DIASTATIS RECTI AND HOW TO PREVENT IT.
By Dahlas Fletcher Pregnancy Exercise Specialist.
Abdominal separation is a normal condition that occurs in pregnancy, separation of the abdominal wall has to happen allow for the growth of the baby and uterus. Most women will have some degree of separation towards the end of a pregnancy. However it is the size and depth of the separation that can become problematic post birth if not managed correctly during pregnancy. Then it is called Diastasis Recti (DR) when there is damage to the midline of the abdominal wall. Separation can occur at any time during pregnancy but can also become problematic after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is still weak especially as during postpartum the hormone relaxin remains in the system and the core has a great deal of deep healing to do.
How to prevent or reduce Diastatis Recti
To prevent diastasis, it is important to firstly address daily movements that happen during pregnancy and beyond. Also, safe and effective exercise during pregnancy can set you up not only for a better birth but also better recovery postpartum (with no diastasis). In addition, please don’t think it is “too late” post birth to address any deep core or abdominal issues. Just like every other muscle in your body – your core CAN be “re-trained” as long as appropriate movements are provided.
Factors to prevent and heal Diastatis Recti :
Posture – as you read this are you slouched over your phone or desk ? Simply shifting the shoulders directly above the ribs can make a big difference to your alignment and core activation. Be conscious also, of this position when you push a pram and breastfeed your baby - daily postural micro-adjustments are important to “retrain” the core post birth and avoid the dreaded mummy tummy or pooch !
Traditional Core Exercises such as crunches, sit ups, planks and Russian twist are not appropriate during pregnancy and for many months postpartum. Why? As when the abdominal wall is separated it can not effectively activate during these types of movements, instead stress or trauma is caused to the midline of the abdominals. Repetitive stress only results in a diastasis as the abdominal wall when separated is almost like tissue paper. Visually this often shows up by doming or coning of the abdominals (see mage below…I like call it the Toblerone) If you see this during pregnancy or postpartum then take this as information from your body that the exercise or movement you are doing is not appropriate. The core needs to heal from the inside out and there are many other ways to train the core safely without using typical trunk based core movements.
- Breath-holding or ineffective breathing during exercise, daily movement and also birth can contribute to excessive intra-abdominal pressure. This puts strain or stress on the abdominal wall and can lead to diastasis. Learning core breath to activate and support the abdominals from the inside out is important both during pregnancy and recovery post-birth.
- The Pelvic Floor is actually the foundation of the core so ensuring this sling of muscle (that supports your baby in utero) remains toned and functional during pregnancy will help your diastasis heal effectively post-birth. Just think – if the foundation of a house is not stable and supportive it is very hard for the rest of the house to stay upright. The same goes for the connection of the core and pelvic floor. Please don’t ignore any signs of pelvic floor dysfunction such as leaking, “peezing” or heaviness as this could contribute to long term core issues. See a Women’s Health Physio for a full assessment and also learn to and Kegel safely …clenching is not the best way to train your pelvic floor.
Remember you are postnatal forever, so it is possible to heal abdominal separation several years post-birth. I personally have trained women who are 10+ years postnatal and they have noticed a big difference in their core strength, tummy appearance and posture ! It is never too late to make a change.
I focus on specialised core/abdominal exercises to help to control DR and most importantly help to return the muscles to their pre-pregnancy position. Only occasionally do some women have such severe separations that require surgery and even in these cases the correct core exercises can significantly reduce the separation all it takes is some consistency and care.
If want to start training your CORE during pregnancy join my Ultimate Pregnant Core Online program and use this exclusive code: MAMABODY at check out for $10 off during our next intake.
Any questions please reach out!
Certified Pregnancy & Postpartum Exercise Specialist
Mama of 3
20 years’ experience
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