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How to Know if You Have a Diastasis Recti? Here’s How to Test Yourself

Diastasis Recti is one of those things you have never heard of until you gave birth.

Becoming a mom means much more than just changing diapers. It changes your life, and it changes your body too.

One of the common things new mothers have to face is a Diastasis Recti.

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.

Diastasis Recti is more common in women:

  • With the second and every subsequent pregnancy
  • After multiple pregnancies
  • After multiple pregnancies in a short period of time
  • After having twins or triplets
  • After having larger babies

What are the signs of Diastasis Recti?

Most moms realize they have diastasis after they just can’t get rid of their post-pregnancy belly. It is that extra stubborn pouch that seems impossible to get rid off even with dieting and exercising.

But diastasis has many more signs and you can tell if you have it much sooner than you start with exercises that can make your diastasis even worse. Here are some of them.

  • Your belly appears larger than it should be, you seem like 12 weeks pregnant at least
  • There is some pooching or dooming or bulging on your belly especially when you are getting up from the laying 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

Diastasis Recti is not only bad for your looks, but it can also pose a big problem for your entire body. Diastasis is a sign of a weak core and is almost always associated with week pelvic floor muscles.

In the long term, this will cause your entire core to become weak and unstable.

It will keep putting pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and causing problems like back pain, incontinence, hernias, and prolapse.

Why do we get diastasis?

Most women get diastasis during their late-stage pregnancy but pregnancy don’t cause diastasis and everyone can get it, even kids.

The cause of diastasis is abdominal pressure.

This happens when unsupported and excessive abdominal pressure (like in pregnancy) causes your muscles to come apart and stretching the linea alba, the midline between your Rectus Abdominis.

All of this is causing a weak core, core instability and often, pelvic floor weakness.

The same abdominal pressure causing diastasis by pushing your muscles outwards is causing pelvic floor muscles weakness by pushing them downwards.

Every woman can get diastasis in pregnancy and there is no guarantee that you won’t get it. But having a strong core before and during pregnancy can help in the prevention of diastasis as well as pelvic floor weakness.

How to test yourself for Diastasis Recti?

There is an easy test you can do at home to see if you have Diastasis Recti.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Lie on the floor on your back with your legs bent and with your feet on the floor. Relax your body.
  2. Place your fingers palm facing yourself just above your belly button. Slightly lift your head and your neck of the floor and push with your fingers. Don’t lift your shoulders. If you feel the gap under your fingers, that is diastasis. You should feel muscle and a gap in between them if you have Diastasis.
  3. Repeat the test two more times in different places, one directly above your belly button and other few inches below.
  4. Check how wide is your gap and how much tension is in your midline. Try to see how deep can your finger drop in the hole. The less the better.

Diastasis of 1-2 finger-width or less would be great, but sometimes it will be 3 and even more fingers wide.

What to do if I have a diastasis?

Don’t panic if you have Diastasis. There is a lot of things you can do to heal your diastasis and strengthen your core again.

Firstly, there are some things you need to avoid that can make your diastasis even worse.

If you have Diastasis Recti:

Don’t do any kind of ab exercises where you are laying on your back like crunches, bicycle crunches, v-ups, twists or similar. These exercises can make your diastasis much more severe.

Don’t do exercises where you are putting extra pressure on your abdominal muscles like the one where are you on all four in plank or similar positions; no to planks, push-ups, spider-mans, burpees or similar exercises.

Don’t do any kind of yoga poses that put extra pressure on your abdominals. If you are starting yoga after birth and have a diastasis, try to do yoga poses with some modifications or some of them avoid completely until you’ve healed your diastasis.

Don’t carry heavy objects and especially avoid carrying them in only one hand. If your core is not working properly it can’t stabilize your body and give support to your back that you need while carrying heavy objects.

Don’t run or do any kind of exercises that include running or jumping. This part may be the hardest to accept to some, but for running and jumping you need stable and strong core as well as strong pelvic floor muscles. Until you heal your core and pelvic floor don’t jump or run, stick to low impact exercises only.

Will wearing a binder after birth help?

The short answer is – no.

Wearing a binder after birth can’t heal your core and diastasis. It can’t make your core stronger, it can give your body and back support while moving in the early days, but it will not help with diastasis in the long term.

If you want to heal diastasis, 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 learn them how to contract them properly.

If you have the diastasis, there is a lot of work waiting for you. Your body and your muscles will need time to heal and to get back to normal function once 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.

Renata Sanko
Certified personal trainer with years spent on education and research on how to help women heal their body after birth. I have dedicated myself to help other women to regain and heal their body after having a baby...

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