There is so much information about Diastasis Recti out there. It is often hard to find accurate information in one place so I prepared this list of questions many mums have in relation to Diastasis Recti and all related issues.
(click on the question to open the answer)
Diastasis Recti is widening of a gap in your abdominal muscles, exactly between the two sections of your Rectus Abdominis, or what should be your six-pack.
The widening is happening at Linea Alba, the connective tissue in the middle of your abdomen. The tissue is widening and stretching and losing its elasticity.
Diastasis Recti is more common that one would expect. Almost all pregnant women have some degree of widening in between their abdominal muscles during their pregnancy and early postpartum, but this usually heals on by 8 weeks postpartum.
When there is a widening of 2,5 finger or more then this is something that won’t just go away by itself. Some research shows that around 60% of postpartum women need an exercise program to heal Diastasis Recti.
Diastasis Recti can make you look pregnant even when you’re not!
One of the most common symptoms of Diastasis Recti is so called mummy pouch, the stubborn belly fat that is very hard to get rid of.
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to get rid of it is because it’s not only the fat that you are dealing with, but in many cases also the separation in your abdominal muscles and weak core that is protruding outwards due to the increased intra abdominal pressure.
To get rid of this mummy pouch many women will start on the rigorous exercise programs many of which are not Diastasis Recti friendly. Many recommendations include crunches and planks, both of which can make Diastasis much worse.
It is so important to test yourself for Diastasis Recti before you start any workouts as stubborn mummy pouch can be one of the symptoms for Diastasis Recti. When you know if you have it you can modify your workouts and use the right kind of exercises to strengthen your core and get the desired results in a safe way.
Let’s talk Diastasis Recti symptoms!
Stubborn mummy pouch is one of the most common symptoms of Diastasis Recti, along with leaking urine while sneezing or laughing.
For most women the story starts when they can’t recover from pregnancy as they would like to. It can be the stubborn mummy tummy they can’t get rid of, leaking urine while laughing and sneezing or back pain.
Here are the other symptoms of Diastasis Recti:
- Your belly appears larger than it should be, you seem like 12 weeks pregnant
- There is some pooching or dooming or bulging on your belly especially when you are getting up from the lying position
- You have a mummy pouch that you can’t get rid off
- You have often back pain
- Your core is unstable and you feel like your intestines are going to drop out
- You have weak pelvic floor muscles and a bit of peeing in your pants can occur when you cough or sneeze
- You feel like you can’t hold your tampon in
Many times these things seem to be unconnected and random. Women think this is normal after pregnancy and birth.
But it’s not normal! You shouldn’t have to endure this!
The test for Diastasis Recti is simple and fast, you can do it yourself at home in less than 5 minutes. Yet this can completely change your postpartum recovery and your quality of life.
Leaking urine can be a symptom of Diastasis Recti!
People always say that during childbirth there are two people that are born - a baby and a mother. We love our babies more than anything in the world and would give them all we can.
But we often forget about the mother!
Many new mums find themselves alone after birth, with a body that acts differently than it used to. Some weird new sensations and feeling they can’t fully understand.
And what many are afraid to talk about - peeing their pants while sneezing, laughing or jumping. It happens to more mums that you can imagine!
There are few reasons why this can happen such as weak pelvic floor or weak abdominal muscles. One of the common reasons is also Diastasis Recti. Your doctor will often talk about pelvic health and doing the Kegels but they often forget to mention Diastasis Recti.
If you have just given birth and want to test yourself for Diastasis Recti you are probably wondering when should you test yourself?
There is no specific time that can ensure you get the perfectly accurate results. However many recommendations are to do the initial test around two weeks postpartum.
This will give you initial guidance but the real tests should follow in the weeks after that.
Some studies show that the best time to test yourself for Diastasis Recti is at 8 weeks postpartum. The reason for this is that your muscles are recovering from birth and until this time they may still recover without intervention.
If you detect Diastasis Recti at 8 weeks postpartum chances are you will need targeted exercises to recover. Majority of women can heal Diastasis with exercise program with focus on breathing and movement.
The gap doesn’t have to close completely!
When we talk about healing Diastasis Recti many women think they need to close the gap completely and that is their main focus. In many cases the gap will not completely close and that is absolutely fine.
Having strong core and no symptoms of diastasis like bulging tummy, pressure in your core and pelvic areas with 1-2 finger gap is perfectly normal for many women. This is often called functional diastasis recti.
It is not important to focus only on “closing the gap” but instead focus on developing functional deep core and pelvic floor muscles that will support your entire body properly.
To achieve this most women will need an effective and science backed exercise program such as my own The Kangaroo Method.
Some influencer moms are wearing binders after birth and they’re hugely recommended by many of them. But are binders really effective to heal Diastasis Recti?
The short answer is – no.
Wearing a binder after birth can’t heal your core or improve your Diastasis Recti. It can’t make your core stronger, it can just give your body and back support while moving in early days, but it will not help with diastasis nor will make your belly slim again.
Binder is not needed for your postpartum recovery because your uterus doesn’t need help with getting back to normal size, that is a natural way our bodies work and heal.
If you want to heal diastasis after birth or restore your core, you need to strengthen your Transverse Abdominis, the deepest part of your abdominal muscles.
Also, you need to strengthen your oblique muscles. Binder will just manually pull your muscles together, but it will not strengthen them or train them to contract properly.
You can use binder after birth for some added support to your back but don’t spend your money on expensive products that are just as effective as the cheap ones.
If you have Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) there is a lot of work in front of you. Your body and your muscles will need time to heal and to work properly again.
As soon as you are feeling well after birth and you are cleared to exercise again, you can start with exercises that will strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles and help you have a functional core again. Take a look at 5 essential postpartum exercises I recommend to every woman.
Almost no doctor will check you for Diastasis Recti!
Around 6 weeks after birth most women will have a checkup by their doctor. They will check if your uterus has contracted back properly and your general state of health and feel.
In very few cases doctors will also check your pelvic floor muscles, maybe recommend some Kegel’s and will then generally clear you for workouts.
Most women will feel relieved thinking that everything is great and they can start with rigorous workout routine to get back to fit.
But the thing that get easily overlooked are you core and pelvic floor muscles. Test for Diastasis Recti takes literally less than 5 minutes and can point you to the right direction before starting any workouts.
If you suspect that you do have Diastasis Recti or if you have any other pelvic issues, don’t hesitate to visit physical therapist before starting any exercise routine.
Don’t rush back into workouts after giving birth!
Give yourself time to heal, speak to your doctor or therapist about concerns you have and test yourself for Diastasis Recti. You can do it yourself in just 5 minutes, at home and with absolutely no equipment or experience needed.
It’s important to know there are some activities and exercises that you need to avoid if you have Diastasis Recti as they can put too much pressure on your abdominal muscles and make your diastasis worse.
Exercises to avoid while healing are:
- Sit-ups and v-ups
- All kinds of crunches, bicycle crunches and oblique crunches .
- Planks and all plank based exercises like planks, spidermans, push ups and more
- Double leg lifts
- Upper body twisting exercises like choppers and russian twists
- All yoga poses that are putting to much pressure on your abdominals and the one with twists like triangle yoga pose .
- All kind of back bands including yoga poses that have back bands
- Pilates exercise that are putting too much pressure on your core
- Any ab exercise in which you need to get your head and shoulders from the ground
- Any exercise that makes your belly dooming or bulging or cone
There are some exercises to avoid altogether while healing Diastasis Recti (see previous question) but there are also some activities that I would urge you to be careful with if you have diastasis or if you just gave birth.
- Lifting heavy weights – it’s a very bad idea to lift heavy weights when your core is not functional and strong enough to support your body. Weights should be incorporated gradually as your core gets stronger.
- Running – If your core is not strong and stable enough it can’t support your body and the pressure caused by high intensity that comes with it. Start with walking and heal properly before you start to run again.
- High impact exercises – any high impact exercises like jumps, burpees and plyometric exercises are better to be left for when your core gets stronger. To do those exercises you need a strong core so first make sure you get there before going back to HIIT.
Healing and recovery takes time. Be patient, don’t rush into workout regime and start with the right mindset.
Surgery is not always the answer!
Many doctors will recommend surgery as the only solution for Diastasis Recti – this is a procedure called tummy tuck or abdominoplasty.
But the surgery has its own risks and leaves scar tissue so it’s a smart move to be sure that you actually need the procedure before you submit to it, considering the good and the bad.
The fact is that targeted exercise program can have a significant impact on healing your muscles and unless there is a medical reason preventing you from exercise it is generally a safe and easy way to get results. This has been proven with many scientific studies.
There are some cases where surgery is the only solution and we should be grateful to have that option when it’s needed. But if we can get the results with something as simple as daily movements and exercise program that takes 30 minutes each day I think we should try that first!
You can heal Diastasis Recti years after giving birth!
I received so many messages from women asking me if they can heal Diastasis Recti several years after giving birth. And really – you can heal Diastasis Recti even decades after giving birth!
Diastasis Recti is a separation of abdominal muscles which means those muscles are weaker postpartum and there is a gap in between them.
But they haven’t lost their ability so the only thing they need is a bit of help.
Same as with every other muscle in your body, once you start contracting it in a right way again amazing things happen.
If you are suffering from Diastasis Recti or have any of the symptoms such as stubborn mummy pouch, back pain or if you look pregnant even when you’re not make sure to test yourself for Diastasis Recti. It is a quick and easy test you can do yourself!
When we talk about Diastasis Recti we often think of it in the context of pregnancy and postpartum.
And that is ok because, according to some studies, all postpartum women experience some degree of Diastasis Recti and more than 60% of them need a targeted exercises to restore the muscle separation.
But it’s important to know that everyone can get Diastasis Recti, it is not gender specific so it can affect men and babies as well.
Diastasis Recti is a separation of abdominal muscles and happens when they are exposed to too much pressure. That is very often during pregnancies due to growing uterus which puts excessive pressure on abdominal muscles but can also happen due to obesity, weightlifting or frequent changes in weight.
Babies can also have Diastasis Recti, especially the premature babies as their abdominal muscles are not yet fully developed.
Babies will generally heal without treatment of any sort compared to adults that need a corrective exercise program in most cases. Only the most severe cases cannot be healed with targeted exercises and require a surgery.
You can be fit and still have Diastasis Recti!
Everyone can develop Diastasis Recti, no matter their level of fitness. The condition is caused by excessive pressure to abdominal muscles which can be caused by a number of things.
The most common trigger for Diastasis Recti is a pregnancy that puts a lot of pressure on linea alba – the midline between your abdominal muscles. You can also get it from bad posture, bad alignment while working out or otherwise putting too much pressure on your abdominal muscles.
Even though being overweight can increase your chances to get it, fit people can also develop Diastasis Recti.
So if you have any of the symptoms such as bulging stomach, leaking urine or back pain do a quick test to see if you have it.
Every woman has some degree of Diastasis Recti!
Research shows that almost every woman has some degree of Diastasis Recti and 60% of women have separations significant enough to warrant protective exercises.
This famous statistic is based on a S. Gail Bursch research published in Physical Therapy magazine and based on 40 postpartum women tested. The research shows the degree to which Diastasis Recti Abdominis is present in postpartum period.
I am wondering how many of those cases go unnoticed because women are not tested by their doctors and not aware they have an issue until severe symptoms start to show up such as back pain, stubborn mummy pouch or leaking urine.
In many cases Diastasis Recti would heal on its own in the first few months postpartum but some women will need to work on it. That’s why testing yourself on a regular basis is so important.
I always talk about importance of testing yourself for Diastasis Recti. This can be a quiet problem you are not aware of but can lead to very serious consequences. Symptoms of Diastasis Recti are not easy to live with and have a huge impact on women’s health, wellbeing and confidence after birth.
From my own example I know how much confidence I gained once I discovered and healed my Diastasis Recti after 3rd and 4th pregnancy. But no one ever told me I might have it, no one ever tested me. Here’s how to test yourself >>
It’s not only about exercise!
Exercise is important! But movement and posture have a huge impact on Diastasis Recti! In order to heal properly you need to be mindful of your movements and posture.
Diastasis Recti is a sign that your core muscles are not functioning the way they are supposed to. It happens due to excessive intra-abdominal pressure that develops because of a number of reasons such as growing baby during pregnancy, bad posture during workouts, being overweight, etc.
Our bodies are designed to deal with optimal amounts of this intra-abdominal pressure but our movement and posture have a huge impact on how this pressure is contained within the muscles.
If movement and posture are not optimal they can have a negative impact on the way muscles contain this pressure which can lead to separation of abdominal muscles or Diastasis Recti.
This is also crucial during recovery phase as we need to work on the way we walk, sit and move in order to heal Diastasis Recti properly.Exercise is important and very much needed but we also need to be mindful of how we move and stand during the day, as well as how we breathe and move during the exercises.
It’s not just about “doing the workouts” and then forgetting about them. Healing Diastasis is a process that takes awareness of our muscles and the super important brain-muscle connection.
Let’s talk about Kegel exercises!
In some cases, Kegel’s are very effective exercises. But they are not effective for every woman. Here’s why.
In general, they can help with weak or stretched pelvic floor muscles. But they can be counterproductive if a woman has a tight pelvic floor muscles.
When we do a Kegel exercise, we are doing a muscular contraction. If we already have a tight pelvic floor, contracting these muscles can only make them tighter, making pelvic floor problems worse.
Before starting on rigorous Kegel’s, make sure you are assessed by a physiotherapist and they confirmed that you really do need Kegel’s.
Every pregnancy is different and every pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your abdominal muscles. That’s why you can get Diastasis Recti in any one of your pregnancies, even if you didn’t have it in your first!
Diastasis Recti is caused by excessive intra-abdominal pressure, the pressure to your abdominal muscles. This pressure causes muscles to separate leaving the gap in between them.
Some degree of muscle separation happens in all pregnancies but research shows that more than 60% of postpartum women need corrective exercises to close the gap.
You can try to prevent the Diastasis Recti from happening while pregnant but there is absolutely no guarantee that you will succeed. However, having developed muscles can help to ease the impact of Diastasis Recti and can help with the recovery later, even if you develop it during pregnancy.
Plank can make Diastasis Recti worse!
If you are healing Diastasis Recti be careful with plank and other plank based exercises. They often put a lot of pressure on your abdominal muscles which can have a negative impact on your healing process.
It’s because of these kind of exercises that is important to detect Diastasis Recti before starting any workout program postpartum.
If you don’t know you need to be careful you’ll most likely do plank to work on your abs.
Most of us do.
But as it can make your DR worse make sure to avoid it until your abdominal muscles are strong enough.
Crunches can indeed make your Diastasis Recti worse!
When healing Diastasis Recti women tend to focus on things they need to do.
But they often forget about things they need to “not do”. There are some great exercises you can do to heal Diastasis Recti. You should absolutely do them!
But there are also things you need to avoid. Some exercises like crunches put a lot of pressure on your abdominal muscles. This can make your Diastasis Recti worse and slow down your progress.
After all, Diastasis Recti is a separation of abdominal muscles so any significant pressure to those muscles while healing the separation should be avoided. This includes all kinds of crunches.
Diastasis Recti is not just a muscle separation problem!
This separation has a significant impact on postpartum recovery, mum wellbeing and general health.
If you don’t know about it all you see are the symptoms like stubborn mummy pouch, leaking urine while sneezing and laughing or bulging in your stomach.
Most of the general fitness advice you can easily find will suggest that you do core exercises like planks and crunches. But if you have Diastasis Recti these exercises can only make it worse.
This magic circle can be easily broken. The test for Diastasis Recti is simple and fast. You can do it yourself at home.
Check yourself, learn about Diastasis Recti and how to heal it. Know what to avoid if you have it.
Outie belly button can in extreme cases be a sign of umbilical hernia. The hernia is caused by the same thing that causes Diastasis Recti – excessive intra-abdominal pressure. But umbilical hernia is not the same thing as Diastasis Recti and it is not caused by the Diastasis Recti.
A hernia is when part of your intestines pokes out through a weak spot in your abdominal muscles. This can show as a bulge or outie belly button in some cases.
The intra-abdominal pressure is so strong that it pushes part of your internal organs to bulge out through the abdominal wall. If you have a hernia I would suggest that you see a doctor for a consultation. In some cases you may need a surgery but you should discuss this with your doctor!
You can work on trying to prevent Diastasis Recti during pregnancy.
Every pregnancy carries the risk of developing Diastasis Recti due to increased pressure to abdominal muscles. And there is no certain way to avoid Diastasis Recti or eliminate the risk altogether.
However, having strong Transverse Abdominis muscle could help you decrease the chances of developing Diastasis Recti. The second photo shows the location of this muscle.
You can work on these muscles by doing the TVA breathing exercise, as well as some other workouts and daily activities you can incorporate during your pregnancy.