Diastasis recti is a fairly common outcome from pregnancy where the right and left abdominal muscles, rectus abdominis (the midline of your abdominals), separate. Basically your “six-pack” becomes two “three packs.” This is caused by pressure from your uterus pushing against your abdominal wall and the pregnancy hormones that soften of your tissues.
Diastasis recti can occur any time in your pregnancy, especially in the last half, although it is most common post-pregnancy when your abdominal wall is weak and there is no baby to offer you any support. It can be caused by poor form during exercises, excessive weight gain, multiple pregnancies, poor posture and, of course, genetics can play a huge role.
Not everyone gets diastasis recti but for those who do, don’t worry— you have not caused permanent damage and will not have a “mommy belly” forever! Typically, post-pregnancy you will notice a “squishy belly” and relaxed midline— this is normal. It will take time for your belly to regain its former density and elasticity. The “hole” you may be feeling when you slightly press on your tummy is normal and will become more shallow over time, as long as you take proper care of yourself and don’t overdo things!
5 Steps to Check for Diastasis:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
2. Place one hand behind your head and the middle three fingers of your other hand in your belly button.
3. Relax your abdominal muscles and lift your head while gently pushing into just above the belly button with your three middle fingers, toward your face, running vertically along the center belly line.
4. Lift your upper body off the floor into a “crunch.”
5. Gently move your fingers around your midline, feeling for this separation in your muscles, which typically feels like a shallow hole, fitting two or two-and-a-half fingers when your abdominals are fully contracted.
If you find that you do indeed have diastasis, the best thing you can do is be patient and spend the time to fully and properly strengthen your core with these few G-tips below.
Gina’s Tips for Diastasis Recovery and Core Strengthening
1. Head lifts: This is not a crunch. When you do a head lift, you are literally just lifting your head and not letting your shoulders lift off the floor. This is meant to engage your transverse muscles and not add too much pressure to your rectus abdominis. It is a very tiny movement.
2. Belly band: Wearing a belly band as much as possible will help keep your core engaged and also serves as a great reminder to focus on your posture. Use the belly band as much as possible.
3. Posture: Proper posture will help you engage your core. Focus on using your deep transverse muscles with everything you do. Your mind should always be on your core engagement. Use the little mantra “core engaged” throughout the day to remind yourself to keep it tight!
4. Get up and down correctly! When getting up and down from a back lying position, you want to be sure to take your time and keep your core engaged throughout the entire process. You don’t want to jump up as fast as you can, but rather roll to one side first and then push yourself up to a seated position, or start in a seated position, then go to one side before fully lying down.
5. Avoid the same exercises and movements that can cause diastasis while you are recovering. No crunches, sit-ups, planks, front loaded exercises, etc.
6. Everything you do needs to be core focused, deep within your transverse abdominal muscles! As you start to exercise again, every movement needs to come from the core as your source of stability!
Gina recently launched her Ultimate Pregnancy Plan. Check it out at http://www.ginaaliotti.com/ultimate-pregnancy-plan/.