Although pregnancy is a natural and beautiful experience, we have to be realistic about the problems that mothers can potentially face – like diastasis recti.
In some cases, a pregnancy can be too much pressure on the body due to many different unrelated factors. Diastasis meaning separation and recti abdomonis, which is your stomach muscle, is the name of the condition we’ll be shining some light on today. It sounds pretty intimidating because we’re so used to the belief that our bodies can do anything but keep in mind that two-thirds of pregnant woman have it. Granted, with education and awareness you can definitely prevent diastasis recti during pregnancy.
Diastasis Recti in Pregnancy
According to the Mayo Clinic, during pregnancy as the uterus grows, the muscles stretch in the abdomen causing two large parallel bands of muscle that meet in the middle to separate. This might cause a bulge in the middle and are only noticeable when the abdominal muscles are tense.
You are at a higher risk to develop the condition if you are or experiencing one of the following:
- Women 35 and older
- Women who are pregnant with multiples
- Rapid weight gain during pregnancy
- Women with multiple pregnancies close in age
- Exercising incorrectly or not according to your pregnancy
In other words, diastasis recti during pregnancy is simply the pressure causing a muscle separation normally during the 3rd trimester. As your belly grows, hormones allow weakening of the abdominal wall’s connective tissue to accommodate your little one’s rapid growth. This leads to the diastasis. You may notice a gap if you do have the condition.
Here is a simple video on how to check yourself for diastasis recti during pregnancy.
What Really Causes Diastasis Recti?
Please keep in mind that pregnancy doesn’t necessarily cause diastasis recti. It is actually caused internally which the weight of the pregnancy increases. Anyone with too much weight around their belly and poor alignment can experience this.
Katy Bowman of nutritiousmovement.com educates about the alignment, the anatomy and nutrition for your body through her books and on her website. Not to mention she’s a biomechanist! She has an amazing perspective on the cause of diastasis recti during pregnancy.
Our bodies come with the tools we need for a successful natural pregnancy and birth, but poor alignment negatively impacts the stomach due to the inability to use your muscles. This is primarily how the separation of the muscles occurs.
The sacrum (part of the spinal column) becomes jammed up and the more mal-aligned the body, the weaker the abdominals. Thrusting your hips forward also pushes your belly contents right throught the wall of the abdomen. It happens in men and women who habitually thrust their hips and have extra stuff in the midsection.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent which we’ll explain in a little bit.
Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy
Diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation) is commonly defined as a gap of roughly 2.7 cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. This muscle covers the front surface of the belly area.
Diastasis normally develops later in pregnancy as your belly grows. After giving birth, the gap is more noticeable. Once you give birth your abdominal muscles may not have the tissue to reconnect itself right away.
Symptoms of Diastasis Recti After Pregnancy
- Bulging or a dome shape of the stomach
- A gap of more than 2 ½ finger widths when the rectus is fully contracted
- Abdominal separation
Preventing Diastasis Recti During Pregnancy
We all know that exercising is a great and in most cases pretty safe thing to do especially if you were active before your pregnancy. Exercise increases energy, improves your mood and helps to cope with labor and even make it easier for you to get back into shape post-pregnancy. However, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your body especially while pregnant.
Avoiding any exercises consisting of crunches, sit-ups, planks, or any exercises that activate your abdomen is extremely important to prevent diastasis recti during pregnancy. Be sure to take it easy, avoid straining from lifting heaving things, pay attention to your body and its changes and most importantly let your doctor know that you’re interested in staying fit throughout your pregnancy before you get started.
Squatting and walking are safe ways to strengthen your leg, thigh and hip muscles. Walk up to 5 miles throughout the day and minimize sitting in chairs. Here is an article on how to squat correctly: http://nutritiousmovement.com/2010/06/02/you-dont-know-squat/
Posture also plays a huge role during your pregnancy. Sia from Diary of a Fit Mommy encourages mothers to wear a belly support during pregnancy. Poor posture is actually a huge factor if you’ve developed diastasis recti due to weak core muscles.
Also, it’s important to refrain from tucking in your pelvis. For a better posture make a habit by sticking out your butt to build the support in your back. All in all, be aware of your posture while you’re going about your daily activities.
Diastasis Recti Exercises During Pregnancy
In actuality, strengthening your core can definitely help before you get pregnant. But during your pregnancy running or doing cardio is a safer alternative for a great ab workout. Isolation exercises are not the best during pregnancy because you should always limit yourself to 20 minutes of exercise a day.
Also, you don’t want to necessarily exhaust one body part within those 20 minutes. Implementing a workout to target multiple body parts is an optimal way to stay safe during your pregnancy as well as completing a workout beneficial for your health.
Exercises for Diastasis Recti Post Pregnancy
Physical therapy is a great option to bring the belly muscles back into line. The Tupler Technique involves certain exercises while wearing a belly splint, which protects and holds ab muscles together. It’s best that you work with a certified trainer or physical therapist that specialize in diastasis recti before you begin exercising.
The trainer or therapist should understand the importance of the condition and work with you to safely strengthen your core without any further injury. Pilates may also help you strengthen and activate the deeper belly muscles.
Diastasis Recti Pregnancy Treatment
According to Web MD, there are several options if you’re dealing with DRA after pregnancy. If rehab doesn’t work for you, an operation to correct diastasis may be something your doctor will recommend. Recovering after pregnancy with DRA is more challenging. Allow your body some rest from heavy lifting and definitely weigh out your options.
If you believe you may have diastasis recti, talk with your doctor.