What is Diastasis Recti?
Over the last year as I have been running challenge groups, I have met so many women that have Diastasis Recti and are completely unaware! In most cases, it’s not a serious problem, but if you start working out the muscles before they are healed it can get ugly fast! Let’s dive in!
Diastasis recti generally happens during pregnancy when the two large parallel bands of abdominal muscles separate due to the expanding uterus. Some women’s ab muscles go back to normal after the baby is born, and some do not, or after one pregnancy went back to normal but after another did not! This separation can look different for each of us. See the Diagram below!
The good news is that the diastasis caused by pregnancy can be corrected with exercises and stretches designed to optimize deep core muscular function. So ladies, don’t worry—your body wants to function right, and it will. We just need to wake up the right core muscles and teach them what to do!
Now how this happens and why it is worse for some women, no one is 100% sure. But we can hypothesize. It’s been said to be hereditary, but it may also be caused by working out your abs too soon after a baby is born, or even doing the wrong exercises WHILE pregnant.
We will be showing you in a later post how to self check so you will more clearly understand how this affects you. If you notice in the diagram there are several different ways that the Diastasis can be open, below the navel, above the navel, or completely open as well. For some, you may notice that when you do an ab exercise it looks odd and lumpy or even something protruding out of your skin. This would be your intestines pushing through the open space between the muscles.
If you are anything like me, you are ready to vomit now, right? Don’t worry! We are here to help! If this goes untreated, it is possible to suffer a major intestinal hernia, especially if you start training hard to get your body back into pre pregnancy condition. It’s important to remember that you just created a HUMAN so take it slowly and give your body the time it needs to recover.
Here are a handful of factors that make a woman more susceptible to diastasis recti:
Having more than one child/pregnancy
Having pregnancies close together
Being over the age of 35
Having big babies
Having multiple births
I know…some of you are looking at this list realizing you’ve been double—or even quadruple—whammied! (I’m raising my hand to a couple). Diastasis recti is very common—about 67% of all postpartum women have it.
Now, let’s talk about our options moving forward. We can go the immediate and potentially easy (but expensive) route with surgery. BUT, surgery is not always recommended if you are still in your childbearing years…I mean think about it, one more baby, and you’ll pop them right back apart! As well, there is no guarantee that surgery will be 100% effective.
So for me, at-home exercises and remedies are the way to go. Anytime I can avoid going under the knife, I will. And worst case? If the exercises don’t work, surgery as an option is always going to be there.
A lot of this boils down to doing the RIGHT exercises. Often people jump into exercises that worked before child bearing (swing ups, sit ups, V ups, knees to bar, etc), but in reality, these moves are working against you by ONLY working your Rectus Abdominus. The REAL muscles that needed working are known as the Transversus Abdominis and Lumbar Multifidus. These are the the most neglected of the ab muscles, but also happen to be arguably the most important. They lie beneath the Rectus Abdominus, supporting posture, controlling breathing during heavy lifts, and supporting the back. These are the muscles elite athletes work to add explosive power to training and are also the muscles we mamas need to work to relieve back pain, create a tighter midsection, AND improve our diastasis recti. Tomorrow we will be hearing from Ashley! Her story and how this worked for her, then we will dive in and start self checks and teach you how to do the correct exercises!
It is a privilege to be here sharing with you all! Thank you for taking the time to join us! This is a topic that I've become passionate about because I was affected by it and through sharing my journey have met so many other women who were unaware as well. Please feel free to pass on this information and to send people our way if we can serve them! My story has been a rollercoaster! Always a couple sizes larger than my sisters, I assumed that I was built differently. I didn’t focus much on nutrition but I was average height and weight. The story changed when I got pregnant. I felt free to eat what I wanted and by the end of the pregnancy I had gained 55 pounds. I put a lot of stress on my body which showed in stretch marks and before I had lost the weight, I was pregnant again with my second daughter. My wake up call was that I weighed more when my second daughter was 4 months old than I did at my 6 week check up. I got started on my health and wellness journey at that very moment. I started off with baby steps with a goal of 5 pounds that led to 15 pounds that eventually led to a 60 pound weight loss. Learning how my body was supposed to feel when it was fueled properly changed my life! I actually found that I was in fact shaped JUST like my sisters and the difference between us had always been nutrition.
My husband and I decided to have more children so my body, that had already been through tons of crazy changes, got to experience pregnancies fueled on healthy food and exercise and I had a completely different experience. Because I had cared for my body and had muscle tone, my body went back to its original form much sooner, I felt better during my pregnancies, and I put my body through less stress!
It wasn’t until my 17 week check up with my fourth baby #4 though that I heard the term Diastasis Recti. I had a different midwife than my first three babies. She informed me of the separation and told me of one pregnancy safe exercise to do in an attempt at preventing it from getting worse.
I did my exercises daily and I hoped that it wouldn't worsen, but at my 6 week postpartum check up, my midwife informed me that it was 4 finger widths wide and very deep. I wasn't told how to heal it or how to keep it from getting worse. I couldn't even find very much information on the subject. I continued doing my workouts and the one exercise they had told me about months prior.
One day, I was looking at a photo I took of my stomach and noticed that it looked as though I had a sink hole forming down the center of my stomach. I began to do more research and discovered that having this separation can lead to back pain, rounded belly, and hernias among other things. I also learned that certain exercises I was doing can make it worse. I continued to workout daily and I replaced exercises that were exacerbating the problem with ones specifically to heal my diastasis recti and I began to notice change in just a matter of weeks. My stomach looked flatter, that "sink hole" wasn’t as deep, my lower back was no longer aggravated by exercise.
Not only did I notice change in my stomach by closing this separation but these exercises are focused on strengthening the transverse abdominal muscles which also connect to your pelvic floor. (If you've ever had to cross your legs when you sneeze, you know what I'm talking about.)
Our bodies go through so much during pregnancy and these hidden ailments are often overlooked until they start causing medical problems. For 67% of women who have diastasis recti(and/or pelvic floor issues)after pregnancy it is just a matter of time.
If you are wondering if you have Diastasis Recti, we will be teaching you how to self check tomorrow and on day 4 of the group we will be showing you the exercises you can do to start the healing process! Nutrition is very important too, not just because your baby needs it but because if you aren’t getting the nutrition that you need, it’s harder for your body to heal. We get a lot of bad advice in our culture about “ eating for two” and jokes about cravings, but the reason we crave things is because our body is signalling that it needs more nutrients. It wants you to eat more in an attempt to gather the nutrients it needs to run efficiently! If we make conscious healthy choices, we crave less! Most people are surprised to learn that in the second trimester you only need an extra 350 calories a day and only 500 calories extra a day in the third trimester.If you have questions about nutrition, we have a website where we share the nutritional info that we use in our challenge groups and we would love to put the tools in your hands for free! Though Diastasis Recti isn’t something that you can completely prevent, you can put less stress on your body through eating well and managing your weight which will create less pressure on the ab muscles!
Below you can see the comparison before I started working on my Diastasis Recti and afterward, next is a picture of myself at 6 weeks postpartum ( you can visually see the below navel Diastasis Recti) I also posted a picture of each of my pregnancies at 34 weeks, I want you to have a vision for what is possible when you practice self care throughout your pregnancy!
Self Check info
If you’re not sure if you are among the lucky few that steered clear of this pregnancy consequence, here’s an easy way to find out:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, soles of your feet close to your booty.
Place one hand behind your neck and the other hand on your abdomen with your fingertips flat at your belly button, fingers facing downward.
Gently push your fingertips into your abdomen while rolling your upper body off of the floor, chin towards the ceiling.
Feel for a separation between those two ab muscles.
Experts say that a 2-2.5 finger or more spread signals diastasis recti.
Refer back to the graphic from Day one and keep in mind that your DIastasis Rectic might be in the upper or lower abdomen, not just the center. You may even be open all over, so take time to feel it out. Below tell us about your self check!
How many finger widths were you? Could you tell where your opening was ( if you had one)?
Ok, ladies! I know this can be a little discouraging for some of you but the good news is that now you KNOW and you can take action! If you follow through and do these exercises you WILL see progress! Remember that you need to avoid ab exercises that make it worse like planks and crunches. If you are currently doing a program, stop all the ab exercises they have you doing and do these in their place until you are down to a 1-1.5 finger width.
Here is our favorite video on the topic. It goes over the self check again in the beginning. Try them today and share how you feel and any questions you have. If you have been doing a harder work out you will find these simple BUT you will also feel them later! These are working out muscles you ARENT working out with traditional ab exercises so don't be surprised if they make you feel sore! That's a good thing!
Some closing thoughts! Watch below!
"And Aubrey was her name. A not so very ordinary girl or name."(Or so says David Gates ;) I'm a wife to Phillip, a mother to Scarlett and Juliet. We live in the beautiful city of Thornton, Co. I'm a recovering red bull addict. I love to read. I hate to cook. I seek to be inspired and also to inspire others. I am a Beachbody Coach on a quest to be truly healthy mind, soul, and body and challenge others to do the same.