Most pregnant women worry about their weight gain throughout their pregnancy, thinking that there’s nothing they can do to return to their pre-pregnancy weight after they have given birth. It is a very common concern, one that plagues the mind of most expecting mothers.
During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles separate and become more flexible to create room for the developing fetus. This “ab separation” is medically termed as a condition called Diastasis Recti. If you witness that your abdomen has a round and bulging appearance, even after giving birth, that’s the reason why.
Some women experience this issue a few weeks post-partum while other newborn mothers witness the change in their body shape for months and even years later. This article will explain in detail about diastasis of the rectus during pregnancy and what you can do to recover from it postpartum.
In this Article
- 1 What is Diastasis Recti?
- 2 Do I Have Diastasis Recti?
- 2.1 Why does Abdominal Separation Occur During Pregnancy?
- 2.2 What are the Dos and Don’ts of Diastasis Recti?
- 2.3 Dos for Diastasis Recti
- 2.4 Don’ts for Diastasis Recti
- 2.5 FAQs
- 2.6 Conclusion
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti, in medical terms, is defined as the separation of the “two muscles bellies around the rectus abdominis.”
Although separation in the abdominal muscle is normal and almost every human being on this planet has it, the condition progresses further during pregnancy, to accommodate the growing fetus.
Recent studies indicate that diastasis recti happen when the two broad and parallel abdominal muscles separate by an irregular distance.
In normal situations, a separation of 2-3 cm is considered normal, something that everyone has or experiences. However, this distance gradually distends and increases with the pregnancy to support the developing fetus inside the womb. It’s a normal occurrence and typically doesn’t lad to any physiological consequences on the mother’s health.
Do I Have Diastasis Recti?
Determining whether or not you have diastasis recti is simple. Besides being able to “tell by the appearance”, there is a self-examining exercise you can perform to check for the same.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Lay down flat on the ground, folding your knees but keeping your feet flat on the ground.
- Take one of your hands and place it on the midline of your navel and press down without any excess pressure.
- Do a mini crunch, while ensuring that your shoulders stay on the ground.
- During that, feel the area of the rectus abdominis muscles and feel whether you have a separation there or not.
If this doesn’t help and you are still confused about whether you have a DR or not, we’d recommend reaching out to your healthcare provider for further guidance.
Why does Abdominal Separation Occur During Pregnancy?
As we have talked about before, pregnancy is filled with unique experiences. As the fetus grows and develops within, the mother’s body adjusts and conforms to support the needs of the child.
As the belly grows, the level of separation in the abdominal muscles grows to a normal extent. In rare cases, this separation might alter the strength of the connective tissue of the linea alba but in most cases, it isn’t a standard consequence.
Your OBGYN will alert you about this complication and also advise you to be mindful of the exercises you indulge in during your pregnancy term. You might have to perform exercises that minimize the pressure on the abdominal muscles to ensure that the separation doesn’t extend further.
Diastasis recti is a normal occurrence during pregnancy but it hardly results in something more severe or life-altering. Around 33-83% of pregnant women experience this condition following the delivery of their baby.
Since diastasis recti is a “preventable” complication, discussing your lifestyle and activity throughout the pregnancy term with your doctor is your best bet to avoid the postpartum complications.
What are the Dos and Don’ts of Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti isn’t always a permanent or long-term complication. In most cases, the separation or the gap closes on its own a few weeks after childbirth.
In very rare cases of severe diastasis recti will the mother experience a gap for months or years at end. Even then, with proper core strengthening exercises, the issue can be managed without any complications.
One of the most common mistakes that most newborn mothers do during the early post-partum period is getting into exercising too quickly. Your body has gone through a lot of changes in the past 8-10 months of pregnancy and especially during childbirth.
Indulging in high-intensity or strenuous exercises like crunches and sit-ups too early into post-partum elevates the risk of developing a hernia around the incisions. Situations like these might require medical intervention, something that possibly no one wants after pushing a baby out of their body.
Following is a list of dos and don’ts you should follow:
Dos for Diastasis Recti
Deep ab activation – this is one of the most effective exercises you can try to engage your transverse abdominal muscles.
Pelvic tilts – this has dual benefits on strengthening your core because it works your transverse abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor as well.
Pelvic brace – if you are looking for exercises to prep and strengthen the deep core muscles during post-partum, this is the exercise for it. It also enables you to find a neutral spine.
Closing the gap – this is an exercise that trains your rectus abdominis muscles to return to their original shape and position, around the midline. Indulging in this exercise daily eventually closes the gap in the abdomen.
Chair position – the best way to bridge the gap in the abdominal muscles is by strengthening the deep core muscles and building endurance in them. This exercise directly targets those core muscles.
Toe dips – this exercise impacts four different muscles and areas in the body, including the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis, along with the hips and obliques.
Bird dog – this one has multiple benefits in strengthening the deep core muscles in the body and also the muscles around the lower back and glutes.
Don’ts for Diastasis Recti
If you are sure you have diastasis rectus during pregnancy, there are certain exercises or activities you need to avoid at all costs. Indulging in these will further widen the gap and make the condition severe and “beyond repair”.
Exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and unnecessary forward stretching exercises in yoga are a big NO in patients with DR.
Most obese pregnant women are often at risk of developing diastasis recti during their pregnancy. So, what we’d suggest you do is discuss preventive measures with your healthcare provider or OBGYN so you can either prevent it or reduce the implications.
What not to do when you have diastasis recti?
If you are diagnosed with DR, the first you need to do is avoid any kinds of exercises that could worsen the condition. Crunches, unnecessary stretching, etc. can further loosen the muscles and expand the gap.
Does diastasis recti affect Labour?
In cases where the linea alba is thin and weakened, you might experience complications during the labor or during future pregnancies. Hence, practicing caution is ideal.
Does bending over cause diastasis recti?
If you experience a “coning” or “doming” effect when you sit up from a laying position, it is a sign that you have DR. Bending might lead to poor core pressure management, which can cause diastasis recti.
Like other ups and downs during pregnancy, even diastasis recti should be considered an unexpected consequence of this joyful experience. We are still in a primitive stage of understanding this condition and educating expecting mothers about it. It is always better if you discuss your expectations with the doctor and get suggestions about what you can do to prevent the severity of this complication during the post-partum period.