What Is Diastasis Recti?


What Is Diastasis Recti?

So what is diastasis recti? And why is it important for every pregnant woman and new mother to know about it?

Diastasis means ‘separation’ and Recti refers to your ab muscles called the ‘rectus abdominis’ which are the outermost abdominal muscles.

So Diastasis Recti is a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles.

What Causes A Diastasis?

The belly button is a weak spot in the connective tissue and continuous pressure, stretching, or intra-abdominal force placed on this weak spot of the connective tissue can cause the muscles to separate.

What Causes A Diastasis?
What Causes A Diastasis?

What Are Some Signs Of A Diastasis?

Signs of a diastasis include a protruding belly and a bulge when getting up from a supine position.

  1. lower back pain

2. poor posture

3. constipation

4. bloating

Who Can Get A Diastasis?

Diastasis is often associated with pregnancy. However; women, men and even children can get diastasis.

Besides pregnancy, other examples of what can create a DR or make a diastasis larger include:

  1. Exercises like crunches, planking.

2. Extreme weight gain.

3. Abdominal surgery.

4. Back-bends.

5. Certain activities and sports (tennis, golf, swimming).

What Causes A Diastasis?

The belly button is a weak spot in the connective tissue and continuous pressure, stretching, or intra-abdominal force placed on this weak spot of the connective tissue can cause the muscles to separate.

What Are Some Signs Of A Diastasis?

Signs of a diastasis include a protruding belly and a bulge when getting up from a supine position.

Is It Normal To Get A Diastasis During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is normal. But if you strengthen your core before pregnancy you may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of a diastasis from occurring.

Diastasis Recti is common when pregnant

Do All Pregnant Women Get A Diastasis?

There are various degrees of a diastasis and the majority of women do get a diastasis.

What Are The Effects Of A Diastasis On The Body?

The outermost muscles support your back and organs and when they separate the connective tissue then becomes your support system.

As a result this thin connective tissue is not a good support system for your back and organs. Side effects include:

  1. Pelvic floor problems (incontinence, prolapses).

2. Back pain.

3. Poor posture.

4. Gastrointestinal disturbances (bloating, constipation).

5. Umbilical hernia.

Is Diastasis Causing My Back Pain Post Pregnancy?

Yes, a diastasis can cause back pain. As discussed above, your outermost abdominal muscles support your back. Your back pain can occur because the connective tissues no longer provide a good support system for your back.

Can a Diastasis Cause Constipation?

Yes, a diastasis can cause constipation. When the muscles separate the organs can get displaced. This displacement can put the bowel out of alignment which can cause constipation.

When I Check Myself For a Diastasis What Am I Checking For?

When you check for a diastasis you are checking for two things:

1. The ‘distance’ between the two muscles. You will check by seeing how many fingers fit between the two separated muscles.

2. The ‘condition’ of the connective tissue. Essentially, the deeper your fingers go, the weaker the connective tissue is likely to be.

How Do I Check For A Diastasis?

The diastasis is measured by the number of finger spaces that fit in between the two rectus abdominis muscles.

Normal = 1 finger space separation or less

Diastasis recti = a separation or gap between the rectus abdominis muscles of 2 or more finger spaces.

This means the tissues joining the rectus abdominis muscles have either stretched or split apart. The wider the gap, the larger the separation of these two muscles.

Steps to Measure a Rectus Diastasis

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can place a pillow under your head for more comfort.

2. Place three fingers just above your belly button facing down towards your feet.

3. Gently lift your head off the ground and you should feel the ridges of the rectus abdominals. You are trying to feel how far apart (in finger distance) these two ridges are away from each other.

Note: Test at different locations down the mid-line from just above your belly button, to just below. It is most common for the biggest part of the separation to be around the belly button.

The depth that your fingers go down into your belly is a test to see the condition of the Linea Alba (the connective tissue between the rectus abdominal muscles).

The further down your fingers go into your belly, the weaker the Linea Alba. Avoid having your head up for too long, if needed lower your head and repeat to continue the check.

When I Check Myself for a Diastasis Why Does It Hurt?

When you place your fingers between the muscles it may hurt and this is because your connective tissue is very weak.

Why Do I Feel A Bulge When I Get Up From A Supine Position?

When you get up from a supine position this bulge are your organs moving forward against this weak connective tissue. This bulge is a sign of a very severe diastasis.

How Long Does It Take To Close A Diastasis?

The time frame to heal a diastasis depends on the severity of your diastasis and will vary for each person.

It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year or more so this is why it is essential you participate in a postnatal recovery program as well as an ongoing post pregnancy program that continues for months and even years after your pregnancy.

Do Some People’s Diastasis Close Faster Than Others?

If you have weaker connective tissue it will take longer to heal.  Everyone is different which is why some women heal faster than others.

Hormones such as relaxin and also multiple births can weaken the connective tissue.

Health your body after childbirth

How Will I Know When My Diastasis Has Healed?

The key to closing a diastasis is all about healing the connective tissue. You will have a good idea of when you diastasis has closed when you conduct the diastasis check.

You do this by placing your fingers in to check your diastasis and they do not go down that deep. A one finger diastasis with shallow connective tissue is what you should aim for.

Can A Diastasis Come Apart Once It Is Closed?

Yes, continuous intra-abdominal force and pressure on this weak spot in the middle of the connective tissue (belly button) will separate your muscles.

This why is very important you participate in a specifically-designed post pregnancy workout well beyond the postpartum period.

Can A Diastasis Get Worse From Doing Incorrect Exercises?

Yes, stretching, increased intra-abdominal force and pressure on connective tissue can make a diastasis worse if you have one.

This is why you MUST participate in a specific program that takes into account your diastasis. Certain activities, sports, exercises and movements can make your diastasis worse.

Can Pushing Incorrectly In Labour Cause A Diastasis?

Yes, incorrect pushing can create a diastasis or make an existing diastasis worse.

This is why participating in a pre natal class is important as it can teach you the correct skills when it comes to pushing and what positions are best for you during labour.

Is Wearing A Baby Carrier Bad For My Diastasis?

Yes, using a carrier where your baby is positioned in front of you can cause additional weight and pressure to be placed upon on the weak connective tissue.

When Is Surgery Necessary For A Diastasis?

Your Doctor will guide you on your options for treating and managing your specific health matters. Your doctor may recommend surgery when the connective tissue has torn away from the muscle and the organs are exposed.

What is Diastasis Recti - You're about to find out all you need to know!

My 12 Week Online Postnatal Recovery Program is specifically designed for women who have Diastasis Recti. Most women experience some degree of a diastasis post pregnancy. My program will hep you regain your body confidence as you take on motherhood!

As always, consult your Doctor first before starting any new program and follow their guidance with regards to your specific requirements.

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Kerryn Boyle
Kerryn is a Prenatal Exercise Specialist who teaches pregnancy classes in Melbourne Australia. Kerryn has over 10 years of extensive experience in women’s health, fitness and well-being specialising in prenatal and postnatal exercise. Kerryn’s areas of expertise includes providing women with safe diastasis recti exercises to help heal abdominal separation. Kerryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Exercise and Sport Science, is a qualified Prenatal Pilates Instructor.