If you're pregnant with your first or 5th, you've probably heard of diastasis recti or your belly muscles splitting. While it's a completely normal and common thing to happen during pregnancy, there are some ways to help prevent it. If you want to learn how to prevent diastasis recti, then you've come to the right place.
In this post, we'll cover the following:
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is essentially the separation of our abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis muscles, that occurs during pregnancy. This has to happen in order to make room for a growing baby. As baby grows, these muscles naturally spread apart. While this is normal, the degree and severity can vary widely from person to person. There are a lot of things that play a role in how large a separation might be. This can include the size of your baby, what type of work you do, pressure on the abdomen from other things like straining with constipation.
How to Tell if you Have Diastasis Recti
It can be challenging during pregnancy to tell if you have a diastasis. However, it's possible to get a sense. You can try to check by doing the following:
- Stand against the wall with legs and knees straight
- Place your fingers at your belly button
- Curl your head and shoulders downward like you're doing a standing crunch
- If you feel your fingers sink down into your belly button, this could be due to a diastasis
You can try to assess how wide that separation might be, but this again is very challenging during pregnancy. In most cases, anything wider than 2 cm of separation is considered a diastasis (2 fingers width).
How to Prevent Diastasis Recti
When it comes to preventing diastasis recti, there are a lot of things you can do to set yourself up for success. Those things include lifestyle habits, body mechanics, and exercises.
Lifestyle Modifications/Body Mechanics
Avoiding Straining: This refers to straining with peeing or pooping. Set yourself up for success with a squatty potty and good breathing mechanics so you're not straining when you go to the bathroom. Straining can put extra pressure on the abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor.
Weight Management: It's most important to focus on staying healthy during pregnancy rather than a specific number on the scale. However, maintaining a healthy weight as directed by your doctor or midwife can help prevent diastasis. Excess weight gain can contribute to more stretching of the abdominal muscles.
Physical Activity: Staying physically active during pregnancy, even if it's simply walking, can help maintain strength of your core and other muscles.
Good Lifting Mechanics: Using good mechanics when you lift things helps decrease pressure on your belly. Remember to lift with your legs and exhale as you do the effortful part of a lift.
Exercises can do a lot to help prevent diastasis. Read on to learn how to prevent diastasis recti with simple exercises.
Diaphragmatic Breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing helps to coordinate your diaphragm with your deep abdominal muscles. You want to imagine the belly filling with air as well as the breath expanding your ribcage out as well. Practice 10-20 deep breathing repetitions at least once per day.
Transverse (Deep Core) Abdominis Strengthening. There are a lot of ways to strengthen your deep core muscles. The following are a few exercises you can try to strengthen your core. Your deep core muscles help to stabilize your pelvis, hips, and low back. Strengthening these muscles helps limit separation during pregnancy.
- Stand against a wall with your feet slightly in front of you
- You should feel a natural arch in your back
- On an exhale, press your back into the wall feeling your pelvis tilt
- Hold for 3-5 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times
- This one is important to make sure you can do it correctly.
- Modified can be done on your knees
- Press into hands and feet in a plank position
- Gently draw your belly button towards your spine
- Hold for 30-60 seconds
- You should not be holding your breath or see any doming as you hold a plank.
- Come onto hands and knees
- Press onto your tip-toes as you draw the belly button in
- Hold this position for 10-30 seconds
- Maintain normal breathing throughout
- Come onto hands and knees
- Draw your belly button towards your spine
- Reach your left arm forward and your right leg back
- Lower and repeat on the opposite side
- Repeat 5-10 repetitions on each side.
Upper Back/Side Stretching. Upper back and side stretching helps to avoid other areas becoming tight and pulling on the abdominal muscles. Simply working on exercises to extend the upper back or reaches to the side can help stretch these areas.
Here are some of our favorites for prenatal and postpartum fitness:
Elevating your prenatal fitness is an empowering way to embrace the transformative experience of pregnancy. Remember, the most important thing is to listen to your body and prioritize your well-being and that of your growing baby.
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