Are you feeling like your core and belly aren’t quite back to normal after baby? It’s possible that diastasis recti could be to blame, but what is diastasis recti anyways? In this post we’ll go over the nuts and bolts about diastasis recti. This will include what it is, why it happens, how common it is and how to prevent it.
While you are pregnant, the connective tissue that joins your to rectus abdominis muscles (your “6 pack abs”) widens in order to make room for a growing baby. The separation of that tissue between the muscles is called diastasis recti. This is completely normal but varies greatly from person to person. For many, that separation will gradually improve postpartum, but it can take time. You may notice doming or bulging in the middle of your abdomen especially with more strenuous activities.
How Common is Diastasis Recti?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it occurs in around 60% of people. However, I have heard upwards of 100% of postpartum women have some degree of diastasis. For many, it will resolve on its own. However, at 6 months postpartum around 40% of women will still be struggling with diastasis.
There are various signs and symptoms that could indicate diastasis recti is present. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that some of these signs and symptoms could be indicative of other issues. There is a lot of overlap among many postpartum issues.
- Visible bulge or “Pooch” that is present around the belly button
- Softness or loose feeling around your belly button
- Doming when you do a crunch or sit up
- Difficulty lifting objects
- Pain during sex
- Pelvic or Hip Pain
- Low back pain
- Leaking Urine
- Feeling weakness in the abdominal area
- Abdominal heaviness
How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti?
The symptoms above can be a hint to whether or not diastasis may be present. In addition, it is possible to screen yourself to see if a diastasis may be present.
How do you test for a diastasis? The standard way to test for a diastasis is by measuring the width of separation between the two muscles. There are a couple of ways to do this, but the most common way is during a small crunch and measuring finger width. The gold standard is using ultrasound, however, this isn’t available in most clinics and likely not in your home! Your provider will have you lay on your back and perform a small crunch while they assess at the belly-button, above and below it for the width and depth of the muscle separation.
Can I test for diastasis myself? It is possible to screen yourself to see if a diastasis might be present. This can be a good place to start so you have information to bring your OB/Gyn or physical therapist. In order to perform your own assessment, start by laying on your back. Place your fingers at your belly button. As you lift your head and shoulders, try to assess how much of a gap you can feel between the muscles. The following video is a good visual for how to perform your own assessment.
While it’s not entirely possible to prevent diastasis recti 100%, there are some factors to consider that could increase a person’s risk for developing it.
- Multiple pregnancies (especially if there isn’t a lot of recovery time in between)
- Having multiples (twins/ triplets)
- Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
- Advanced maternal age
- Large size of baby
- Hypermobile joints
How do I fix Diastasis Recti?
It is possible to improve a diastasis, and for many, a diastasis separation will improve with time. However, many will continue to experience symptoms 6-12 months postpartum. Exercises can help to improve diastasis in addition to being mindful of posture and body mechanics as well as avoiding straining. See below for a post about exercises to correct a diastasis:
Can I Prevent It?
It is not possible to prevent diastasis 100%, however, it is possible to do things to minimize the risk of one developing or the severity of a diastasis. Try to avoid or minimize the following:
- Poor lifting mechanics
- Poor posture: forward, rounded shoulder posture
- Manage weight gain as possible during pregnancy
- Breath-holding patterns with activity
- Deep core strengthening during pregnancy
Can Pelvic Floor Therapy Help?
Yes! Pelvic floor physical therapy can help with a diastasis postpartum or during pregnancy to help teach exercises and mechanics to minimize the risk of one developing. A physical therapist can assess the severity of a diastasis as well as movement patterns and help you learn how to improve them.
Simpli Whole offers in-home pelvic floor physical therapy in the Central Ohio Area (Dublin, Columbus, Powell, Upper Arlington, Marysville, Delaware, Grandview) and Telehealth Physical Therapy (within the state of Ohio) and is here to help manage and prevent diastasis.