How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti?
As an instructor, the main symptom of diastasis recti that I am familiar with, is a bulge along the linea alba when someone is in an ab crunch position. While pregnant, this is called coning. You can also palpate your abdomen and feel the separation while in a crunch. You might notice this bulge when you’re using your abdominal muscles to sit up, or lie down. (Video below.)
What is Diastasis Recti?
Clinically, a diastasis recti is a gap of two fingers or more between the rectus abdominis. Diastasis recti can occur in any person. I have trained two male clients with it alongside the many mums I have been privileged to help. It is most common in postpartum women.
In the final weeks of pregnancy, the midline connective tissue, the Linea Alba (what the gap is actually composed of), stretches laterally to accommodate your growing baby. This results in the divarication of the rectus abdominis muscles. This abdominal separation often resolves itself in the postpartum period. But sometimes does not...
The separation itself isn't always problematic. The problems typically occur when the linea alba struggles to transmit load from the left and right side of the transversus abdominis and obliques. This causes it to weaken further over time and the usual diastasis recti symptoms including, a "baby bump" that hasn't gone away, lower back pain, pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and hernia (in extreme cases) occur.
How do you check for Diastasis Recti at home:
Hi, I am Emma McAtasney, I earned my Pilates credentials through BASI Pilates, a highly respected college-level Pilates teacher training programme which aim is to create and maintain professional standards for the teaching of the Pilates Method to the highest calibre.
In addition, I hold the Burrell Education Pre and Postnatal certifications. The Burrell Education courses are designed to educate and support Women's Health Professionals, Physiotherapists and Fitness Professionals in the creation of offerings that have the potential to transform the lives of the women they serve.
I have personally had Diastasis Recti from midway through my first pregnancy and nearly all the way through my second. I know what it is like to have a core that just doesn't feel right and a belly that still looks pregnant months later. I did not "snap back" like I thought a woman of my age and fitness "should".
I created this free course to help other women experiencing Diastasis Recti to feel confident in what they are doing to heal their midline and restore strength to their core. And also to reduce the worries it can bring. Will it ever heal? How long will I feel like this? And the frustration when exercises just don't feel "right".
My Experience of Diastasis Recti
I had studied Diastasis Recti long before I became pregnant. I certified in Pre and Postnatal Pilates in 2010. Even with this specialist knowledge, I had a lingering separation after I had our first baby, but not after our second.
While pregnant with our son, I exercised the whole way through and taught Pilates right up to the end. Afterward, I had such a humbling recovery! It took months before I was completely out of pain and I think it took a year to feel stable again, and I was back teaching clients and exercising at six weeks postpartum (the joys of self employment). And I was strict with my diet to lose the "baby weight". I always felt my core hadn't healed all the way....
With our second, I felt the gap reappear at about 12 weeks. Like it was always there, just hiding. Suspicions confirmed. Covid 19 had closed my business so I spent the second half of my pregnancy just going for walks with a short Pilates workout before bed. I had a huge gap this time and somehow didn't let myself panic about it. The gap created such space, she barely reached up under my ribs!
Afterward, I was all set for a hard recovery but I was fine, kind of waiting for the discomfort to come. So, I rested in bed. I wanted to work out but I focused on connecting to my core. I wanted to lose the baby weight (more this time) but I ate to heal and build my body back up. And at four months postpartum, my gap was already closed and my linea alba was much firmer. Even my belly button had some shape again!
I now feel strong and I am enjoying working out rather than stopping all the time because things "don't feel right". I feel that during my second recovery, my focus on healing and patience made all the difference, and sped the process up, ironically.
Can a Diastasis Recti be fixed without surgery?
Honestly, it depends. If you have a significant diastasis it may never come all the way together without some surgical help. However the important thing is that your core can generate tension across that space. So don’t focus only on the gap between your abs.
If your only alternative is a tummy tuck, then you must realize that the work needed to do it naturally will take time. So be patient with yourself, there won’t be a dramatic change but a gradual increase in your core strength and decrease in your diastasis. If you do not see a sufficient closure of the DR by 12 months with consistent efforts, then a surgical repair may be necessary. A general surgeon or a plastic surgeon can perform the surgery.