physical therapist (like me!). We can help identify the causes and help tailor a personal plan of addressing the issue(s).

image of a person holding a baby

TL;DR

To recap: diastasis recti is a common separation of abdominal muscles during and after pregnancy. It’s natural, affecting up to two-thirds of pregnant women, and shouldn’t be feared. Gentle exercises, mindful movements, and patience are key during and after pregnancy. Diastasis recti might sound like a mouthful, but it’s just another part of the incredible journey of pregnancy and motherhood.

Embrace the changes, listen to your body, and remember, you’re doing amazing, mama!

Darshana

Your Pelvic PT Gyan

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